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Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

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Question Number: 23271

Fitness 5/6/2010

RE: Select Under 15

Erik of Waukesha, WI USA asks...

how much does playing high school soccer help you with refereeing and how can not doing hurt your refereeing

(Note: i'm debating between cross country which i'm pretty good at and soccer which i'm pretty bad at and i'm considering the effect it could have on my refereeing career which i'm very serious about)

Answer provided by Referee Gary Voshol

Many people claim that a good referee has to be (or have been) a player, so he knows 'what fouls feel like'. I only played soccer in 9th grade gym class. (The teacher who was also the football coach didn't want his freshman players getting hurt playing flag football.)

The counter-argument is that a player picks up bad habits and myths about the Laws, which are hard to overcome. Also the position played can influence what the referee feels about the game - ex-goalkeepers favor keepers, etc.

Since you have some soccer experience, I think you can be a good referee without continuing playing. And cross-country will certainly keep you fit for refereeing. Besides, if you're not that good at soccer, you'll probably be spending most of your time on the bench - what's the benefit of that?

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Erik
My personal preference is not to specialise and to go with both. I know some very good young players who are also very serious about their running and they are worried about injury while playing soccer.
I would say that playing soccer is important to understand how the game is played, tactics, foul recognition, empathy with players etc. Most of the best referees in the world did not play the game to any high level and many gave up the game due to injury or because they got involved in refereeing and found that they were good at it which encouraged their development. Also it depends on your desire to have a rounded sports career or indeed to specialise. I read an autobiography of the one of the top retired referees in the UK and he had a desire from a very young age to excel in refereeing and all his efforts were towards that goal which resulting in him making it into the FIFA ranks. Only you can make that call. My personal preference is to be involved in everything. As you get older the choices become clearer and perhaps more limited.

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Answer provided by Referee Dennis Wickham


Do what you love to do! If you love to run, run.

The advantage of playing the game is understanding what players do and don't do in various situations. Recognizing tactical opportunities and solutions helps you anticipate - - and increases awareness of how (and when) players' cheat. There are alternatives to playing at the highest levels to learn soccer awareness. Soccer coaches know a lot about tactics and strategy: taking coaching classes, and helping as an assistant to a good soccer coach will greatly increase your refereeing awareness. Analyzing (not just watching) lots of matches will provide insights into what is happening off the ball.

Far too many referees do not know how to run. Developing that skill will be very helpful to your future as a referee.

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