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 this series 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 positioning and mechanics.
Many, if not most, intercollegiate/ interscholastic soccer officials also officiate youth, amateur, and in some cases professional levels of soccer. The intercollegiate game is played under the NCAA Rules and youth, amateur, and professional soccer are played under the International Laws of the Game. In addition youth and amateur leagues modify the substitution rule as does junior college. When a soccer official is assigned a college or high school game, he/she must be completely knowledgeable of the NCAA or NFHS Rule Book. For example – What is the correct procedure for a restart after the game has been stopped for an injury? Under the Laws of the Game it is a drop ball. NCAA requires a drop ball unless the goalkeeper is the injured player and then it is an indirect free kick if the goalkeeper had possession of the ball at the time of the injury. The NFHS Rule Book requires a drop ball if neither team had possession. If one team was in clear possession it is an indirect free kick for that team. A misapplication of this rule can create problems for the referee involved. Another example related to this is the drop ball. In the NFHS Rule Book there must be two opponents participating in the drop ball. The Laws of the Game and the NCAA Rule Book do not require two opponents. Each year NISOA produces a Rules Difference Guide. This is also published in the back of the NFHS Rule Book. This guide as well as a condensed version is provided to all NISOA members in the summer mailing. Interscholastic members of NISOA will also receive a copy. This document should be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure the official that he/she is fully prepared to officiate the college or high school game assigned. When unique situations occur during a highly contested game the referee must be ready with the proper interpretation without any hesitation. A misapplication of any rule could lead to the conference, league or even state association becoming involved in the final outcome of the game. The NCAA has a protest provision. A referee does not want a game replayed or the outcome changed because of a protest being upheld because of a misapplication of a rule. No official wants this to happen.
All officials must use proper mechanics when officiating a game. This includes proper positioning and signals. Officials must be prepared physically to be in the best position possible to recognize fouls, misconducts and the ball in and out of play. If an official is out of position, a subtle foul that could lead to future problems or have a direct impact on the play may occur. It is critical for an official to be in good position when there is a shot on goal. Did the ball cross the goal line or did the goal keeper save it? If the official is not in excellent position there is no way to be positive about the decision. Another critical positioning requirement is offside. Unless the assistant referee or referee in a dual system is in proper position with the second to the last defender, there is no way to be certain if the attacking player was in an offside position or not. The officiating theory of “they will come back, I do not need to chase them” will never work. Officials must train and be in good physical condition to do cover the field for the entire game.
Another area of mechanics is proper signaling. The NCAA and NFHS Rule Book provides pictures of the proper signals for the referee and assistants. These are the signals that must be used. if an official fails to use a proper signal, confusion can result. For example, an official awards an indirect free kick in the attacking area. The ball is in position but the official does not raise her hand over her head. The ball is shot and goes directly into the net. The attacking team argues that it is a goal since the official did not indicate indirect free kick with the hand signal. The defensive team argues that the foul awarded was dangerous play and therefore an indirect free kick. The official has created a major problem for not properly signally. The credibility of the official is now in question for the remainder of the game.
Another example is a throw-in and the official points in the wrong direction. Realizing the mistake the official points the other way before the play is started. The team finally awarded the throw-in takes it quickly and after two passes the ball is in the opponent’s goal. This goal was a direct result of the official not using a proper mechanic. Once the official realized the mistake and changed the decision, he should have stopped play to ensure both teams had the opportunity to get back in position so that play would continue fairly.
It is imperative that officials use proper mechanics and be in proper position during the entire game. This will improve the overall quality of officiating and make the games more enjoyable for all.