Walks Like A Duck

Published on August 24, 2015


By: John Van de Vaarst, National Clinician

The monthly “NISOA Referee Nuts and Bolts” column is written primarily for the college and high school soccer Referee. However, any soccer Referee who wishes to improve personal performance may also find that this series is helpful.

All articles address those BASIC techniques, procedures, practice alternatives, and skills that are sometimes forgotten or overlooked while going through the experiences of soccer refereeing. The short discussions and accompanying practical tips stress important advice for competent performance. This month’s article will focus on the importance of taking a break from it all. The intercollegiate season ended in November and interscholastic seasons ended either in November or May. Spring intercollegiate soccer games are completed so officials have an opportunity to several things. This article will focus on what makes an official a professional before during and after a game.

There is an old saying that if walks like a duck, looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, chances are it is a duck. The same can be applied to a soccer official. Appearance, arrival, player management, foul recognition, and post game duties are all items an official should do very well to be considered an interscholastic or intercollegiate official.

The NCAA Rule Book requires that an official should arrive at the game site a minimum of 30 minutes before the game. Several conferences have additional requirements that require earlier arrivals. The NFHS Rule Book indicates that the officials should arrive no later than 15 minutes prior to the start of the game. For intercollegiate games the jurisdiction of the officials begins when he/she arrives at the game site. For interscholastic soccer the jurisdiction begins when he/she arrives at the field and its immediate surroundings. Upon arrival the officiating team must begin their pregame responsibilities. This includes, but is not limited to, inspecting the field, inspecting the game balls, verifying duties and responsibilities with the timekeeper and scorekeeper, obtaining rosters, etc. For intercollegiate soccer the officials must inspect the players’ uniforms and equipment. For interscholastic soccer the officials must verify with the head coaches that the players are properly and legally equipped. Also, for interscholastic games the officials must conduct a pregame conference with the head coach and captains regarding pertinent rules and good sportsmanship. Some states have additional responsibilities for interscholastic soccer pregame duties. These requirements must also be completed prior to the start of the game.

The time during the pregame is not a time to socialize with the coaches or players. The coaches are busy preparing their teams for the game and the players are busy warming up and getting mentally and physically prepared. Also, officials should not spend time talking to spectators that they may know. These types of actions can only lead to problems during the game when a critical call is made against the opposing team. Acting like a professional (walking like a duck) is critical during the pregame and established early credibility.

There are many duties and responsibilities that officials are required to perform during the game. Foul recognition, consistency, and people management are critical to the success of an officiating team both at the intercollegiate and interscholastic level. In addition, the officiating team must know the rules of the game. Both the NCAA Rule Book and the NFHS Rule Book have specific rules that must be followed. A misapplication of a rule at the intercollegiate level could lead to a protest being filed. Consistency is critical to the success of an officiating team. A foul is a foul no matter where it occurred on the field of play and which team member committed the foul. The same applies to cautions and ejections. The referee must determine if the situation warrants a caution or ejection and if so administer same (acting like a duck).

People management skills (quacking like a duck) are a great tool to control players and bench personnel. Every official must develop a style that works for them and helps control the game. Lecturing or talking down to players or coaches is not the best approach. The official must remain professional and calm during all circumstances. This can be difficult at times when the game is highly contested and physical.

The post game responsibilities must also be conducted in a professional manner (acting like a duck) and completed. The NCAA Rule Book requires the official to “review and sign the official NCAA box score, or verify the electronic form to ensure the score, cards and disciplinary actions are accurately recorded.” In addition, ejections must be reported electronically through the NCAA Central Hub within 24 hours of completion of the game. These reports must indicate the facts and be very clear as to the reasons for the ejection. The NFHS Rule Book requires the official to “verify the score and report in writing any disqualifications and unusual incidents to the proper authorities.” Also, any state high school post game requirements must be followed.

In summary if an official conducts him/herself as a professional (walking, quaking and acting like a duck) performs the duties and responsibilities properly, the game should be well officiated and the end result acceptable to all.

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