By: S. John Hagenstein, MISOA President, Minnesota
In college and high school soccer, one method we use to assist officials in their improvement is through a process called assessment, where an educated and/or certified Assessor observes an NISOA Referee Team during a soccer game. This Assessor makes notes on things that occurred during the game and following the game provides feedback to the crew members on their performance.
Over the years I have had numerous assessments and each and every one of them has helped me in one way or another to look back at my performance and “get something” during the game I could use to do better for the next game. Besides receiving many assessments, as part of my giving back to the game and wanting to pass my wisdom along to the new generation of soccer referees, I also decided to become an Assessor and attended many classes to learn the process of assessment.
What I learned from all this is that assessment is not so much a process as it is an art form and that each and every assessor performs their duties quite differently from the next. No two Assessors see the game the same way and in many cases, I have even had Assessors provide me with conflicting feedback while watching me on the very same game. As I received this varying feedback, I became very frustrated and at times, confused. Confused not at what feedback I should apply for my next game but more of why we are so different in a process I felt was essentially very simple to understand.
So in my attempt to simplify this complicated and sometimes confusing process that we perform with officials, I created a program that I hoped would get us back to the basics of fundamentals officiating. I decided to call this method the 4 M’s of Assessment.
The first M in the program stands for Mechanics and is an easy set of skills on which to provide feedback. This covers how an NISOA Referee Team looks and communicates together on the field. We look at items such as, were they dressed professionally, did they appear fit and prepared for the game, were they using the proper mechanics and were their signals clear and accurate, did they communicate verbally and non-verbally as a team, how did they control the technical area and substitutions and did they perform a complete pre-game review.
The second M stands for Mobility. Mobility skills are also fairly basic to judge during a game. We look for things like: was the Referee Team fit and able to be where they needed to be, did they anticipate the flow of the game to get to the critical spots when needed, did the Center stay out of passing lanes or did they get involved in play. Were the AR’s in correct position for off-sides and/or critical calls on the goal line.
As you can see, these first two M’s are more black and white in nature and can be addressed in very specific areas of feedback and are usually clear and easy to cover with the Referee Team. Some aspects are also more subjective in nature. Were the referee or AR’s fit, yes or no? Could they run and keep up with play? Were they sloppy looking or did they look sharply dressed. These are basic areas of focus but very important in the overall scheme of things on a soccer field.
The third M covers Management of the Game. In this area we are now asked to move into the first subjective area of assessment. There are no easy yes or no answers on most games that are assessed. Unless the game ends in a riot and must be terminated due to game disrepute, this is an area of feedback I see that varies because many assessors have different areas of focus, and viewpoints vary with each and every Assessor I have ever worked a game with. Much of it comes from the many different styles of game management employed by Assessors from the days when they were in the Center.
But regardless of whether you were a “serious, take no prisoners” referee, or a referee who used humor, to one who was a talker, or one who may have been extremely quiet. Whatever their style, they needed to use their experience and skills to manage the game. Some things that are helpful to a referee in managing a game are to learn about the teams and their style of play. Does one team use the long ball, does one team like possession, is one team methodical and calculated in their attack or is one team an aggressive defending team?
Other things to look for is to find what I call your “Friends and Foes” on the field. Specifically, which players can you talk to and use in your game management tactics, and which payers do you avoid at all cost as they are instigators? Do you ignore this coach or do you talk to the other coach? Who are the star players and who are the role players that are assigned to do the dirty work? All these aspects very important tools in game management.
The fourth M stands for what we call MOT’s, or Moments of Truth. MOT’s are by far the most important aspect of a game and usually decide whether a referee succeeds or fails. I believe that in any given competition, there are numerous MOT’s that can change the outcome of a game in one way or another. I have seen games with just 1 or 2 and I have witnessed games where there are over 10 MOT’s during the game.
During a competitive match, if an official senses MOT’s that develop and addresses them properly and in a timely fashion, the game should continue smoothly. If they are not recognized, if they are missed or dealt with improperly, then the game declines and can spiral out of control. If one is missed, the referee can recover. If two or more are missed, it becomes very difficult for an official to succeed.
This process of sensing these MOT’s is sometimes called being a “pro-active” referee versus a “reactive” referee. Do we feel the big play developing and prevent it from happening by our presence or at least deal with it by being on the top, or do we react to it and possibly be out of position with no ability to control the outcome of this critical incident?
In each game, we wait for MOT’s to occur and look to see if the officials did not address incidents properly or not at all, and how these decisions impacted the game and their performance. An Assessor can discuss with the referee what referee action options they could tried that might have assisted the official in controlling the game more effectively.
Although everyone understands that hindsight is 20/20, by watching for these types of incidents in games and focusing on how to recognize and address these critical incidents or moments of truth, we can learn and grow as officials.
So this is now my basic approach to assessment. I have been using this approach for a few years now during my assessments. The feedback I have been given is that the approach is: easy to understand and explain, simplified (4 elements only ), easy to remember, and covers the basics of being a good referee.