Bi-Weekly Instructional Message – Issue 3
As we round out September, non-conference play has mostly concluded and teams will finish out the season over the next month with a loaded slate of conference play. For many teams in the conferences we serve, winning the conference tournament is the only guarantee to make the NCAA tournament in November. Conference games will see more physical play, more emotions, and will demand more from our officials.
In part of our preparation as match officials, we must be fully vested in our knowledge of the NCAA soccer playing rules. There have been several misapplications this year, including instances of video review in situations where video review was clearly not permitted, incorrect application of substitution rules and goalkeepers being forced to leave the field when not required to do so, and coaches being ejected for “dissent.”
Additionally, we have received a greater number of clips than usual from coaches pertaining to valid goals being taken away by erroneous offside decisions. In some of these clips, attackers were more than FIVE YARDS onside at the time the ball was played. Assistant referees MUST be focused for ninety minutes. When in doubt, please leave the flag down. It is much easier for us as a staff to defend a goal that was given from a tight offside decision where the attacker may have more than likely been offside, albeit by a small margin, than it is to defend our members when they take away a goal that was yards onside.
Our success over the remaining portion of the schedule will largely be aided by sticking to common sense refereeing. This includes giving simple free kicks in the midfield, letting things come to you as opposed to “looking for the big decision” and managing emotions without overreacting.
- Simple free kicks in the midfield – These free kicks are the easiest way to maintain match control and have little to no direct impact on the outcome of a match. When was the last time you left a stadium and heard someone say, “I wish the referee hadn’t called so many fouls?” Even when the contact may not meet your threshold for a foul, consider giving these decisions when the game needs a little air taken out of it. Otherwise, all of those little contacts will build into bigger contacts, harder fouls, and misconduct, all of which could have been avoided with a few preventative whistles.
- Let things come to you – Often times our games are decided by one or two “big decisions.” Let these decisions come to you, or in other words, don’t go looking for the big decision and then do something that has players and coaches from both sides scratching their heads. Giving a penalty in overtime for contact that arguably wasn’t a foul, or giving a penalty for contact that arguably started outside of the penalty area, are both examples of looking for the big decision rather than letting it come to you. Sooner or later, it will fall in your lap.
- Managing emotions without overreacting – Coaches and players alike are under pressure to perform and get results and as the season goes on, this pressure mounts. As officials, when we go into a game understanding these pressures, we’re better prepared to handle them appropriately and diffuse them as needed. Let coaches have a word or two. Let players say that they didn’t like a decision. If it transitions from an outburst to prolonged dissent, acknowledge the coach or player, let him or her know you’re aware, and utilize a little personality to diffuse. Similar to how we “set up” players before issuing a caution for persistent infringement, set up the coach so that if it does go so far as to issue misconduct, it isn’t a surprise to anyone. Remember that there’s a big difference between a player or coach making a comment about a decision as opposed to using the word “You.”