|WHEN YOU'RE FIT, THE GAME SLOWS DOWN
Preparing and Training…
Founder of Ken Aston Referee Society
... and when you're not, you do!
In order to Referee well, you have to stay close to play. Your presence
near play, all by itself, encourages good behavior. And, when a problem
does arise, being near play allows you to see it clearly and call it
with authority - whereas if you are far away, both players and
spectators are quite likely to feel that they have a better idea of what
is going on than you do.
Staying close to play involves reading the game, so you can anticipate
where the play will go - and then running to be there in time. Being
able to do this throughout a game requires an appropriate level of
fitness. Otherwise, you will (you will have to!) reduce the amount of
running you are doing by following play from further and further back.
This is the first step towards losing control of the game.
But how fit do you have to be?
Edgardo Codesal Mendez, the Mexican
Referee who officiated the 1990 World Cup Final, once claimed that "The
Referee must run more than the players!" (because no player is involved
with play all the time, as the Referee is).
Fair and Foul (and
others) claim that a center Referee who maintains proper position should
run 6-7 miles in the course of a full adult game (and even further if
the game is being run using a two-man system)!
The demands on AYSO, USSF referees aren't as severe as those on Referees
who officiate top flight adult games - the games are shorter and the
kids are slower. But they are not negligible. If we scale the Fair
and Foul estimates by the game length and the foot speed of players
(measured by age best in state 5K times, shown in miles/hour), we get
the following rough estimate of the distances that a referee in each of
the AYSO, USSF Divisions should expect to have to travel.
|How far does a Referee
have to run in a Game?
~ Division 6 ~
Under 8 years
~ Division 5 ~
Under 10 years
~ Division 4 ~
Under 12 years
~ Division 3 ~
Under 14 years
~ Division 2 ~
Under 16 years
~ Division 1 ~
Under 19 years
~ ADULT ~
A Division 4 Referee, for example, should expect to cover about three
miles during a game. Even though the pace is a rather relaxed 20 minutes
a mile (on average), it's still a fair amount of exercise. If you
Referee regularly in Division 4, a three mile run (jog, walk) should not
seem a very big deal (after all, you do it every weekend in the Fall,
right?). If it does, chances are you're going to have trouble keeping up
with play towards the end of the game.
Of course, the higher divisions demand more. As a crude rule of thumb,
you should expect to have to run one mile further every game for every
division you move up. At some point, this can become a problem for those
of us who started refereeing in Division 6 when our children started
playing and have moved up with them. Almost any healthy 30-something
adult can keep up with 6 and 7 year-olds for 40 minutes, which is why we
encourage everyone to try Refereeing at this level. But only a few
40-something adults can keep up with 16 and 17 year olds for 90 minutes
without working on their fitness. The kids are getting stronger and
faster and we....
How do you decide if you're fit enough? Most soccer organizations
measure a Referee's fitness by the distance the Referee can run in 12
minutes. A FIFA (or a USSF National) referee is required to be able to
run 2700m in that time! An AYSO National 2 (U16 and above) must be able
to cover 1600m (1 mile). And, although there are no prescribed
standards, Referees working Division 3 and 4 should probably be able to
achieve 1400m. These last two are relatively undemanding targets.
Younger Referees, or those who aspire to very tight coverage of play,
should shoot for 2000m or better.
Being able to jog 2000m in 12 minutes is a good foundation, and you will
spend a lot of time following play at this relaxed pace. However, as we
all know, Referees also occasionally have to sprint to catch up with
breakaways, or when the play suddenly moves in an unexpected direction.
The AYSO National 2 requirements are a relatively undemanding 100 yds in
18 sec.. Most of us should aspire to 20 sec. or less.
If you are planning to Referee in Division 4 or above, measure yourself
against these benchmarks. For some, these targets are easy. Relax and
enjoy your summer. The rest of us have to work to do. Start now! Go
slow, but go often. 20-30 minutes of light running two or three times a
week for a few weeks will do wonders. Expect to feel sore at first as
joints and muscles build up strength. Keep going (gently!) through that
phase. Add some running backwards and skipping sideways. You do this
when Refereeing and these muscles too need strengthening. Finally, mix
in some short sprints to build up speed and strength (to reduce your
chances of a tearing a muscle when you abruptly stop, turn or accelerate
during the season). Every now and then, measure your performance on the
benchmarks again. Your improvement will encourage you, even on days when
it doesn't feel like things are getting better.
But it will feel dramatically better in the Fall.
It's just amazing how
much easier it is to call the game when you're five yards closer to
play, all through the game, and not puffing and panting.
The game really
does seem to slow down.
And that three mile run? That won't seem like
such a big deal anymore...