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The Job is Not Over Until the Paperwork is Done Ready for Anything? To Play or Not to Play?
What Flips Your Switch? Whistle While You Work
How Does This Happen?
The Physical and Psychological Dynamics
of Crowd Behavior

by Brian Goodlander - (published in Referee Magazine) - 10/00
A Referee for Soccer Association for Youth (SAY), USSF, college and high school in Cincinnati.
He is a USSF Assessor and Instructor. Additionally, he is a board member of the...
South West Ohio Soccer Officials Association (SWOSOA).

I am not a psychiatrist. But, I am a soccer referee, so I must be crazy. At least that is what many friends and family members tell me. Using the well-established analogy that it takes one to know one, I must be qualified to discuss unusual human behavior. With this qualification and after a long high school season, I started to discover some interesting dynamics at soccer matches that can be broken into two simple categories: (1) the physical and (2) psychological dynamics of crowd behavior.

The physical dynamics are associated with the human senses, primarily sight. How many times have you been working as an Assistant Referee and faced an easy, no-doubt off-side call, raised your flag and have everyone in the area react with extreme disbelief. This is usually followed by helpful instructions from well-intended, but biased observers. These instructions range from “It’s when the ball is kicked!” to “Are you watching the same game?” In utter amazement you are dumbfounded by this harassment following a simple off-side call. This outburst can not be explained only by a general lack of education in the rules of soccer and the art of refereeing but also by the physical dynamics of the crowd. Fans, bench players, and coaches watch the game of soccer by following the ball. Field players and referees watch the ball but also predict where the ball is going next before the ball is kicked or headed and their eyes are already there before the ball. In the off-side situation, the fans are following the player with the ball at his feet. The Assistant Referee is facing the field even with the second to last defender and determining if there is a likely opportunity for an offensive player to be in the off-side position. The attacker kicks the ball. The fans follow the ball through the air. The Assistant Referee hears the kick, notes that there is a player in the off-side position and when that player becomes involved in the play, the Assistant Referee raises his flag to indicate off-side. Meanwhile, the defenders rush back to protect their goal and pass the off-side attacker while the ball is in flight. The fans who were studiously following the ball watch the ball fall to the feet of the attacker who is surrounded by defenders and are amazed to see the flag raised. This is an example of the physical dynamics of crowd behavior.

Another physical dynamic is positioning. The game of soccer is a free-flowing game that ebbs and flows back and forth across the green grass of the pitch. The referee team is tested physically by moving with these ebbs and flows of the game. The fans, bench players, and coaches are limited in their ability to move with the game. The reference point is basically fixed. Often, the fans are placed in tiered seating that allows for a good overall view of the game despite their restricted movement. The problem is that this raised seating removes much of the perspective from the game at field level. Balls that are kicked straight up look like they are moving to one side or another, distances seem closer, and players look smaller and less intimidating. Most importantly, the fans can not see the expressions on the faces and in the eyes of the players. The referee team has the luxury to be able to move to obtain the proper perspective to see each play but the added complication of having so much visual stimuli (action, color, players, other officials, fan movement, etc.) that it is often difficult to either be in the right position or to see the proper event when it occurs. With these limitations in mind, let’s revisit our off-side situation. The Assistant Referee must first be sure that the player is in an off-side position prior to the pass and then be sure that the player is involved in the play. The stationary observers (fans, coaches, bench players) are likely not located even with the second to last defender and will have their judgment skewed by the angle that they see the play. The few number of observers that are in the right location and not watching the ball fly through the air are more likely limited by the perspective of their set position to really judge the level of involvement of the player in the play. This is another example of the physical dynamics of a crowd.

The psychological dynamics of a crowd often act as the fuel to feed the fire of their misunderstanding of the physical dynamics. One example of a psychological dynamic is the parent on the sideline watching their youngster play in a challenging match. These parents usually have radar lock on their child throughout their entire playing time. The see every push, every attempted trip, every impedance that the player may endure during this time. The intensity of these “fouls” are increased by their natural protectiveness and perceived lack of safety of their child. The referee team is chartered to watch every one of the 22 players on the field and spend the bulk of their time focused on the point of attack. This lack of attention to their “baby” and the intensification of “fouls” result in anxiety in the parent that wells up until they finally MUST express it.

If the game is a critical game for the team, maybe a tournament final or a rivalry, the anxiety of all the observers is usually much higher. The fans are anxious about the play of their favorite player or their child. The coach is worried about the outcome and the effect of the win or loss on his/her position as coach. The bench players are anxious about the performance of their teammates, the success of their team, and the prospective of how they may be involved in the final decision. All this anxiety is focused on success for the team. This focus is so intense that it becomes blinding. Every play, every foul becomes paramount. Cheers are screamed when the foul is called in their team’s favor. Catcalls are screamed when they are not called in their team’s favor. The observers are pushing their will to the field of play in hopes that it will create an advantage for their team. The observers’ intense focus and desire for a positive situation for their team trick their mind into seeing the play in a manner that helps their team. They truly believe that they saw the foul properly and the Referee’s decision must be wrong. The referee team’s job is to be impartial, to see the game fairly, and to administer the rules in a fair and just manner. Fifty percent of the observers will disagree with almost every call made during an intense match. This psychological dynamic of a crowd is the spark that sets off the fury and madness that occurs during soccer matches.

When the physical and psychological dynamics are combined in the frenzy of hard, physically challenging match, the anxiety and stress in the observers is great. They scream and yell with great emotion. This emotion is felt by the players on the field and they are directed by this emotion. If the screams and yells are positive words of encouragement, they play will more intensity but with control. If the screams and yells are negative and destructive towards their play, towards the coaching staff, towards the other team, or towards the referee team, the field players will play with more intensity but it could be mixed with recklessness and violence. How many times have you noted that players that have a calm coach and calm fans play in a calm, professional manner and players with an abusive and disrespectful coach and fans play with fury and abuse? It is in this explosive environment that the referee team MUST remain calm and professional. They must maintain their decorum and the respect for the game. Fouls must be called confidently and with full conviction. Conversations with players and observers must be limited and done with respect and with a calm confident voice. Serious or violent fouls must be dealt with quickly and with appropriate consequences.

This is how the referee team survives and the game is allowed to progress when the physical and psychological dynamics of a crowd come to boil.

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Ready for Anything? To Play or Not to Play?
What Flips Your Switch? Whistle While You Work
The Job is Not Over Until the Paperwork is Done
by Brian Goodlander - (published in Referee Magazine) - 10/00
A Referee for Soccer Association for Youth (SAY), USSF, college and high school in Cincinnati.
He is a USSF Assessor and Instructor. Additionally, he is a board member of the...
South West Ohio Soccer Officials Association (SWOSOA).

Like many other jobs, refereeing has it’s high points and it’s low points. The high points are when you get the great assignment and perform with excellence to prove that you deserved the assignment. The low points are often the paperwork that comes after the match is over. Paperwork for referees comes in a multitude of forms. Game Reports are often required for matches. Ejection or Send-Off Reports are common in high school and collegiate matches. Incident Reports are often required for recording unusual or dangerous events.

Game Reports - Many games do not require formal reports. They may use different forms in different leagues and in different soccer organizations. Some leagues have a game card that must be filled out and signed by coaches after every match. Other leagues do not require any sort of game card or report.

A report that I perform after every match is a game log. In this game log I track what teams played, the level of the match, the date, the sex of the teams, and what referees I worked with during the match. I keep this information on a searchable spreadsheet and can tell you in moments how many U15 girls USSF matches I performed in 1998 or any other combination. It is not important to keep your log on a computer, but keeping track of the games you have worked is important when you go for an upgrade, apply for a tournament, or want to “brag” to your friends about the number and level of games you have worked.

Amateur and Professional USSF matches require a Game Report with every match. The USSF has a Game Report form that is very well written and relatively easy to use. There are a few basic pointers to filling this form out well. Be brief, clear, legible, use appropriate language, do not include opinions, and be complete. The form is a good form but a form nonetheless. Therefore it is important that you are brief and to the point. Do not use long sentences for information that can be conveyed in a few words. Clarity is a necessity to drive understanding and goes hand-in-hand with being brief. If the report is illegible when received at the main office, it will serve no good to you, the teams involved, or to the Federation. Use the proper terms when filling out this report. If you cautioned someone don’t say it was because he did something stupid. Say that it was due to unsporting behavior or reckless behavior. Your job in filling out this report is to provide information, not give your opinion on how the information should be used. Finally, fill in all the needed information completely. If you require additional room to convey additional information about a specific incident, the USSF has a supplemental report for that purpose. An assessor once told me that it may be helpful to fill out one of these Game Reports for each match I perform whether it is required or not. The associated information is available if needed and in the process I would become proficient at completing Game Reports. This is excellent advise that I regret I have not followed. Consider it.

Send-Off/Ejection Reports - The National Federation of High Schools and the NCAA both require a report to be filed with the main office in the event that a player or coach is sent-off. This allows the Federation or Association to know that a serious incident has occurred and that the referee has responded. It also provides a medium for the school to provide their perspective to the Federation or Association. The Federation or Association can now respond to the send-off fully armed with all the information they need to act fairly and justly towards the sent-off coach or player. Similar to the USSF requirements, this report should be filled out completely and in a timely fashion following the match.

Incident Report - An Incident Report is probably the most important report that a referee can fill out. Why is the Incident Report so important? Because this is often your official record of your account of the incident. The incident could have been a serious injury or a situation that may result in prosecution against you. By having the report written, dated and signed the information locks the event in time. During the 2000 National Association of Sports Officials (NASO) Convention in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Mel Narol, Sports Attorney, provided some excellent information about the when's and what's of writing incident reports related to serious injuries. Mr. Narol stated that three things are need to be done by the referees when they are involved in a match with a serious injury. (1) Record it. Who was involved? Get names, if possible. When did it happen? The 67th minute during a corner kick, for example. What happened? Describe the event using the reporting criteria stated above. Where did it happen? What field, in what city, and where on the field did it occur? Were there any witnesses? It is best to get the names and phone numbers of both friendly and unfriendly witnesses. (2) Send it. Send a copy of your incident report to your local association, particularly if their secretary maintains such records for the association members. Send a copy to the league for their information. Send a copy to any state associations that may need the information. If it is a high school or collegiate match, send a copy to both schools. Finally, if the incident was a truly serious incident and you are a member, send a copy to NASO. (3) Save it. It is critical that you save the report for any litigation that may occur. Remember, when dealing with minors the statute of limitations is 2-3 years after the age of 18 (varies from state to state). That means if the event occurred in a U-9 match, you need to save the report until that player is 20-21 years old or 12-13 years from the incident. Mr. Narol also reminded all in attendance that it is NOT your job to deal with an injury. The only exception is if it is a life-threatening situation that you are qualified to handle.

Nobody enjoys paperwork but it is a necessary evil, and if you took a match assignment, that assignment is not over until the reports are written and sent to the proper administrators

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The Job is Not Over Until the Paperwork is Done To Play or Not to Play?
What Flips Your Switch? Whistle While You Work
Ready for Anything?
by Brian Goodlander - (published in Referee Magazine) - 12/01
A Referee for Soccer Association for Youth (SAY), USSF, college and high school in Cincinnati.
He is a USSF Assessor and Instructor. Additionally, he is a board member of the...
South West Ohio Soccer Officials Association (SWOSOA).

How do you tell an experienced referee from a fresh recruit? Some say it’s in their confident nature or superior fitness. Maybe it’s because of the way the know everybody in the referee tent or at your association meetings? I say that one way to tell is to rummage through their referee kit. A new referee will often carry the bare minimum of items and often not what is really needed, while an experienced referee sometimes seems to need a Sherpa to carry their bag. What’s the difference between the two referee’s kits? What’s important and what’s just a personal luxury?

 The 10 Essentials:

  • Whistles – I carry two whistles in my bag. My favorite one that I use in most situations and my spare that is in my other shorts pocket during the game in case I drop my favorite one. The spare also has a different tone in case the referee in the next pitch has the same favorite whistle.
  • Watches – I also carry two watches. I wear both of them when I am the referee and only one when I am an assistant referee. One typically is set to count down and the other to count up. If I decide to stop one watch, I always let the other run. I do this since about a third of time I either forget to restart the watch or accidentally reset it. This way I still have at least one watch with the right time. Also, I think every referee who has been working games for more than two seasons has had a watch battery die in the closing moments of a big match
  • Cards – I carry a couple of spare set of cards. Like the watch and whistle, I carry an extra set on the pitch in case I drop one. The other ones in my kit are for those rare opportunities when you find an up-and-coming referee who is using the fact that he or she doesn’t have any cards so they can’t work the middle of this game.

Another kind of card I carry is a set of 3x5 cards. I use this as game cards. Even when I am at a tournament where they supply game cards, I use my cards then transfer the information onto the official game card. This helps the tournament officials read the cards since it should be clean and clear versus my sweaty or scribbled card.

  • Pen, Pencil, Marker – You guessed it. I carry two writing tools and have some spares in my bag. It is a good idea to have both a pen and a pencil since pens don’t like to work in the rain and may freeze in the late fall and early spring. For those of you that like the cards that you can write on, a spare marker is a good idea.
  • Flipping Coin – It is always handy to have a flipping coin in your kit since you may not have any change on you when it comes time for captains. In a pinch, I have had used the old “which hand is my whistle in” routine but it seems a little unprofessional.
  • Duct Tape – As a young man, my father taught me that almost anything could be fixed with duct tape. This seems especially true as a referee. I have added numbers to jerseys, fixed poorly hung nets, kept the socks up, fixed my overstressed referee bag, and a million other things with a simple roll of duct tape
  • Alternate Jersey(s) – It is always a good practice to include at least one of the alternate jerseys in your referee kit. Invariably, one of the teams will have chosen a club color that is the same color as your jersey. If the rest of the team has an alternate but you do not, this can be embarrassing and make life difficult for all involved. If you are just starting out and don’t want to spend the money, then see if you can buy an old one of a referee with big bag or check with your association to see if they have a collection of used jerseys that you can use. Once you make some money and decide that you are going to stick with refereeing, reinvest some of it and buy some alternate colors.
  • Money – You never know when you may need a few bucks. Maybe the tournament does not pay until the end of the day and you need some lunch. Maybe the coaches don’t have the correct change or you need to figure out how to split the money up with the referees when you don’t have the right combination of smaller bills.
  • Eyewear & accessories – Early in my career, I was working a heated youth match when the ball and my face had an unexpected meeting. This contact broke my glasses. After a stoppage of play, I ran off the field and found my nerdy back-ups and continued the match. Now I where contacts, but during a windy tournament I was working next to a baseball diamond and got some dirt under my contact. I was forced to remove my contacts and put on my nerdy glasses again to finish the match. Contacts are great but don’t forget to bring some spares, some solution, a small mirror and never forget those nerdy back-up glasses
  • Garbage Bag – OK. Now you have all the bare essentials crammed into that tiny gym bag. You are about to run the middle of a great match confident that you have any items that you may need, when the rains come. All my goodies, getting soaked by this rain. Don’t forget to take a long a full sized garbage bag. Stick your bag, and your assistants stuff too, into the garbage bag and tie off the end. Life is good. During a recreational game some years ago, I found a very different use for my garbage bag. During warm-ups on these fields behind a local elementary school, one team of girls suddenly began squealing. Upon closer inspection, I discovered that there was a dead, half-composed animal in front of the goalmouth. I was able to remove the carcass with the help of my trusty garbage bag and the game continued without incident.

The Nice to Haves:

Now that you have the ten essentials items for your referee kit, lets consider some items that are nice to have but not essential.

  • Bag – Like most everyone else, I started off with the classic cloth gym bag with one big zipper that opens the entire bag. Now, I have a nice, sturdy, leather-like bag with my name on it. It has multiple zippered sections. Each thing has its rightful place and when I need it, I know where it is. My buddies jokingly call it “my body bag” due to its size, but I am never at a loss for something I need.
  • Medications – As you get older and your body begins to creak, some medication taken preventatively can help the day and your game go better. I carry a bottle of Aleve and some sports cream in my bag. You may need to carry an inhaler or other important medications.
  • Pump with needle and pressure gauge – One of the tasks of the referee is to inspect and approve the game ball(s). About 75% of time, they need some level of adjustment. I have found it easier and simpler for me to pump the balls up rather than pass them back and forth with the coaches until the right pressure is established. A gauge is a good idea to get the pressure right. I have had players complain that the ball is too soft or too hard but they can not argue with a gauge.
  • Wet wipes – I carry wet wipes for those hot days to help freshen up and wipe away the crusty sweat off my hands and face. It is not a shower, but it is amazing how refreshing it feels.
  • Zip strips – Carrying a few of these handy strips are great for fixing ill-hung nets. They are quick and easy and save you from wasting large amounts of the precious duct tape..
  • Alternate Jerseys in long and short sleeve versions – As you advance in the sport, you find the need for more and more options for jerseys. College has 3 jerseys, NFHS has at least two options, and the USSF has 3 options. With each of these options are long and short-sleeved jerseys. It does not take long to have a large collection of jerseys.
  • Alternate shoes – Just as players often carry more than one style of shoes, referees may also find this to be helpful. Cleats are great for muddy and wet conditions to assure firm footing but they will absolute kill your poor feet on a hard sun-baked pitch. Have a spare set of turf shoes or indoor shoes can allow you to change to the right equipment for the job
  • Spare socks – Pretty early, I discovered the need for spare socks. After working a couple of games in a local tournament with some veteran referees, we ventured to the referee tent to relax until the afternoon session. My feet were cold and clammy from the early morning rain which was now gone. As I looked at my experienced teammates, they were changing into dry comfortable socks ready to take on the afternoon in comfort.
  • Sandals – On the same day, I saw those same veterans reach into their large referee bags and pull out some sandals. I, on the other hand, was gingerly tiptoeing around the tent in my barefeet as my socks hung to dry.
  • Foul weather clothing – Since soccer is played in all kinds of weather, being prepared for foul weather is important. A simple pair of gloves can make a tremendous difference on a cool day. A warm hat is important for half-time and post-game. I own a rain jersey. I seldom use it for rain but it works wonderfully under my regular jersey as a windbreaker. I found that I can referee very comfortably in quite cold weather with this combination.
  • Candy Bar – It’s half-time and the concession stand is nowhere to be found. You are tired and need a little boost. For such situations, I keep Power-Bars in my bag. They are full of sugar and carbohydrates yet are virtually indestructible. They don’t get gooey in the heat and don’t shatter in the cold. They have even improved the flavor. Don’t like them. Try something else that meets your needs. It can be the difference between having fun and waiting for the minutes to pass.
  • Warm-ups – Beyond the warmth, a nice set of warm-ups can provide an impression of professionalism. Entering a stadium dressed in your USSF or NISOA warm-up with your teammates and inspecting the field, let all those watching that you take your job seriously and professionally.

The Luxuries:

Finally, here are some items that are just plain luxuries.

  • Shoe bag – Shoe bags are great when your shoes are wet or muddy and you don’t want to put them in your bag or even your car. A shoe bag allows you to get them home without risk of making everything else dirty or stinky.
  • Cell phone – This luxury is very important if you have someone else waiting on you when you pick up the last-minute game or you go into the second overtime period. A cell phone could have been the difference between me coming home to a nice meal or to changed locks.
  • Clothing organizers – I recently bought these and love them. I bought a set for short sleeve jerseys and a set for long sleeve jerseys. They allow you to fold up the jerseys and pack them neatly into your bag without them wadding up in the corner of your bag.
  • Pocketknife – I carry a small Leatherman knife complete with a screwdriver and small pair of scissors. These have done everything from fix glasses to cut medical tape, to many other small jobs.
  • Sewing kit – The small sewing kits that are given out on overseas airline flights or are used for camping can be helpful to repair tears in jerseys or more likely darn those darn socks.
  • Shoe polish & accessories – Shoe polish is important to show a level of professionalism in your appearance. Polishing or brushing your shoes is a common task during off-games in the referee tent. Today, there are small polish saturated sponges that are great for quick simple touch-ups without the mess or inconvenience.
  • Game report forms, schedules, maps, telephone numbers – I carry a small three-ring notebook with blank game reports, my game schedule, maps to fields, telephone numbers, and tournament rules.
  • Rulebooks – In the folder of the notebook, I have the rulebooks for the various leagues that I referee. I try to never get them out on the pitch but I do like having them for discussions before and after the game..

So the next time you see an experienced referee followed by a small mule train laden with packs, he is not headed for the Grand Canyon. He is just headed to the pitch to do his job. Who knows, he might let you ride out there on the back of his favorite mule.

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The Job is Not Over Until the Paperwork is Done Ready for Anything?
What Flips Your Switch? Whistle While You Work
To Play or Not to Play? That is the Question!
by Brian Goodlander - (published in Referee Magazine) - 12/01
A Referee for Soccer Association for Youth (SAY), USSF, college and high school in Cincinnati.
He is a USSF assessor and instructor. Additionally, he is a board member of the...
South West Ohio Soccer Officials Association (SWOSOA).

The beauty of soccer is that it is played in almost any weather conditions. The athletes and officials must be in good condition and properly prepared to play in some of the more foul weather conditions. However, the same two over-riding principles hold fast in all aspects of the game – safety and fairness. These principles apply to weather and field conditions as much as they due to whether a tackle is an excellent play or a free kick..

A simple review of the various soccer organization rulebooks demonstrate that the referee has the authority and responsibility to suspend or terminate a match if the playing conditions warrant it.

  • FIFA – Law 5 – The Referee. IFAB DECISION 1 - …a decision that the conditions of the field of play or its surrounds or that the weather conditions are such as to allow or not to allow a match to take place.
  • USSF - Advice to Referees 5.11 TERMINATING THE MATCH. The referee may terminate a match for reasons of safety (bad weather or darkness)
  • NFHS - Rule 1-7 FIELD CONDITIONS. Once the game begins, and until it ends, the determination of whether or not a game may be safely continued shall be made by the referee.
  • NCAA - Rule 5-5 DISCRETIONARY POWERS. The referee has the discretionary power to: a) Suspend the game whenever, by reason of the elements, interference by spectators, or other cause, such action is deemed necessary… Approved Ruling (A.R.) 63 states: “The game is started in good weather, but conditions rapidly deteriorate and both teams insist on continuing the game. RULING: The referee has the authority to suspend a game for reason of the elements.”

The intent of these rules are clear but the specifics of when and how are vague. Do we stop if I hear thunder? How much rain is too much? What is too cold and what is too hot? What about lightning or ice or fog? Are there hard and fast rules or do they vary from league to league, age to age? Does the referee always make the decision? What if the field proprietor decides not to play a game because of the possible damage to the pitch? These are very difficult and complex questions that are often thrust into the lap of the referee.

Preventative Measures – There are some things that the referee can do prior to a match to make sure he or she is armed with as much knowledge as possible.

These include:

(1) Know the Rules – Make sure that you are aware of the applicable rules for the competition. The NFHS states that the home school athletic director can deem the conditions acceptable to play or not to play up to the beginning of play. Until you start this match, you can not suspend or terminate a match. In some state high school associations, waiting periods have been pre-set by the state. For example, in Ohio there is a set number of minutes that must be waited after the last lightning strike or thunderclap. These are rules that the referee is obliged to follow. It is always wise to consult the match or tournament director on their policy for weather conditions and safety.

(2) Pre-game Field Inspection – An early arrival to the field is even more important than usual if there is currently or threats of foul weather in the course of the match. Is this a pitch that tends to pool water in certain areas. Always take the time to inspect the goal areas. They are usually the hardest beaten and most suspect in the event of bad weather. Discuss with you assistants and fourth official about how to signal to you when they see lightning or believe that the match should be stopped. If there was play on the field earlier that damaged areas of the field, what is there condition now. If the temperature has dropped to below freezing, those same ruts can not be frozen into razor sharp edges that can cause deep cuts on thighs and arms. Don’t forget to look at the touchline areas. They are often one of the least maintained areas on the field. Some venues have benches or stands close to these areas that under normal conditions are sufficiently far away but under slippery conditions can be dangerous. What conditions will your assistants be working in? Should you consider a reverse diagonal to provide them some relief? Understanding the field conditions before the game can provide you with critical information about the safety and well-being of the players as the game nears.

(3) Weather Forecasts – Weather prediction and technology has made tremendous strides over the last 5 years. Check the weather before you leave for a match. This can be done by phone, Internet, or television. I have a pager and a cell phone that can receive weather emergency information automatically. This is important information for determining if there is any point in starting the match or how to long to wait for a small pocket of foul weather to pass.

(4) Detection Devices – Many schools, parks, and tournaments are equipped with detection devices for foul weather, especially lightning. All of us have seen these things work both excellently and poorly. I can remember a detection device go off at a field that was bathed in warm summer sun and perfect playing conditions. We played the entire match without any dark clouds, rain, thunder or lightning. That night I checked the radar on the Weather Channel and nothing was detected with 200 miles of that field. Similarly, I was working a game under fair conditions when the detection device sounded and the storm moved so quickly, we barely made it to cover before multiple lightning strikes blanketed the area. These are just another tool to use to help you make a very difficult decision.

(5) Age of Players – Young players need to learn to play under less than optimal conditions but they also have to learn to enjoy the game first. Albeit cute, we have all suffered through watching two teams of 10 year olds stand around a puddle of water carefully kicking at the ball stuck in the center of the puddle. With young kids, temperature is a key condition to watch. Very hot conditions or very cold conditions can be dangerous to young players. Include a couple of water breaks to assure that the kids don’t dehydrate. Encourage them to drink water when they are not on the field. Adults know the dangers of not wearing sufficient clothing on cold days and can make the choice to wear those gloves or not. Young players do not always realize the dangers and the adult supervision may be caught up in the game too much to realize what’s happening. Older players kick the ball harder and farther than younger players. In foggy conditions, will you be able to follow the flight of the ball and be able to see the landing zone to look for fouls or misconduct? This is an important consideration for fairness and safety.

(6) Traveling Teams – As players get older, teams begin to travel. A college team that has traveled for 3 hours to reach a game site will be very reluctant to not play due to some inclement weather. These situations require some consideration before suspending or terminating a match for foul weather. Can this game be played safely and fairly or do you just not want to get muddy and cold? Be more lenient with traveling teams than local matches but never risk the key principles of safety and fairness.

(7) The Impact – Another factor to consider is the impact of not playing this match will have on the players, teams, standings, and/or league. Many tournaments are forced to stay on schedules or play finals in poor weather and field conditions because of potential interference with league play or inconvenience to traveling teams. Some games are not as critical to standings as other games and the league will likely not replay the games. Other games are critical to standings or are big rivalries. Patience is important here. Player, fans, tournament officials, school administrators are anxious to play and are frustrated by the weather or other conditions that may result in the game being suspended or terminated.

(8) The Score – If the game is a blow-out, the choice is easier than if the game is a draw or a close hard fought battle. That said, the principles are the same. Is it fair to end a match when you may not normally just because one team is losing badly. Those teams, players, schools deserve to play the game. The game score is a contributing factor but should be given less weight than many of the other factors previously discussed.

(9) Back-up Plan – If you decide to play in questionable weather, always make sure that you have a solid, well thought-outback-up plan. Are the bleachers metallic? How far away are the cars? The locker rooms?

We have discussed the why, but what about the how? How do I know when to consider the conditions unplayable? Here are some ideas for making that decision.

  • Heat – In general, this is not a reason for terminating a match. Youth players may need a water break mid-way through a half. Humidity and smog are greater safety concerns. High humidity and bad smog can cause allergic and asthmatic reactions. Many areas have smog alerts. Be aware of these situations and be patient with players having difficulty due to allergies, asthma or dehydration. One more point is that at higher level games the number of substitutions are limited so the players exposure to the high heat is more intense and warrants closer attention.
  • Cold – Extreme cold can be very dangerous. Pay attention to the weather forecast and understand the signs of frostbite. Blue lips or extremities are signs of reduced circulation and overexposure to cold. Fingernails can be could indicators of internal body temperatures. If you are warm, it is likely that the players are doing okay as well. Typically, you should expect to chilled or cold at the very beginning of the game. You should warm up as you exert energy to stay with play. Assistant referees are particularly susceptible to these conditions as they may stand still for longer periods.
  • Rain – Rain, in and of itself, is not a big deal. However, rain combined with other factors can be very dangerous. Cold and rain mixed can result in hypothermia. Rain accompanied by thunder and lightning can create vary dangerous conditions. The impact of a heavy rain is really dependent upon the pitch on which the game is being held. If it drains well, play on. If it becomes a muddy, slippery mess, use your best judgment. Personally, I like to watch how the players are doing. Are they slipping or are they upright? If they slip, do they fall awkwardly and risk serious injury or do they just get muddy. Can the keeper perform their job? Is one end of the field different than the other?
  • Fog – I was involved in a game this last year where as the sunset, fog seemed to appear out of the ground. In the first half it was kind of fun. It reminded me of one of the B horror movies that play at the drive-in. At the start of the second half, however, there was a cross to the area and I could not see the goal or the keeper. At this point, I signaled the referee and terminated the match. Fairness and safety are the keys here. If you stand in the middle of field, can you see the goals? Is one end different than the other? Will your assistants be able to call off-sides?
  • Snow – Snow is a real inconvenience. The touchlines and markings disappear. Players slip and fall and become wet in cold conditions. A slight dusting is harmless but if it impedes the progress of the ball or the safety of the players, terminate or suspend the match.
  • Ice – Ice is perhaps the worst condition for the ground. Rather than a soft landing on grass the player now lands on frozen turf. This can result in serious injury. Damaged areas of the field are now more like a bunch of small knives ready to cut any one that may slip. If the players are older and seem to be able to control themselves and the ball, then play. But if they fall and they complain of injury due to the conditions, end the misery.
  • Thunder & Lightning – Always stay on the conservative safe side of this danger. Lightning strikes are extremely dangerous and a soccer pitch is a prime area for being struck. Large complexes have vast open areas with few trees and typically the players, officials, fans, and coaches are the highest items in the opening. If lightning strikes it will be attracted by these higher items. We recently had a meteorologist at one of our association meetings. He reiterated, using a number of humorous yet frightening stories, that where there is thunder, there is likely lightning. If you hear thunder, look at the sky and see if things are moving quickly or if there are any bright flashes on the horizon. If the game is near completion, you may be able to complete the match. If you or anyone sees lightning, stop the game and get to safety immediately. As a general rule, wait at least 20 minutes after the last lightning was seen before restarting the match.
  • Wind –Generally wind is not a major reason for stopping a match. However, if you are located in area where tornadoes can occur and the conditions are favorable for their formation, wind can tell you a lot about any impending trouble. If you have any reason to believe that severe weather is close by, terminate or suspend the match and get yourself and everyone else to appropriate cover.

It is very difficult to know when a game should be terminated or suspended due to weather or field conditions but with some preventative measures and a watchful eye you can avoid these problems and make the right decision. Remember that safety and fairness are the paramount principles to live by.

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The Job is Not Over Until the Paperwork is Done Ready for Anything?
To Play or Not to Play? Whistle While You Work
What Flips Your Switch?
by Brian Goodlander - (published in Referee Magazine) - 07/00
A Referee for Soccer Association for Youth (SAY), USSF, college and high school in Cincinnati.
He is a USSF Assessor and Instructor. Additionally, he is a board member of the...
South West Ohio Soccer Officials Association (SWOSOA).

“Hey Ref! Call it both ways!”, “Aaa, Come on!”, “Buy some glasses!”, “You got a whistle. Use it!” You don’t have to be a referee very long before you hear everyone of these exclamations. Every referee has a varying level of tolerance for this kind of questioning. More mature referees learn to know the difference between an emotional outburst and a premeditated attack with offensive or abusive language. Any referee has one phrase, one act, or one look that sets him/her off. It flips your switch! It pushes your buttons! It sets you off! Anytime this event occurs, you see red and the offender may even see yellow (card). I propose that you need to know what flips your switch and be aware of how to control your response and when that response is being used to take you out of your game.

I know referees that get taken out of a game by a look. You know the look. The coach stands at the touchline with his hands on his hips and slowly shakes his head with his eyes to the sky. I know other referees that can take endless tirades by coaches but react instantly and with extreme emotion when their decisions are questioned by a player. Today’s players and coaches are smarter and more resourceful. They watch tapes, the scout referees, the listen to referee’s reaction to dissent or to questioning. They discover if they can give him the look that flips his switch, he will get so upset that he will lose his focus on the game and they can gain a tactical advantage. The wily player may know how far to push before he has pushed too far. He walks the line not so far as to be admonished or cautioned but enough to disrupts your thoughts and focus.

The beauty of soccer is that it is a game of passion and emotion. Referees are only human and they clearly have passion and emotion. No one can check their emotions in the locker room but a good referee learns to control their emotions and funnel that emotion to focus further on the match. Late in the second half in a long ball attacking match, your energy reserves are low and the score is a draw. The winning team will claim first place and the losing team takes a long drive home. The intensity of the match increases. You push through the fatigue and manage to maintain your positioning and foul recognition, aware that at any moment the game’s moment of truth could occur. One team is making a strong run for a go-ahead goal. The attacker avoids both defenders and is one-on-one with the keeper. The keeper comes out and with a brilliant slide tackles the ball from the attacker clearing into touch. Your energy reserves tapped, you still manage to be with 10 yards of the play and signal for a throw-in at the point where the ball left the field of play. You turn just in time to see the attacking coach throw up his hands in the air, shake his head vigorously, mutter to himself and his assistant like a madman. As you turn to watch the ball return to play, the coach screams “How can that NOT be a foul! Come on!”. The comment upsets you greatly and you replay the event in your mind twice in super-slow motion and never see any foul play. I was right there! You are awaken from this video clip by a roaring crowd and re-focus just in time to see the ball hit the net. You look to your assistant referee and he looks at you. He doesn’t sprint up the line. He just stands there! You know that that momentary loss in concentration just cost you big. What did you miss? What did you not see? What is your next move and how well can you sell the right call?

I contend that situations like this can be avoided by having the self-awareness to know what kind of events, comments, gestures, and/or actions flip your switch. In this case, the switch was flipped that caused the referee to lose his focus and re-run the event in his mind to be sure of the call. All done while the ball is in play. This was compounded by Murphy’s Law and the end result, whether ultimately right or wrong, was going to put his officiating skills in question. Physical fatigue is a huge factor towards mental fatigue and the referee needs to be more aware of his weaknesses and more versant in how to control them.

The next time your switch gets flipped, make a note (preferably written) on what caused it and what was the result. Did you lose focus? Did you caution a player or coach too quickly? Did it effect your ability to officiate the game? Think about it after the match and make some scenarios on how you could have handled it better or what you will do next time. Talk with a fellow referee or your mentor and brainstorm on the best ways to manage the issue in the future. Refereeing is thinking but it is thinking about the right things at the right time.

Don’t let some player or coach flip your switch and shut you down. Be self-aware and keep the focus!

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The Job is Not Over Until the Paperwork is Done Ready for Anything?
To Play or Not to Play? What Flips Your Switch?
Whistle While You Work
by Brian Goodlander
A Referee for Soccer Association for Youth (SAY), USSF, college and high school in Cincinnati.
He is a USSF Assessor and Instructor. Additionally, he is a board member of the...
South West Ohio Soccer Officials Association (SWOSOA).

The primary communication tool for a referee is the whistle. An effective referee learns how to make the whistle talk for them. The players, fans, and coaches know from the tone, volume, and length of the whistle whether the foul is a simple foul, a misconduct that will result in a booking, or even a penalty kick.

Choosing the Right Whistle – There are many things to consider when choosing a whistle. Fortunately, there is not a consider cost difference between a simple whistle and a “professional” whistle. There are two key attributes that need to be considered when whistle shopping.

  • Form – Manufacturers are making two basic forms of whistles: (1) the traditional-style whistle that is typically used with a lanyard, and (2) the finger grip whistle that allows the referee to carry the whistle without a lanyard. I have used both types over the years and have settled on the traditional whistle with a wrist lanyard that I wrap around my hand in a manner that imitates the finger grip whistle. The finger grip style is a good whistle for new or inexperienced referees because it tends to get the whistle out of their mouth. A referee who keeps a whistle in their mouth invites inadvertent whistles and a “quick” whistle which is not conducive to the application of advantage. Personally, I found that the finger grip whistle did get in my way while writing in my book or issuing a card. I would have to first put the whistle in my pocket, write in the book or show the card, then find the whistle in my pocket and restart play.
  • Tone - The tone of a whistle can be very different from one type to another. Some are very high-pitched and shrill while others are more sharp or penetrating. I recommend experimentation with a few different whistle types and find out which one works the best for you. “Best for you” means find the tone that makes the players respond to your whistle. You may find that the shrill sound does not fit your quiet and independent nature while the deep penetrating or sharp whistle fits your communicative and approachable style of refereeing. I also recommend that you do not limit yourself to whistles that are used by other soccer referees. Check around with officials of other sports. Hockey whistles are usually very high pitched and shrill to assure being heard while basketball whistles are loud and penetrating.
  • Pea or Pea-less – When I first started as a referee, I dug around in my stuff at home and found an old metal whistle with a cork pea and quickly learned that I had to blow my brains out to be heard and I had to position the wide mouthpiece precisely to make the air actually go through the whistle body and produce a recognizable sound. A fellow official recommended that I try a pea-less whistle which requires less air and produces a very loud sound. I quickly became enamored with the new whistle and used it for many season. Personally, I moved back to a pea whistle when I found that I could not “talk” with the pea-less whistle very well. Every tone was loud and strong, even when I wanted a softer sound.
  • More than one - Fortunately, all the expense and effort that you have gone through to try out various whistles and find the one that fits your personality is not wasted. I recommend that you carry two different whistles when you officiate. This is a good idea not just because you may drop your whistle or it may be broken unexpectedly, but also because you may find it necessary to switch to a whistle with a different tone. For example, if you are working a match near other fields and the surrounding officials are using the same tone whistle as you, you may be well-served to change to a different tone that will help the players know when you are using the whistle and when the neighboring official is using their whistle. Sometimes weather can affect the tone of a whistle and you may find that your favorite whistle just isn’t working the way it usually does. Some referees carry multiple whistles on one lanyard and switch from one to another as needed. Personally, I prefer to have one style in use and the other whistle in my other pocket, if I decide to employ it.

Choosing When to Blow the Whistle – Like every type of communication, use of whistle must be saved for a time when it is most effective. If the situation can be better handled by your voice or a simple signal then the whistle may be unnecessary and better used for a different situation. Referees tend to go through swings in their use of the whistle. Early in their career, referees are often hesitant to use their whistle and draw attention to their decisions. Later, they tend to use the whistle exclusively for every situation. This use of the tool for trifling events weakens its effectiveness when it is used for a major event. Not to mention, the constant tweet of the whistle upsets players, coaches, and fans. Finally, the referee learns when to blow the whistle and how to make it communicate effectively.

  • Informational Whistle - A few short tweets of the whistle is used to inform players that they need to follow specific instructions. For example, a player is taking a free kick or throw-in from the wrong location and you want to let them know that they need to move to a different location. A variation of this whistle technique is used for major incidents like fights or bench unrest. In this case the same short blasts are used by with considerable more volume and intensity.
  • Minor Offense - A single short blast is used to inform players of minor offenses like a push or trip that was not reckless or violent but still needs to be penalized with a free kick. Another example is the obvious offside whistle. For some organizations (i.e., NFHS), a whistle is required to re-start play for specific events, like throw-ins. This same style of whistle is used for these obvious situations.
  • Misconduct - If a foul escalates to misconduct requiring the issuance of a caution or send-off, a long and hard whistle is used to make sure everyone is aware that you have seen the offense and are going to take care of it. This type of whistle brings play to an immediate stop and often stops potential retaliation or further misconduct. The length of the whistle varies with the distance the referee needs to travel to reach the point of the misconduct.
  • Penalty Kick - Perhaps the most intense whistle is for a penalty kick. This whistle is usually extremely loud and long with the referee sprinting to the penalty mark to indicate the penalty kick. If this offense takes place late in the match, the referee’s fitness will be tested by the extended breath required to blow the whistle while sprinting to the penalty area.

Remember that the whistle is the referee’s primary tool of communication and an effective referee finds a whistle that meets their style of officiating and quickly learns how to make the whistle talk for them. Every player, coach and fan should be able to tell what event has occurred and what the repercussions of the event will be by simply listening to the referee’s whistle.

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The Job is Not Over Until the Paperwork is Done Ready for Anything?To Play or Not to Play?
What Flips Your Switch? Whistle While You Work
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