Tuesday, September 07, 2010


I never played soccer as a kid.

Shhhhhh... don't tell anyone.

I always considered it a "sissy" sport. Football and baseball were my thing. Football reigns supreme in Alabama. Then my kids started playing, and I played adult co-ed. I fell in love with the game.

As I watched my kids play, I soon fell into the trap of "one of those parents". The officiating was... well, its soccer, and one of the perks is that you get to scream and yell stupid things at the officials. I wanted to help, to bring better officiating to the game. So, I signed up and got my badge.

It's hard to forget those first few games, especially centers. I jumped into a U15 or so Athena level game where the other refs got delayed. I remember thinking the girls were so big and so fast. I was like a deer in headlights.

Eventually, experience comes, and one get's comfortable in the middle of the field. Book knowledge of the Laws of the Game is acquired and the abuse of parents and coaches on the side lines begins to take its toll. (In Georgia, we lose 70% of our first year referees). In self defense, the referee becomes arrogant and contentious. I have the whistle. This is MY game. I am in charge. The opportunities for calamity are endless.

At some point, it becomes less about me and all about the players. Managing the game takes on importance, and that is truly what separates the good referees from the average referees (note: not the great ones). Good referees know how to manage the players and the coaches to a fair and balanced game. This is the point that where we would like all of referees at which to start, but then there's that deer in the headlights thing, and there just isn't enough resources to train starting referees proper.

This is where players have an advantage over referees that haven't played. They have a better feel for the players and what the players want. It's taken me ten years of refereeing to get to that same level of understanding.

I spent all weekend officiating the Atlanta Cup. We had three national referees at my venue, and a handful of State Referees. Every chance I had, I listened to the National referees discuss their philosophy of game control and management. I learned in this process the difference between great referees and good referees. Great referees do not need to invoke the Laws of the Game for manage and control purposes. They also know, sometimes intuitively, when the Laws were made to be broken.

Taking this to heart, I applied this philosophy to my own games. It wasn't perfect. I made mistakes, but I learned After the finals match, where I had the whistle, the coach from the losing team came and thanked me. He said his team wasn't used to that level of officiating, and I did a tremendous job.

Today, Monday, I am sore, tired, and happy. It was nice to forget about triathlon for short time, but Ironman Arizona is creeping closer. I need to ease back into my training, at large volumes, without hurting myself. I have more challenges and more learning to do.



Jess said...

Reffing would be tough -- more work than actual playing AND you don't get to PLAY!

Mike Russell said...

Running is running Wes. I reffed in high school for money and loved it. It could be time to dust off my whistle.

Lisa said...

I appreciate where you are coming from. Hsband was a ref for 7 years and went through much of the same growing. In the end, it is all about the players. :-)

Smithposts said...

Sounds like a very rewarding today!

redheadmomma said...

What an amazing compliment, Wes!! You should be very proud!

Knittingmomofsix said...

Agreed and well done, Wes.

Blaine Moore said...

Nice work!

Always pays to remember that it's the kids and their experience that is important. Glad one of the coaches saw you doing a good job and let you know about it.

Jess said...

Sounds like some great officiating. Want to come up and ref some Terps games? We aren't always so lucky to get good refs.

Julie said...

Hi Wes,
It sounds like you had a great weekend! I think it is fantastic that you have developed a passion for reffing soccer games:) You are a good guy to have around Wes...the kids and parents appreciate it! Take care!

Firefly's Running said...

Yes, I agree with everyone else. Being a ref is HARD - even in basketball where I used to play. It's hard to watch EVERYTHING and still keep track of the game clock and listening to the coaches too. It's a balance game...period.

Michelle said...

Sounds like you're doing fantastic - glad you were recognized for it!

challenges2010 said...

Nice work Wes! We got the same problem up here with abuse of officials but in hockey.

Joe said...

Wes, I'm just catching up with blog posts...and this one is terrific.

I never played soccer (football is king in Nebraska too! And I love (still do) baseball!!) so had the same disadvantage you did. And, yes, after about 10 years, I found what you have found.

I try to explain to newer officials (at one time in soccer; still do this in baseball) how important it is to have a cohesive understanding of the philosophy of what you are doing there. It guides you in the grey areas between the rules and is of huge importance in game management.

And it is hard to get folks to grasp the importance of philosophy.

And it is in grasping that importance which, as you say well here, separates the good from the great.

Super post...you should consider passing it along to some soccer publications...seriously!!

Stuart said...

Great post, I was never a soccer player, rugby was my thing and the best refs kept the game flowing, were fair and factual

Sounds like you hit all three of those!