Howdy From the Big D

By: Mr. Wilson on April 6, 2009
Since Friday I have been down in Dallas participating in the Dr. Pepper Dallas Cup. It's a huge soccer tournament featuring teams and referees from across the U.S. and around the world. I will be down here through Wednesday. On Friday and Saturday I was invited to participate in a pro referee clinic. Although it was just ten hours of classroom time, it was by far the best referee clinic experience I have ever had. The clinic was mostly led by World Cup referee Brian Hall. It's amazing how much information one can absorb in very little time when it is presented by an excellent teacher. The teaching approach used during the clinic represents a pretty dramatic shift for U.S. referees. USSF is now pushing a criteria-based approach to instruction; that means that going forward there will be fewer "gray areas" and more absolutes when it comes to officiating soccer. It's a move that will not be noncontroversial among referees, but after spending the weekend digging deep into the new approach, it's easy to see how it is better not just for referees, but for the game. On Saturday morning I participated in a fitness test. I did ok, but it's becoming more and more obvious to me that I have reached the age where I will have to work harder and harder to meet the standards I set for myself. In the 12-minute run I went 2925 meters. Not bad -- better than I expected, actually, considering how I felt -- but below the 3200 meters (two miles) I would like to see. In the 50 meter sprints I averaged around 6 seconds; I averaged around 26 seconds in the 200 meter runs. I wasn't displeased with my times in the 50 and 200, but I was disappointed in how hard the sprints were for me, and how crappy they made me feel afterward. (My hamstrings are still sore as heck.) Regardless of my times, I want to be in good enough shape that I can run sprints like that without feeling like my legs are going to explode. I think it's time for some good interval training and ladders... My first match was yesterday, an AR on a U15 match featuring teams from Dallas and Mexico. Today I have three games, including an AR, a 4th, and a middle. Tomorrow brings one game, and Wednesday two (including a middle on a game that features a team from Trinidad and Tobago). Temperatures down here are perfect for this sort of tournament -- 50's to 70's through the week -- but the wind yesterday was killer, and it's not supposed to be much better today. That's my update for now. I will try to check in again tomorrow, hopefully with some actual Lincoln-related posts.


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April 6, 2009 at 5:52PM

So is there a big variation in how different referees might call a game? In other sports the officials sometimes make every call they can while some have a “let ‘em play” mindset. Do the new rules change some of that?

Have a good trip!

Mr. Wilson
April 7, 2009 at 2:49AM

Yes, there can be a big variation in how individual referees call a game. Soccer officiating is heavily dependent upon referee personality, primarily because there’s only one person out there with a whistle. The new push—there are no rule / law changes, just changes in referee instruction—does not want to get rid of the role of referee personality; it’s a part of the culture of the game, in exactly the same way other sports have their own cultural quirks. So from that angle, there will still be “let ‘em play” refs and “not on my field” refs and all the other types of refs you can think of. Changing that would be like replacing baseball umps with cameras and computers.

What the new approach does do is it introduces some new absolutes that never previously existed. There are more scenarios in which a referee “must” do something. One example is the introduction of the concept of “100% misconduct”. Long story short, if X, Y, and Z occur, it is “100% misconduct” and the referee must sanction it in a specific way. If he doesn’t, he fails.

Going deeper than that would require a pretty good level of experience with and understanding of soccer reffing. Just know that, in general, soccer fans should be able to expect more consistency in how certain things are dealt with.

West A Dad
April 7, 2009 at 12:04PM


Matt Olberding
April 7, 2009 at 2:24PM

In my 30 years of playing, refereeing and coaching soccer I’ve learned one thing: What matters most is that the referee is consistent. Players can adjust to a ref who calls every little shove and trip or to one who lets everything except flagrant fouls go. What they can’t adjust to is a ref who waffles back and forth between the two That’s when problems arise, tempers flare and the game gets out of hand.

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