By: John Van de Vaarst
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 that this series is 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 the halftime interval. The article will note reasons for change in the halftime interval and what officials should do during halftime.
The NCAA Rule Book indicates that “the halftime interval shall be 15 minutes, which may be extended in postseason competition by the games committee. The interval may be shortened by mutual consent of the coaches and officials.” The NFHS Rule Book indicates that “the halftime interval shall be 10 minutes unless opposing coaches mutually agree to a different length.”
During a game being played under the NCAA rules, the coaches may agree to shorten the halftime interval to 10 minutes or less. Often times, junior colleges and Division III elect to do this so that the second half will begin sooner. Often time this is due to the fact that the fields do not have lighting and it is later in the fall season. In addition, many coaches feel that 10 minutes is a sufficient amount of time for the players to rest and receive instructions for the second half. Since there is no minimum time included in the NCAA Rule Book if both coaches agree the halftime can even be shorter. The NFHS Rule Book does not specify a minimum time. Again, if the coaches agree the time can be shortened so that the second half can be played before it becomes dark or the weather becomes a problem. It is critical for the officials to remember that both coaches must agree on the change. If one coach wants a full halftime, it shall be granted.
The halftime allows the coaches to instruct the players and provide them an opportunity to rest. It is most important that the officials use this time wisely and efficiently. The officials should review with the scorekeeper any cautions or ejections that were issued to make sure the scorekeeper has the correct number of the player as well as the reason for the caution or ejection. The score should also be reviewed to make sure the official score sheet is accurate. Officials should spend time talking about the first half of play. In a high school dual system the two officials should discuss what type of defense each team is playing so that the official observing offside will have a better idea on how to position him/herself during the second half. In a diagonal system of control the two assistant referees should also talk about offside positioning and the type of defense being used. The referee in a diagonal system should consider seeking input from the two assistants on game control. The assistant referees may have observed something that the referee should be aware of to prevent problems in the second half. in any system of control the officials should also use the halftime to hydrate, stretch and prepare for the second half.
Halftime is not the time for officials to socialize with the coaches or school administrators. If an administrator arrives with paperwork that needs completion by the officials, it should be completed, returned to the administrator and the officials should continue with normal halftime activities.
Another important point about halftime is unique to the NFHS Rule Book. “In the event a game must be suspended because of conditions which make it impossible to continue play, the head referee shall declare it an official game if one-half of the game has been played.” The head referee must consider the elements and weather before halftime arrives. If the head referee does not feel that any portion of the second half can be played, it is a good idea to consider terminating the game before halftime. This will allow the teams to replay the game. If the head referee terminates the game during halftime or the beginning of the second half, the game is official. This may mean that the result gives one team an unfair advantage.
In summary, all officials have responsibilities in establishing the halftime interval and other duties to perform during the halftime. Professionalism is critical throughout the halftime interval.