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Question Number: 29202

Character, Attitude and Control 2/23/2015

RE: Adult Under 18

Eion of Ellensburg , WA Kittitas asks...

How do I prepare mentally for the amateur adult game as a referee? I am preparing to upgrade and need adult game experience.

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Eion
I'm not sure preparing mentally is a huge challenge. Obviously you are preparing for an upgrade so you have gained the necessary experience to move to the next level. My advice is to go for it and probably to expect the following
1. The game will be faster.
2. The players will be more physical.
3. The players may be more vocal.
4. The players may be more experienced in testing the referee.
Many referees fret about the step up yet the referee has an ace card in that players do not know the referees ability or experience and in many cases the step up comes naturally to many referees.

Here is what UEFA has to say to its elite referees. While it may be a step up nonetheless there are some interesting helpful tips in there for all referees.

Some final thoughts
1. Accept mistakes. We all make them.
2. Resist the urge to make amends for a mistake. Its over and we can't go back.
3. Stay in the present and concentrate on the task at hand.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Eion,
The best way to prepare for adult play is not the same way for everyone! The softer levels of recreational play are still minefields of ethnic rivalries and egos of those who cannot accept their skills are not world class. Attitudes and league responsibility. How accountable is the association you work for? Do they effectively discipline the behaviour and standards of play of those participating? Are they supportive of your efforts?

While each of us has our own unique characteristics, there are a few constant traits that should serve any referee at any level well. Respect for the position of the referee will be a nominal accord. Whereas as the respect for the person playing the part of the referee must be earned.

The appreciation by players for a referee with limited experience is a convoluted one , given they often have no idea where you are on the scale of understanding the LOTG and the spirit of fair play. Only YOU! Through YOUR efforts, YOUR determination to do a better than average job will lend credence to their forgiving a mistake or reward you with a level of respect for your due diligence

Adults play with a larger body mass so tackles are harder, play might be faster given which age but the skill levels vary greatly and the language will certainly be more colourful. Yet they will test your mettle to see whats inside if they must. You will find that rising to the challenge is not as difficult as you might anticipate simply because you as the referee will respond to the situations in the ways you already know if you use your training and current knowledge effectively

Communicate effectively! Value your ARS. On this site we have a link to Gil Webbers pregame checklist. It is not a list you memorize but glean the information relative to the level of understanding of those participating with you as a team. It is easy to overwhelm with information but failure to set a standard of excellence gives you no guidelines upon which to learn and improve. EYE contact at every stoppage, thumbs up, run together as a Team! Gils pregame contact is listed below

Your communication skills extend to the players . Their safety is your concern just as it is for your ARs. Listen to them, but do not get distracted. Ask them what they think but not to do as they say. Tell them, when necessary enough is enough!

You can not be right all the time, even though you do have final say, A dictatorial approach is adversarial and without some degree of compassion or compromise managing the match or the players effectively will go astray or sideways in a hurry. We caution for dissent, but learn to differentiate between dissent that confronts your authority and the dissent which may indicate parts of the match you may be missing. Accept if you make a mistake, but do not get lost in misery or trying to rectify, stay focused on the task at hand. Players are willing to forgive an occasional mistake, if they see true effort on your part to stay with play and do the job they entrusted to you

When I throw out terms like situational awareness, foul recognition, angle of view, effective positioning, these are relative to the amount of EFFORT you physically show and mentally comprehend at your current level of understanding. Find good mentors, train, study, get assessed and challenge yourself to be better than before.

Discipline is a trait not all are endowed with in equal measure! Appearing calm and in control while your guts are knotted and the beads of sweat running into the body crevices, your mind screams at the injustice of why the match is behaving in a way not of your choosing. We often use the visualization of a swan serenely floating along the top of the water as the feet are furiously padding away to get them somewhere. The point here, stay on TOP of the water, do not go down below.

The fact you ask for help is a good thing as it shows you are sincere in becoming a better official in doing a better job! That is in a very large part what refereeing is, a job, with responsibilities and accountability to earn a paycheck.
Think on those you work with? Include those who you officiate with! Think on your supervisors, your CRs ? Think on those working with you and those you maybe in charge of? What life teachs us away from the pitch are the things we also carry onto the pitch.

If you value life, the components of it will be there for you to use as you need. Physically being able to run with play! Mentally sharp as losing focus in a match set up the critical conditions for the match going nuclear. Deescalate tensions with good effort, proper intervention. Stay focused on the ebb and flow of the match, it under goes a metamorphosis, speeding up, slowing down, running high and volatile, sinking into quiet reflection only to go insane with passion and commitment as the battle to score one more goal than the other is all they can think about

If you have Integrity, which is the gift of self respect that no one can ever take away from you it must be deliberately sacrificed by you and if lost or misplaced it can be very difficult to get it back, yet when applied is as neutral as anyone could hope to be!
If you have a sense of humour, which is the gift of laughter that lends smiles to the faces of discontent.
If you have Compassion which is the gift of recognizing the pain in another to understand that what is said or done may not truly reflect that person.
If you have Courage which is the gift of doing what you know to be right despite the chance of being wrong . If you can comprehend that Wisdom is the SCIENCE of knowledge and ART is in its practical application you will find a way that works for you!


A funny story with a message

I have published this a time or two Yet it never fails to bring a smile. I apologize to the original source for not knowing who first introduced this reminder of how a referee might successfully establish their authority Love to hear from the author. Not trying to take credit here just appreciate the sentiments expressed.

Recently I lined an U15B game in a neighborhood complex. A visiting team player whacked the ball. It went out of play, over the fans, along the touchline, over the short chain-link fence behind the fans, over a driveway into the complex, over another short chain-link fence, and into a neighbor's backyard.

A home team player knew the drill. He ran off the field, jumped the first fence, crossed the road, and arrived at the backyard fence.

The player saw a 'Beware of Dogs' sign. He looked around but didn't see any dogs. To be sure he banged on the fence just as he started to jump. Lucky for him.

Lying against the back of the house in the shade was THE DOG. THE DOG was not happy. THE DOG obviously had dealt with this situation before and knew how to handle it.

THE DOG growled menacingly, stood up, and stared at the player. THE DOG then walked very deliberately to the ball as he maintained eye contact. He continued growling and staring at the player. When THE DOG got to the ball, he looked down, sniffed it disgustedly, looked up, and again growled at the player.

THE DOG then looked at the ball one last time, raised his hind leg, and relieved himself on the ball. He gave the player a final stare with a final contemptuous growl (looking something like a sly, cynical grin), turned around, and casually jogged back to his favorite spot in the shade.

The player was momentarily stunned. With both arms raised he finally shouted to the sidelines, 'I'M NOT PLAYING WITH THAT BALL!!!'.

I remember THE DOG whenever I referee an older youth game. He's even become one of my role models for player management.

THE DOG stayed in the background until it was time to make his presence known. He commanded the player's attention while he took forceful action. He used crisp mechanics to clearly communicate his decision. He received the player's unquestioning acceptance of his decision. And he felt much better when he was finished.

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Answer provided by Referee Dennis Wickham

I recommend that you observe matches at the highest division for the league you would be assigned. (The top referees will be assigned to that division.) Note how the referees deal with the players. Observe the referee's positioning. Look for how the referee team communicates. After the match, you can quickly introduce yourself to the referee team (if you don't already know them). My experience is that they usually are open to answering questionings - though they also need to do paperwork and get ready for the next match.

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Answer provided by Referee James Sowa


As several of my colleagues have pointed out here, there is no set way to prepare yourself for the adult game. I remember my first few games and feeling like I was in so far over my head because of the pace of the game. The occasional youth game may be fast, but they are generally controlled. In the adult games, they are faster and there is always something going on. You must have your head on a swivel or you will miss alot.

I like Referee Wickham's advice. Observe the league you will be refereeing in. Try and focus on how the referee handles the game and the players. Whereas youth games are typically call the fouls with minimal management; the adult game is almost entirely about management. Watch how the experienced referees position themselves; how they react to the hot head (there is always one); how they handle that first hard foul, etc.... I was lucky enough to start on the lines for our amateur league and I picked up alot by watching how referees handled the game.

The other major adjustment is ethnicity. Different cultures view the game of soccer and how it should be played differently. This leads to contrasting expectations of how the referee (you!) should handle the game. Some teams like no blood, no foul where others will scream about the slightest touch. You need to learn to balance these expectations and make sure that all 22 players are able to go to work the next day. Two final pieces of advice and I believe they were both echoed by my colleagues.

1) Be confident. Even if you feel like everything is moving at 1000 miles per hour, if you look and act the part, the game will go smoother

2) You will make mistakes. Learn from them. Analyze every game to see what could have been done differently to make the game smoother.

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