I said to Sam when he called to check on my availability for Sunday games. I had volunteered to referee the Cherokee Impact Academy Cup. For those of you who aren't familiar with soccer in the State of Georgia, the Academy is made up of children younger than 13 who want to play traveling soccer. The focus is more on skills and touches on the ball, then who wins or loses.
Sam thought it rather funny that I was reffing U-9 on Saturday and U-10 on Sunday. I explained to Sam that I was volunteering at one of the clubs in my county. I was supporting my community, and it didn't really matter what I was asked to do. I would do it. I would even help him out at the end of the day and do a couple of adult games.
Saturday, the games went fine. They were about the quality I expected. Nine year old kids are very enthusiastic, but not very skillful, and most of the Academy teams at this tournament were C or D level at best. Again, none of this mattered. My sole and entire purpose for being there was to make sure these kids had fun, and that was what I did.
Sunday rolls around, and I'm moving up to U-10 girls. I actually had the pleasure of reffing one really good Academy game. Let's call it a gem. The pint sized female soccer players were fast, they were furious. They had skillz. Those are the kinds of games that are just so much fun. Towards the end of my shift, the assignor came over and wanted offer me a deal. I could trade the two lines I had for one center. Uh oh.... I didn't realize I had lines to do. I failed to read the entire schedule that I had confirmed.
I felt so bad. I had to get back to my game, leaving the assignor under the impression that I had to leave at 1 PM. During the half time of my game, I went back to the referee tent and told her that I could do one of three things. I could leave at 1 PM and leave her short handed. I could totally write off the adult games and do the games she had scheduled me for, or I could do the 3:30 PM center (final!) that she wanted me to do. The assignor was adamantly opposed to my missing the adult games. I explained to her that I had committed to her first. It was my job to make her life easier, NOT HARDER!
In the end, we compromised. I took the 3:30 PM center and prayed that the game didn't go into overtime, allowing me to make it to my 5:00 PM adult game on time. I tried every thing I could to make sure the game didn't end in a tie. I didn't cheat or anything. Nor did I favor one team over the other.
In the middle of the second half, the goalie for the Cherokee Impact saved the ball, and a little guy on the opposing team ran up and kicked him in the side. This was clearly an infringement on the Laws of the Game. I chose not to blow the foul. The keeper had the ball, and having them do a goal kick from the six yard block would have penalized his team, I felt. Punting the ball from the top of the box was an advantage.
Evidently, the boy's father did not understand this. The pot bellied bearded good ole boy was hollering at me from the side lines and pointing his finger at me. I yelled at him to go back to his seat, and to tell the truth, that's the last I heard from him. I have very selective hearing. In the mean time, the keeper was standing there with crocodile tears in his eyes. I took the ball from him and asked him if he was OK. His coach came on the field to comfort him, and I explained that I was not going to take the ball out of his hands. The boy's mother showed up behind the goal and explained to me that the boy had a "history", and had been scared on his face by cleats in a prior game.
Oh Dear GAWD... I thought. Everything I do is for the players, but I have to put everything in the context of this game at this time. I can't help it that the child is mentally (and physically) scarred, and there is no way I could possibly know this. Eventually, the goalie recovered, and we got the game restarted. I called a penalty for the Cherokee team less than a minute later. It was well deserved. Unfortunately, they missed the kick, and the game ended in a tie. The over time also ended in a tie, neither team was able to score. I was resigned to the fact that I would be late for my adult game. After kicks from the mark, the visiting team was declared the winner, and I hauled booty from the field. On the way out, I got my yearly hug from the Cherokee assignor, and all was well in the land of Football.
I showed up for my adult game 15 minutes late, but the game had only been in progress five minutes. I got the muddy side of the field. For the second game, I ran the center, and I was so tired. It really was a disservice to the players for me to be there. I vowed to never do this again. I came home Sunday night tired, wasted, worthless. Waking up Monday morning was not much better. It took everything I had to be productive at work. I managed.
This year, I came to soccer with a new attitude. It paid off, for a while. Up until this week, my adult and youth games have gone very well, and I have received tons of compliments. This past week, everything has turned sour, and this has me thinking. I know its not entirely my fault. There's a certain prejudice against soccer officials that we all have to deal with.
However, I have come to the realization that my game is stagnant. It has reached a certain level, and hung there, much like triathlon. It also made me realize that if I want to get better at officiating on the pitch and triathlon that good enough is no longer an option. I need to pay more attention to detail and do the little things that make me a better person, a better triathlete, and a better official. The path isn't cloudy at all. No. Not at all. It's crystal clear. I just have to decide to walk the walk.
After work on Monday, I came home and helped Dee Dee finish dinner. I was so exhausted. Dee Dee wanted me to go to soccer practice with her. I offered to take Matthew myself. I would nap in the car while Matthew practiced. It wouldn't be the first time. Being the uber loving and supportive spouse that Dee Dee is, she declined. She took Matthew to practice. I, on the other hand, crashed on the couch at 8 PM, woke up long enough to climb in the bed, and slept for 10.5 hours.
I just don't understand why Dee Dee loves me. The ways of women are a mystery.
I don't ask questions...