By: John van de Vaarst, National Clinician
For 99% of the intercollegiate soccer officials, the college soccer year has ended. There are a still some officials working the various final tournaments and that year will end in just a few weeks. The end of the year is very similar to the end of a story. The prologue of the book was about the preseason clinics, physical fitness testing, scrimmages, uniform inventory and preparing for the opening game. Chapter one began with the pregame discussion prior to the first kick off of the season. The book continues with several twists and plot changes as the season progresses. Assignments are changed due to weather, or importance of the game. About the middle of the book, the intercollegiate officials begin to feel fatigue and many assignors are very busy dealing with changes, coaches’ concerns, tracking down game reports and more. For some intercollegiate officials, the story ends too quickly when he/she is injured or has a job change that does not allow as much flexibility for accepting assignments. For the vast majority the story continues and the intercollegiate official is now looking forward to the tougher assignments with conference games and games that decide on which team will be selected for post season assignments. As the story comes close to the end, playoff assignments are received and for those that are selected’ the satisfaction of working hard all season has provided the true reward – being able to officiate a post season game(S). The story finally ends when the official walks off the field proudly after working the last playoff game assigned.
The only remaining question to the story is the epilogue. It is hoped that this section of the story includes some of the following items. First and foremost, all members of NISOA should take time to remember the number one item to be a top official – FAMILY. Every NISOA member should take extra time with his/her family to make up for the many weekends and evenings he/she was away working a game. This is especially so during the holiday season.
Consideration should be given to taking the family away for a few days or making a day very special for each and every member. The next item to consider is whether or not the official feels he/she had a perfect season or is there time to reflect on how to improve for next season. An earlier intercollegiate article focused on the topic that there is always room for improvement. No official is that perfect that he/she should not work on various aspects of officiating including rule knowledge, interpretation of rules, fitness, people management and more.
A very important epilogue begins with a seasoned intercollegiate official giving back to the game. Every NISOA member has an extended family – 5,500 members of NISOA. Many officials only want to work as many games as possible and not consider fellow officials. The official forgets about his/her brothers and sisters in the game and do not take time to work to improve the overall quality of intercollegiate soccer officiating. The off season is an opportunity to participate in clinics and work with younger officials and help develop new skills for them and do whatever possible to bring the younger official to the next level. Serving as a mentor is a very rewarding experience and senior officials should make time to perform this function.
As the year progresses and before the next story begins, newer officials should volunteer for spring assignments where games can be officiated at higher divisions and the newer officials can be observed and evaluated by senior officials, assessors, and assignors. Senior officials should be willing to attend these spring games and provide the needed feedback to help newer officials develop to his/her highest potential. When NISOA offers a Regional Clinic or a National Referee Academy in the area, every official, newer or seasoned, should do everything possible to make time to attend. Even if an official only learns one new thing, that will make him/her a better official the following season.
The final lines in the story are easy to understand and should ring true in each and every soccer official’s mind. It is not what I had to do, it is what I want to do.
On behalf of the entire Executive Board and the NISOA Leadership Team, have a safe and happy holiday season and enjoy time with family.