Your assigner calls — you got the championship match. Your mentor calls — you just got picked for State Cup. The State Referee Administrator texts you — “Welcome to Regionals.” You need some big soccer match support.
Those are big assignments. In many cases, it’s your first time at that level and speed of play. So you run through a thousand things in your mind. Rightly so, some butterflies creep into your gut as you think about your successes and the potential for problems.
Referee is king.
Even if you are a teenager working a U-15 game and have two State Referees on your lines, you have to have the mind-set that it is your game. Lead the pregame discussion. Tell them what you expect. Ask for their help, be respectful, but it is your game. You can see that reluctance at a Dallas Cup game for which a young referee has a FIFA referee for one of his or her assistants. Same thing! Manage the game the same way that got you to that prestigious assignment or invited to a high-level tournament. Don’t suddenly change things because the man who called last year’s NCAA finals is helping you with a flag! Be honored the assigner is giving you that level of help and do your normal bang-up job.
But don’t become arrogant and insistent.
One example of close-mindedness comes from seeing a referee at youth regionals. Of course, there were nerves. But even the simple stuff flew out the window — like knowledge of the Laws of the Game. The referee incorrectly insisted on a certain placement of the goalposts in relation to the goalline (Advice to Referees 1.3: in NCAA contests, that is not applicable as the width of the line must match the width of the goalposts; 1.9 Penalty, AR 1.9.a, AR 1.9.b). Both assistants had the right ruling and were helpfully trying to get the referee to listen to their rationale. Not happening! So the game was played with incorrectly placed goals. How would you have liked to be an assistant on that game?
No matter who is assigned to work with you, when you are the referee, the game needs your leadership. Don’t defer to more experienced or higher-grade assistants. Of course, listen to their contribution. Hopefully their experience has taught them some of the best methods to give input.
Converse is true.
If you are that wily veteran with a full crop of gray hair and a dozen championships under your belt, congratulations. Now, do your part and perform the task you were assigned today. You are an assistant and your job today is to make the referee as strong as possible. Listen attentively to the pregame. Clarify when you must. Do what the referee asks you to do, unless immoral or illegal. Get your head screwed on right and bring your positive attitude.
And, if he insists on improper goal placement, live with it and come armed with the proper written information after the game is over.
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