The Referee Blog
The Spring season is off and running at Heartland…
March was another busy month for soccer at Heartland. League play and tournaments gave the players and teams the opportunity to display their skills and their will to win. Some days were “almost perfect” soccer playing weather. Other days challenged the players with wind and cold. The weather didn’t stop the games being played. We know that playing is why we are all a part of the Heartland Soccer Association.
Last weekend’s league and tournament games featured teams from Kansas, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Missouri, and Colorado. One of the advantages of Heartland is its ability to draw high levels of competition to Overland Park and Olathe. These competitive and emotional games are enjoyable for the fans and the teams. They also challenge the Referees and Assistant Referees because they make decisions that impact the outcome of a match. These matches help develop our Referees which is good news for the Heartland Soccer Association. Let me share some examples.
One of the U18/19 Silver games featured 2 out of town teams. One team had won its bracket and was going to be in the final. The other team would go to the final with a win in this match. Both teams had a 9-hour drive to get home. They wondered if this game could be considered the final because they wanted to get an early start home. So, there was a lot at stake for the teams based on the outcome of the match. For the Referee team, protecting the players’ safety and enforcing the Laws of the Game fairly was their challenge.
The score was 2-1 late in the match. The team that needed the win to get to the final was on the attack. A long ball was played into the corner. The player running onto the ball crossed it to a teammate who put the ball into the back of the net making the score 2-2. I was standing near the bench of the team that thought they had just scored the equalizing goal. Yes, the coaches, the bench players and the players on the field were thrilled. The coach looked at the Assistant Referee on the far side and saw that her flag was up indicating a potential problem. The Referee went to talk the play over with this Assistant Referee (a 15-year old young lady). Her information to the Referee was that the player who crossed the ball was offside when the ball was played to him. The goal did not stand. The coach told his assistant that he was not going to complain about the decision, because “the Referee team has been working hard and has made correct calls throughout the match”. The final of this match was 2-1. The team that won this match made it to the finals, played later in the afternoon. This meant they would get home around 3 AM. Another chance to compete was worth the late arrival home. Note: They lost 1-0 in the final.
What impressed me was the attitude of the coaches when the offside decision negated the equalizing goal. They appreciated the efforts of the Referee team throughout the match. The Referee team had earned the respect of the team and the coaches. They were willing to accept this decision even though the impact was elimination and an early trip home without any medals. This is the way soccer matches should be enjoyed.
On the league side in an Under 9 match, the parents and coaches showed a different attitude. The Referee was a 16-year-old young man who has been working as a Referee for 4 years. The Assistant Referee was a 13-year-old young lady. The fans complained about the direction on a throw-in. They continued to challenge other calls. It escalated to a level where the Referee team was getting cussed at by the fans. This is not the way soccer matches should be enjoyed.
Yes, there is always a challenge in recruiting and developing Referees. Many of your officials will be teenagers who are doing their first real job. When they graduate from high school and go off to college they might not come back to Referee. This means we will replace them with other new and young Referees. How do we keep them coming back so they can make better decisions? These 2 examples show the spectrum of experiences for our Referees. Every decision helps them build the confidence they need to make match critical decisions. Your willingness to let them learn is a major part of our soccer community. Another season, another group of new Referees.
Kansas Youth Soccer is funding a Referee Coaching program to help these new Referees get better faster. This is a part of the game. Thank you coaches, players and fans for understanding this is the way youth soccer works.