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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Things I’ve learned from refereeing this weekend at a regional tournament (and some things I already knew but just wanted to state them anyway):

  1. The phrase most used by parents is “Just let them play.”

    * When the referees do “let them play”, this is changed to “Where’s the yellow card?”

  2. Certain clubs’ coaches have made a name for themselves within the referee community – for better or for worse.

    * Word gets around quickly if a coach is riding a ref all game.

    * Continuing to ride a ref about a specific type of call (ie. “kicking his ankles”, “push in the back”, etc.) will usually result in the ref making that next call in an unfavourable position AGAINST that coach’s team.

    * When the referee tells the coach that he’s heard enough from him and that the coach should walk back to his bench, the coach should take the hint that he’s found the line marked DO NOT CROSS.

  3. Compared to other club parents, parents of AYSO teams are generally friendlier/nicer, more knowledgeable of the Laws of the Game, and more supportive of their players – that is to say, when they cheer, they cheer positively, (ie. “Good run!”, “Great pass!”, “Good defense!”) not negatively (“Get rid of it sooner!”, “Stop playing with the ball!”, “Don’t ball-watch!”).

    * Underestimating an AYSO team is perilous. I watched and/or reffed 4 games where the AYSO team either won handily or pulled out a comeback win over an established club team. One parent actually asked “how many days a week does this team practice” and the bewilderment on his face when the AYSO coach answered “two” was priceless. I believe that parent’s club coach was about to get an earful later.

  4. U14 boys have no control over their bodies (ie. they haven’t yet gained the skillset to bump/charge without sending their opponents flying) or their mouths.

    For example (yes, this really happened in a post-game meeting):

    Coach: Why did my player receive a red card?
    Center Ref (CR): He received a red for his second yellow.
    Coach: What were they for?
    CR: The first yellow was for the dangerous play tackle, the second was for dissent – he was yelling at my Assistant Referee (AR) because he disagreed with the call.
    Coach: What did he say?
    CR: He called my AR an asshole.
    Player: No I didn’t! I called him an ass.
    CR: And you did it several times.
    Player: No! Just twice!
    Coach: …

    * They also believe that they are the most hilarious person on the planet.

    Player [during post-game handshake]: If “ass” is in the dictionary, then it should be allowed to be said on the field.

    * The quickest way to embarrass yourself as a player is to get whistled for a foul, immediately bring the hands and arms up in the “what did I do” pose, and turn around only to find the ref standing three yards behind you. Yeah, you got caught, just run back upfield.

    * The second quickest way to embarrass yourself as a player is after receiving a warning for a foul that the next one will result in a persistent infringement yellow card and then actually get that card not too long afterwards.

    ** Or getting the card for the exact same foul that garnered the warning in the first place.

  5. Most club coaches believe that every referee is a Grade 4 (MLS / Professional level) with ten years of service, when in fact the majority of referees are Grade 8 (Amateur youth level) with probably less than a year of service.

    * I have only met one Grade 5 (National service level) referee, and ironically he works at the same Very Large Bank as I do, but in a different area.

    * Little known fact, but a referee under the age of 19 can only work games where the age limit is two years or younger below their own age. So, a 19-year-old ref can only ref up to U17 games.

    * Grade 9 referees are only allowed to referee recreational games or U7/U8 small-sided games (6 or 7 players to a side).

  6. Coaches will try anything to get around the rules, including but not limited to, showing up with 22 kids, playing a player that received a red card earlier in the day (and thus would have an automatic one-game suspension), trying to substitute at times when they are not allowed (corner kicks, other team’s throw-in) then saying that “the other refs let them do it”, and even trying to use under-inflated balls so that the kids can kick the “soft” ball farther.

    * I wish I were making up the previous examples.

  7. Having the Regional Assessor (ie. Referee assessor for AZ, CO, NM, NV, and UT) observe your game as you work as the center referee and then tell you that you should have red-carded a kid instead of giving him a yellow is akin to being 5 years old again and getting your hand caught in the cookie jar.

    * Having the Regional Assessor tell you that he hasn’t seen a ref all weekend run the field like you do, that your positioning is near perfect, and that he believes that you should be at a Grade 7 this time next year is like winning the Powerball and MegaMillions in the same week.

  8. As an AR, if you take the time to explain some of the calls to the parents on the sideline in between running up and down the line, they will become better informed about the game AND stop making comments to your CR about how bad (in their opinion) his calls are.

    * Establishing a good rapport with the parents on the sidelines also means they will enjoy the game much more, even when calls don’t necessarily go their way. One of the easiest ways is to make a knowledgeable comment to the person wearing a college or pro team shirt regarding that team. (“How many more times are the Suns going to give up a last-second desperation three?”, or “Man U (Manchester United) seems to be on a winning streak now, don’t they?”)

    * If you make a mistake, like raising your flag quickly and it goes flying out of your hand, being able to laugh about it in front of the parents also goes a long way to making the game enjoyable. (No, it wasn’t me.)

  9. Somewhere ages ago, somebody taught a player that getting the ball first in a tackle meant that the play was legal and everything was ok, even if the opposing player was knocked down or injured. That fallacy has perpetuated to now.

    * Coaches and parents need to remember that the safety of the players is THE NUMBER ONE PRIORITY OF THE REF. “Getting the ball first” does not necessarily make a tackle legal. Getting it first while following through with the rest of the body in a careless or reckless manner or using excessive force DOES make the tackle ILLEGAL.

    and finally

  10. Intimidating/verbally abusive parents are the #1 reason why new young referees drop out of refereeing. There is a chronic shortage of eager, young, and fit referees, and every parent out there needs to remember that the newest refs will make mistakes. They have to learn on the job because instructional videos and classrooms only can teach so much. Be patient with them because there may be a time in the future when your kid is playing a high-level club game, and the game is rescheduled three times because no refs were available to work the game – who knows, that rescheduling nightmare could have been a direct result of the abuse of the new ref who decided to drop out instead of continuing to work.

    * There are also referees out there that are only doing it for the paycheck. You can usually tell who those guys are. Trust me when I say the referee assignor knows it too, and eventually those guys get passed up for the refs that want to be there.

    * If you’re unlucky enough to have one of those refs at your game that just mails it in, whether he’s the CR or an AR, just remember – the referee is just like the field and the weather. You have no control over field conditions or weather conditions, so play how the field and weather permits.

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So, I refereed several games this past weekend (3/29-30), 2 centers and an AR on Saturday, 3 centers on Sunday.

Saturday’s games weren’t bad – first game was a U12 girls game, nothing really out of the ordinary, game ended in a 1-1 tie, with both goals being scored on penalty kicks (one was a handball, the other was tripping).

Second game (U14 girls) was a handful. Team from Santa Barbara, CA, playing extremely physical. Warned a player twice about following through with the body way after the ball had moved on. Apparently, the player’s parent took exception to the warning (which was near the parents’ sideline) and complained to the referee tent during halftime that I was telling his daughter “don’t play so hard”. Riiiiiiight.

Third game, I was the AR for a U12 girls game. The center ref was having trouble remembering to look at his sidelines for offsides, so there were a couple of times I had to hold position and wave the flag to get his attention. However, nothing really was affected. In fact, multiple parents on my sideline seemed to have fun with it and asked me technical questions during the game about offsides, throw-ins, and specific fouls.

Sunday, all three of my games ended up being U14’s, only one of which was originally scheduled. The first was a referee change – one of the teams (green) had already been reffed by the referee scheduled and objected to having him again, feeling that he let too much go on. The other team (yellow) had two players out, one due to injury (fractured wrist), the other due to red card (dissent), so they had to play a man short (10 men). That game ended up as a blowout, 4-0 for green. Two yellow cards were issued, one for a reckless forearm, the other for a very late tackle.

The second game was also a blowout, but for the wrong reasons. This was a U14 girls’ game, and the blue team was well-represented by a large Hispanic/Mexican contingent of fans, who also derided any and all calls that went against them, including throw-ins! Blue wasn’t particularly stellar, winning 4-1, but one goal was an own goal by the red team, and the other was scored on a quick counterattack after red penalty kick was blocked by the keeper. Take away the OG and score the PK, and this game is 2-2. Also, blue had a player sent off for two yellow cards, the first for a blatently late charge, the second was for a tackle from behind endangering the safety of her opponent.

The last game was actually a really good game. U14 boys, blue vs white. Blue went up quickly 2-0 after the first half, and they were on another attack starting at midfield when I blew the halftime whistle. I was told in very angry voices that “we were going to score again, why did you stop it?” and I just simply replied, “It’s halftime. There is no extra time here.” In the second half, blue and white exchanged goals to put blue up 3-1 with about 10 minutes left, and that’s when everything changed. Blue was caught in an offside trap with THREE forwards offside. Flag went up, whistle blown, ball set quickly and kick taken before blue could set up. White outraced everyone to the ball, took control just outside the box on the left side of goal and beat the keeper with a nifty outside-of-the-foot shot into the bottom right corner. On the ensuing kickoff, blue took possession and did a pass back to their midfielders like usual, but white flooded blue’s half of the field with 7 players, leaving only their back three defenders. It only took two minutes to force a corner kick, and white beat the GK with a header off the corner into top right goal. Now, it’s 3-3 with about 6 minutes left. And for 5 of those minutes, it was just back-and-forth, no one really getting an edge on the other, and finally white decides to pull the desperation play off yet another offside trap (blue was caught offsides for the game about a dozen times, no kidding) and kicks deep to the right side of the field. One white player beats three blues to the ball, but the momentum carries him to the far side of the box away from goal. So, he turns, fakes one blue out, enters the box dribbling, beats the next blue player by putting the ball between blue’s legs, then attempts to spin and get around him, but blue reaches out and grabs his arm and jersey to prevent him from getting past. Flag up on the near side for infraction, whistle blown, PK given. White scores with 20 seconds left on the clock on the PK shot and ends the game a 4-3 winner.

I wish more tournaments had games like this. :)

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So the proposed list of schools placed in their divisions was released from AIA. This list did not have any sectional alignments, just divisional placements.

The below is my projected sectional alignments. I took into account the previous bloc’s alignments and team histories to account for the movements.

Any team with a ** means that they will have to appeal their divisional placement. Currently, these are the following:

Kofa D2
Yuma D3
Mesquite D2
Salpointe Catholic D4
Notre Dame Prep D4
St. Mary’s Catholic D4
Palo Verde D4
Sabino D4
Santa Rita D4
Sedona Red Rock D4
Tanque Verde D4
Rock Point D5
North Pointe Prep D4
Shonto Prep D5

Mesquite will be appealing to D1. It’s simply a matter of convenience for them – they are a decent team in D1, and the remainder of Gilbert and Mesa schools are already D1, so this is a no-brainer.

Salpointe will again appeal up to D2 where that D2 S2 section will contain 9 Tucson-area teams and Nogales.

Notre Dame will again appeal up to D2. No brainer there.

Last bloc, St. Mary’s was the only school to appeal up to D1 from D4. While they may do so again, it actually makes sense for them to just go to D2. I am guessing here that they will go D2 and become one of the top 15-20 teams in that Division. BUT if Yuma and Kofa move down, it might make sense for St. Mary’s to move back up again.

Palo Verde and Sabino both appealed up from D4 to D3 due to travel times. Now with CDO, Catalina Foothills and Cholla being bumped down to D3 and Empire moving up from D4, having PV and Sabino again play in D3 makes perfect sense.

Santa Rita appealed up to D2 last bloc, but this year will probably only ask to move up to D3 due to travel. D3 S1 will become another Tucson-area dominated section with 10 teams, and that’s before adding Douglas into the mix.

Sedona Red Rock played D5 this past bloc, and I get the feeling that they were happy about being out of D4. This time they will be appealing down to D5 because they fit better competitively with the other D5 Rez schools like Hopi and Rough Rock and Sanders Valley.

Tanque Verde has absoltely no business in D4. They will appeal down based on travel times, where they will continue to play teams close by like Thatcher and Willcox.

Someone please clue me in how Rock Point, with 115 students, is being classified as D5, while Chandler Prep, with almost three times that number, is still D6? Yeah, I don’t see Rock Point moving up.

North Pointe Prep has not announced they are reinstating their program, and they probably will not unless they are allowed to move to D5.

Shonto Prep is a Freelance program, so they are a non-issue.

However, the Yuma schools are holding the key to massive appeals and realignment changes. Yuma will again appeal up to make travel times easiest for themselves. HOWEVER… will they go up to D1 or D2? That depends on what Gila Ridge does – they are competitive in D2, so do they stay or go up to D1? Cibola has been competitive in D1 recently, so they won’t be able to move down. San Luis has the option of claiming “competitiveness” to move down to D2, and Kofa is already aligned into D2, but do they want to stay or move up to D1? If Kofa decides to not appeal its divisional placing, then we’re looking at D2 Section 1 containing Gila Ridge, Kofa, Yuma, and San Luis (who will appeal DOWN based on competitiveness factor and travel times). If this is the case, look for Camelback to be moved to D2 S3, South Mountain to move to D2 S3, and general mayhem in D2.

Speaking of competitiveness, I went through the last three years of data to see which teams SHOULD move down – outside of the Yuma schools – based on that key idea. Here’s my list. This list is based on the proposed divisional alignment for 2013-2015:

Carl Hayden (D1 -> D2)
Dobson (D1 -> D2)
Westwood (D1 -> D2)
La Joya (D2 -> D3)
South Mountain (D2 -> D3)
McClintock (D2 -> D3)
Desert View (D2 -> D3)
Cortez (D3 -> D4)
Apache Junction (D3 -> D4)
Sedona Red Rock (D4 -> D5) (see above)
Tanque Verde (D4 -> D5) (ditto)
Rock Point (D5 -> D6) (ditto again)

Division 1teams = 43Division 2teams = 41Division 3teams = 42Division 4teams = 31Division 5teams = 40Division 6teams = 32
Section 1enrollment #Previous Division / SectionSection 1enrollment #Previous Division / SectionSection 1enrollment #Previous Division / SectionSection 1enrollment #Previous Division / SectionSection 1enrollment #Previous Division / SectionSection 1enrollment #Previous Division / Section
Alhambra2734Apollo1908Amphitheater1197Alchesay502Camp Verde444Arizona Charter Academy352
Carl Hayden2203Betty H. Fairfax1888Canyon del Oro1617D2 S2Blue Ridge799Greyhills Academy335Ash Fork74
Central2370Camelback1957Casa Grande1552Chinle1001Hopi433Fredonia70
Cesar Chavez2387D2 S1Centennial2128Catalina1180Ganado532Many Farms434Joseph City137
Cibola2585Copper Canyon1817D3 S2Catalina Foothills1657D2 S2Holbrook744Pinon427Mayer185
Kofa2128**Deer Valley1911Cholla1611D2 S2Monument Valley754Red Mesa186Mogollon143
Maryvale2733Gila Ridge1823Douglas1305Page900Rough Rock191Rock Point115**
Millennium2153D2 S1Independence1952Empire1288D4 S2Show Low823Round Valley402
North2530Ironwood1996Flowing Wells1665D2 S2Snowflake710Sanders Valley273Section 2
San Luis2708La Joya1805Higley1636Tuba City725Sedona Red Rock500**
Tolleson2223Lake Havasu1936Maricopa1575Window Rock666St. Johns295ASDB97
Trevor Browne3010Liberty1967D3 S2Palo Verde939**Winslow739Williams218Cibecue74
Valley Vista2395Raymond S. Kellis1878Sabino1098**Duncan126
Westview2624South Mountain1758Santa Rita961**Section 2Section 2Ft. Thomas120
Yuma1466**Willow Canyon2066Williams Field1518Hayden81
Combs1110Antelope292Mesa Prep173
Section 2Section 2Section 2Coolidge740Arizona Lutheran182Patagonia70
Canyon State Academy604D5 S2Bourgade Catholic387Pima197
Basha2494Campo Verde1995D3 S1Buckeye1237D4 S3Florence735Northwest Christian405Ray191
Buena2223Cienega1862Cactus1397Globe522Phoenix Christian217San Simon / Bowie56
Chandler3167Desert View2046Coconino1446Imagine Prep (Coolidge)540CAAJoy Christian183D6 S3St. David133
Corona del Sol2665Ironwood Ridge2025Cortez1189D4 S3Rio Rico1082Paradise Honors299D6 S3Superior116
Desert Ridge2612Marana2014Dysart1675Safford837San Tan Foothills446Tohono O'Odham107
Dobson2763Marana Mt. View1819Flagstaff1521Seton Catholic576Scottsdale Christian284Valley Union126
Gilbert2548Nogales1733D3 S1Glendale1673Walden Grove856Scottsdale Prep259D6 S3
Hamilton3652Poston Butte1762D3 S1Greenway1561Sahuarita1027D3 S1Sequoia Charter345Section 3
Highland2984Pueblo1694Mingus1244D4 S3Tempe Prep250
Mesquite2004**Queen Creek1712D3 S1Mohave1384Section 3Tonopah Valley384Ajo122
Perry2534D2 S3Rincon/University1998Peoria1624Valley Christian262Bagdad118
Skyline2576Sahuaro1861Shadow Ridge1279Chino Valley774Yuma Catholic270Chandler Prep332
Sunnyside2318Salpointe Catholic1094**Sunrise Mountain1580Estrella Foothills1008Gila Bend131
Tucson3162Verrado1617Fountain Hills679Section 3Gilbert Christian148
Lee Williams1010NEWPDSD86
Section 3Section 3Section 3Parker522Baboquivari229Rancho Solano Prep90
Payson750Benson425Salome137
Boulder Creek2454Arcadia1716D3 S3Agua Fria1669River Valley761Bisbee360Salt River170
Brophy2572Barry Goldwater1941Apache Junction1427Wickenburg740Miami316Valley Lutheran165
Desert Mountain2297Cactus Shadows1731Bradshaw Mountain1688D2 S3Morenci401Veritas Prep257
Desert Vista3074Chaparral2125Coronado1230D4 S2Pusch Ridge Christian307
Horizon2196D2 S3Kingman1810Desert Edge1588San Carlos321
Mesa3307Marcos de Niza1730Moon Valley1472San Manuel331No Sectional listed
Mesa Mt. View3235McClintock1873Prescott1667D2 S3Santa Cruz367
Mountain Pointe2565Notre Dame Prep866**Saguaro1346Tanque Verde452**North Pointe Prep (F)521canceled program
Mountain Ridge2256Paradise Valley1776D3 S3Shadow Mountain1571D2 S3Thatcher426Shonto Prep (F)82Freelance
North Canyon2180St. Mary's Catholic504**Sierra Linda1673Tombstone392San Pasqual152canceled program
Pinnacle2543Sunnyslope1987Tempe1405Willcox366Seligman61canceled program
Red Mountain3360Vista Grande1782D3 S1Thunderbird1503
Sandra Day O'Connor2598Washington1764D3 S3Youngker1535
Westwood3003

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