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So, I just got back from an eventful night of soccer – I refereed a small-sided U11 Boys game (Division 2) where the two teams were undefeated, with the winner getting the inside track to winning the division (though, both teams were going to end up being promoted to Division 1). I say small-sided because in a U11 game, the field is 70 yd x 45 yd, instead of the usual 110×70. There’s also only 7 field players + goalkeeper on the field, so this makes for a lot of up-and-down running.

It was a good game, in any case. The visiting team (“Yellow”) was designated the “home” team, because the game was rescheduled from a different location due to weather. Yellow also won 3-2, but the home team (“White”) came really close to evening it up at the end, with 5 shots on goal (none on target though) in the last three minutes.

Then after the game, I went over to Williams Field high school to watch the end of the Division II semifinals between Queen Creek and Marana Mountain View. (QC won, 3-0.) There was some uncomfortable flashbacks there, as I recognized several parents who were classmates of mine in junior high (though I forget names). Marana Mt. View was the school that opened up in 1986, and I was supposed to go there for high school as a freshman – all but one of my junior high yearbook signatures said “See you next year at Mt. View!” – but I opted instead to go to Salpointe Catholic.

However, I showed up on the Mt. View campus every year, sometimes twice, as Salpointe would play Mt. View in one sport or another. Always a loss for Mt. View – my “old friends” were never happy to see me on the sidelines of the opposition. Soccer was always the worst for Mt. View, as the coach would allow me to walk around behind the team’s bench. (Once, we won 5-0, and goals #4 and #5 were nutmegs on the keeper, a person whom I had known and played AYSO soccer with for a long time… yeah, that was awkward.)

So, back to present at Williams Field HS, and I opted not to say anything to the people I had known from “way back when”. I didn’t want them to think I was rubbing it in, because once again, here I am at a Mt. View game, and Mt. View loses.

But I thought about it. Boy did I think about it. :)

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Three straight days of refereeing – Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

Saturday started with two recreational league games (U9-11 combined) as center referee, followed by two Port Of Subs Open League (POSOL) games a couple of hours later, one as assistant, the other as center.

Sunday turned up four games at the SC Del Sol Desert Classic out at Riverview Park in Mesa. I ran as a center, an assistant, and two more centers, one of which was a Final that ended as a 0-0 tie and went to kicks from the mark.

Last night was the usual four games at the Barney Indoor Sports Complex.

It’s a challenge, to say the least. Four different sets of rules to keep straight – Rec league, POSOL, tournament-specific, and indoor. I forgot to wear my pedometer on Saturday, but Sunday and Monday combined I ran 13 miles. I would probably guess that Saturday I ran about 5 miles (the rec games were on a short field, and I was an assistant on one of the POSOL games). So a conservative estimation would be about 18 miles for the weekend. Nice!

The only note was the during the Finals game, which of course got a little heated (as much as 12 year old girls can be aggressive), was that the parents on the sidelines started off with the usual complaints for calls and quickly stopped when I became more visable with the approach (actually stating loudly “offside” and giving a motion for a jersey tug or a handling violation). Now we’re not supposed to give an indication of what the foul actually is as a center, we’re just supposed to indicate direction of the free kick, but realistically, more and more players and coaches want to know “what was the call”, and making it easy to see immediately eliminates all those questions. I just wish that USSF would start utilizing signals like that more, because right now, it’s just up to the individual referee.

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That’s the number of cautions I issued today in one game – a U14 Girls Division 1 game. Six. And they weren’t all for the same thing – in fact, five of them were for completely different issues (all of which were in the second half of the game):

  • Persistent Infringement – A26 was pushing her opponents in the back (or knocking over the opposing goalkeeper) all first half, and her first foul in the second half earned her a caution.
  • Unsporting Behavior / Tactical Foul – A39 first impeded, then held her opponent from being able to play a ball down the right sideline.
  • Unsporting Behavior / Deliberate Handling – in the penalty area, A35 jumped at least two feet in the air with both arms above her head, and contacted the ball with a forearm. She subsequently attempting to claim she was trying to protect her face (not when you jump up in the air), and then when that tactic failed, claimed that the ball actually hit her in the shoulder.
  • Unsporting Behavior / Late Tackle – A24 tried a hip-check about 5 yards in front of me way after the ball had left the area, then complained that the opponent was pushing her (not true).
  • Dissent – The Head Coach didn’t like the call on the late tackle and kept asking to “call it both ways”. I told her “That’s enough, you need to stop,” twice, then went over to her sideline and told her “I’ve asked you to stop twice, since you’ve decided to continue, here’s your caution. If I have to talk to you again, you will be finishing this game from the parking lot.”
  • Dissent – At the pre-game conference, both teams were warned that there would be no shenanigans related to parking oneself in front of a free kick and forcing the kicker to ask for the 10-yard distance. Both teams instead were to immediately back away or else be cautioned. So, in the 68th minute, a free kick is given just outside the penalty area near the right sideline. A30 parks herself about 7 yards from the ball and I tell her to move back because her captain had already been warned pre-game. The result? “Well you didn’t warn me.” So she got her warning.

Ok, so one would think that was the end of it after the game, right?

Nope.

I walked back to the referee tent with the referee assignor and received lots of congratulatory comments from the referees still there – mine was the last game of the day for this club and many of the referees were hanging out to watch the game after theirs had completed. I was asked to explain the caution to the HC and the caution at the end in the corner; several referees mentioned that they didn’t think they could have given the HC a card in that situation. I was doing so, and the HC happened to be walking by the tent. She starting glaring at me and talking in a very loud voice about red cards and how the other team got away with everything. It was obvious that, even though she was walking away with no one around her, she was talking to me.

Almost all the referees were watching her walk away, and after she was out of earshot, one of the other refs said, “Well, I don’t think she’s made many friends today for her future games.” No doubt!

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I’ve used this blog for many things over the years, from sarcastic wit to social commentary to just plain random thoughts. This year I am hoping to move in a more focused direction, as I am starting to gear up for getting back into writing. The kids are older, and I find that I actually have a little time each day to collect and gather thoughts.

I don’t hold any expectations of this blog getting a post every day, or even every other day, but I think weekly is definitely in the cards. I’d like to be able to write about the previous week and include a little soccer refereeing tidbit too, just so I won’t forget it.

As a good friend of mine, Dimitri, used to tell me, “It is what it is.”

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So this past weekend I was refereeing a Division III U14 girls game out at Paloma Fields in Mesa. I was the center, with two high schoolers as my assistant refs. This was allowed because as a minor referee, you can ref whatever level up your age minus two years. Both of these guys were barely 17, so it worked.

Once you’re an adult though – doesn’t really matter, as I’ve found out. I’ve had several games where the age group is U18 / U19, and my AR’s are 18-year-olds.

Anyway, I’ve been refereeing for a long time now, and though I always look forward to each game as an opportunity to learn something new, this time I actually did!

Scenario: With about 12 minutes left in a 0-0 tie, B2 complains to her coach about not being able to breathe too well. The field is dry grass – hey, it’s Arizona in winter – and her coach immediately tells her to get over to the bench. I overhear this exchange and glance over where B2 is trotting off the field. The coach sees me and tells me she’s got asthma and needs to come off now.

Unfortunately, Team A has possession of the ball and is moving upfield with it. They have taken advantage of B2’s absence on the field. I yell at Team A coach “If your player is in dire need, drop to the ground and I will deal with it.” I glance over again and B2 has stepped off the field and is headed for the bench seats. I turn my attention back to the play at hand and yell out “B2 get back on the field and wait there.” Team B coach is getting agitated and reiterates louder that she is an asthmatic and needs to come off. Team A has now moved to beyond midfield and is poised to bounce the ball outside and make a run. Team A’s coach, realizing the situation, yells out to his team to kick the ball out, which they dutifully do.

After indicating the throw-in, and blowing the whistle to stop play, I jog over to the Team B bench where the Coach is about to step on the field to meet me to “discuss” his player. I motion for him to stay where he is, go right to the edge of the touchline and tell B2 in a loud voice “Do not ignore my instructions. If you are on the field and not feeling well or get hurt, you are to drop to the ground and wait for my whistle to stop play. You do not just walk off the field without my permission. I gave you the chance to come back to the field and wait and you deliberately ignored my instruction. Therefore, you are cautioned for leaving the field of play without the referee’s permission.” And then I show her the yellow. Her face just drops into her shoes and her coach is livid.

“She is allowed to leave the field!”

“During the normal course of play in going for a ball or making herself available for a pass, yes. Making a beeline for the bench and ignoring my warning to the contrary is NOT normal course of play. I gave her the opportunity to come back and make it right, and she didn’t. Therefore, she’s been cautioned.”

The coach sighs and says, “Can I sub her then?”

I said, “It’s your throw-in, you can sub anyone you want,” and jogged back over to where my AR was standing with the ball.

First time I ever had to make the entry “L” on my game card (which is code for “Leaving the Field Without Permission”).

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