By: John Van de Vaarst – National Clinician
Now that the 2015 fall interscholastic season is completed, it was interesting to discuss with a chapter rules interpreter and clinician his perception on how the chapter members performed throughout the season and what is perceived as areas needing improvement. The chapter that the rules interpreter is part of utilizes the dual system of control for all regular season games except night games where the diagonal system of control is used. Early round playoff games are officiated with the dual system and later rounds use the diagonal system of control. The chapter has approximately 100 members and officiates in three different counties within the state.
Overall the membership is very interested in improving officiating at the high school level. Five meetings are held throughout the season with rules discussion and instruction are part of the agenda. Prior to the season the chapter conducts a physical fitness testing program so that the members can have a baseline regarding their fitness levels.
One of the primary areas of concern that was addressed is fitness. Many of the officials working the dual system do not cross the half-way line when acting as the trail official. The rationale for this is that he/she does not want to be caught in a position that he/she cannot judge offside or be close enough to play during a break away situation. This type of positioning leaves large gaps in coverage, especially when the lead official is down near the goal line observing situations in the penalty area and judging if a ball has wholly crossed the goal line. The trail official must have sufficient fitness to get closer to the attacking play and be able to recover quickly should the play reverse.
Fitness problems can be caused by several reasons. One maybe that the official is accepting too many games and does not have sufficient time to recover. Some interscholastic officials work every day and even two games within a day. Accepting this many assignments has a direct impact on physical fitness. The official becomes fatigued and cannot cover the field properly. The second problem with fitness deals with supply and demand. During the short interscholastic season, the number of officials needed to meet the game requirements often times requires the assignor to utilize individuals who are not fit or should not be on a top level game. Every chapter should focus on recruitment so there is a sufficient pool of qualified officials available for every game.
The second issue is related to the fitness problem. A play is developing approximately 25 yards from the goal line near the lead official. The play can be either across the field or on the side where the lead official is positioned. The lead official is relatively close to the play and has a clear view of the situation. The trail official is behind the half-way line or very close to it. There is contact between opponents and the lead official, with the clear view, recognizes the contact is incidental or not a foul and allows play to continue. From approximately 35 yards away, the trail official sounds the whistle and calls a foul. This creates several problems. First, the credibility of the lead official, who was much closer, is now challenged. Secondly, the trail official was not in good position to make the call and the team that allegedly committed the foul may now start to dissent. Lastly, this type of call causes the coaches to become concerned about consistency between the officials. All of these problems have a direct impact on game control and players respecting the officials and future decisions during the game.
The third issue that was identified is judging what is a foul, a hard foul, reckless play, or violent play. The level of consistency between officials is varied in spite of many sessions being conducted on foul recognition. Some officials are quick to issue a yellow or even red card for a foul while other officials only sound the whistle when the game is almost out of control. Officials who have not worked at a higher level or have not had experience with top level teams appear to lack the ability to judge fouls vs. hard play. Overreaction to a foul leads to early cautions and even ejections that result in an adverse impact on the game. Newer officials should observe officials who are considered students of the game and learn from them how to define the various types of fouls. Also, officials should recognize what games are the best for him/her to officiate and work with the assignor so that he/she is not assigned a game that is too difficult for his/her level of competency.
Individuals that only officiate during the interscholastic season do not have the exposure to various levels of play throughout the year and tend not to develop the necessary skills to control the top levels of play.
In summary, overall the chapter rules interpreter stated that the vast majority of officials do an outstanding job on every game assigned. The above items are not wide spread but need to be an area of focus for next season.