Referee Nuts and Bolts – May 2011
by: John Van de Vaarst
Volume 25 – June, 2011
This monthly 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 often forgotten or overlooked while going through the experiences of soccer refereeing. The short discussions and accompanying tips stress important advice for competent performance.
This month the focus will be on anticipation.
Anticipation is defined as the act of anticipating. According to the dictionary, when someone anticipates they realize beforehand; perform an action before someone else has had time to do it. How does this relate to a soccer referee? Being able to anticipate play allows a referee to react more quickly and be in the best possible position to make the correct call. Assessors continue to comment that lesser experienced referees tend to run more to try and keep up with play and be in the proper position. More experienced referees tend to anticipate play to get to the correct position and are in the “right place” more often than younger referees. So what do experienced officials look for to be in the proper position?
There are several different ways to look ahead and anticipate. After a few goal kicks a referee will know what type of kick the team is taking. Are they clearing it to midfield each time? If so the referee should take a position to observe where the ball will normally drop. Is the team taking a lot of short passes across the field? The referee should go off the diagonal so that they are nearer the anticipated pass. Does the team usually use a long ball to move the ball up field quickly? The referee should start up field as soon as possible to be as close as possible when the anticipated pass occurs. What type of throw in does the team normally take? If it normally a long throw, the referee should move down field and anticipate where the throw will go. Does the team take short throws to get the ball into play quickly? The referee should position themselves accordingly. Set plays are another area where an experienced referee can anticipate positioning. What type of free kicks does the team take? Are they long down filed restarts or short quick restarts? The referee needs to anticipate and react accordingly.
Of course, not every anticipated move works. On occasion a team may change its tactics and cause the referee to be out of position. When this happens, the referee needs to react quickly to regain position and adjust for the future. However in most instances anticipating play allows for a referee to be in better position most of the time without over exertion.
In addition to anticipating play, referees should anticipate where and when problems may occur. A great phrase coined several years ago is presence leads to conviction. If the referee is close to a potential problem, there is far more potential to defuse the problem before it happens.
A goal is scored and the player who scores runs into the goal to take the ball. The referee should anticipate that the defensive players and/or goalkeeper may react negatively and go after the ball. This could result in a pushing situation or even something more serious. The referee should get close to the situation before it occurs (anticipate) and use a preventative measure to alleviate the problem. During a throw in a defensive player moves up close to the thrower to block their vision. The referee should be ready to step in so that the thrower does not get frustrated and throw the ball at the opponent. Anticipating this situation and preventing it eliminates the need for a caution or ejection to the thrower. During a “ceremonial” free kick an attacking player attempts to take up a position in the wall. The referee should anticipate that pushing and shoving to move the attacking player may occur. Even worse, an elbow may be thrown that can lead to an injury. Anticipating the problem and talking to the players involved may prevent an altercation. The ball is taken away by the defense and the play begins to move up the field, should the referee turn and move quickly to get into position? Backpedaling for a few steps or looking over the shoulder to see what is going on behind the play may result in observing an off the ball foul or retaliation.
Top referees know how to anticipate play and potential problems. By doing this they are allowing the game to flow and the end result is an enjoyable experience. Practice anticipation and use it as part of your referee took kit.