Referee Match Preparation and the Internet
by John Puglisi, NISOA Vice President, NISOA National clinician and NISOA local assessor.
April 30th, 2007
Your responsibilities as a referee do not start when you arrive at the field. Your responsibilties actually start when you accept the match assignment. Most assignors will say the responsibilities start even before you accept the assignment by keeping your availability up to date. I will leave that issue for another discussion.
Most of us have been officiating since well before the advent of the internet and internet based assigning. Since the internet and internet assigning are not going away anytime soon, referees need to modify their match preparation techniques to use these resources. I will assume you have a basic understanding of how to use the internet since you found this article somehow. Here are some tasks which should be considered as you prepare for your matches:
- Accept your assignment online. Check the assignor’s web page frequently (daily during the season) and make sure you accept all your assignments as soon as possible. If match fees or travel/tolls are incorrect, my advice is to contact the assignor immediately and do NOT accept the assignment until all fee data are correct.
- Verify the match site location. Most, if not all, intercollegiate soccer teams have a web page. You can get quite a bit of information (both correct and incorrect) from the web page. The team’s schedule, results, coaching staff, some photos and athletic department contact information can usually be found on the web page. If the match date or match location on the team’s web site doesn’t match your assignment, you must call the home team’s athletic administration to verify the match location, date and time. If you are working a CUNY league match, I strongly recommend contacting the home team’s athletic administration via phone or email to confirm the match site and time even if everything online seems correct. If there is a discrepancy, make sure the assignor and your crew are aware of it immediately.
- Determine a place for the officiating crew to meet before the match. If there are locker rooms available, find out where they are and use this location to meet with the other officials and go to the field together dressed alike. As a last option, meet at the halfway line no less than 30 minutes before the scheduled kickoff.
- Verify team colors. Use the photos on the team’s web site to see what colors they wear if you are not familiar with the team. Again, sometimes this isn’t accurate but it’s a start. Case in point, the St. Francis (NY) web page banner shows players in action wearing a red kit. Of course, last week they turned out wearing navy blue.
- Set uniforms for the officiating crew. Our referee kit isn’t getting any smaller. At the turn of the weather, we may have to carry four different color shirts in two different sleeve lengths and four different pairs of socks. If you have verified the team colors, lighten the entire crew’s load by establishing a uniform. Set:
- Shirt color.
- Sleeve length.
- Sock stripe color.
- Contact the assistant referees. Even if everything is correct on the assignor web page, contact the listed assistant referees via phone or email. If you leave a voice message, make sure you follow up and get positive confirmation from the entire officiating crew at least two days before match date. Same with email. Simply sending an email is not enough. Make sure you ask the assistants for a positive confirmation. If you are an assistant, reply to each phone call or email. Sounds simple but I was assigned to match last year where 3 assistant referees showed up and there was a problem with the crew’s uniforms. As a minimum, discuss:
- Meeting location and time. “See you there” doesn’t cut it.
- Officials’ uniform. Establishing an alternate is ok. “Bring ’em all” doesn’t cut it either.
- Emergency contact procedures in case the match is cancelled or there are traffic problems.
- Carry a list of emergency phone numbers with you. Stuff happens. Make sure you have cell phone numbers for the crew and the home team’s athletic administration staff before you leave for the match site.
- Check the teams’ results and standings. You can not walk on the field anymore without knowing what is at stake. Most conferences have a web page with updated records and standings. Every match is important but some are more important than others. Do you homework. It’s part of your assignment.
- Check the team statistics. We always talk about thinking tactically and identifying the team’s key players during a game. Why not check their web site and know who they are before you even get to the site? Match summaries and statistics are usually available online. You can bet the coaches and players know who the key players are as they prepare for the game. You should do the same.
Some referees tell me they don’t have access to computers or don’t know how to use the internet. That’s fine but it’s not an acceptable excuse for not being fully prepared on match day. You can get all the information I described above from fellow officials or reading back issues of the newspaper but it will probably take a lot more effort and time. Put in the effort and take the necessary time to properly prepare for the match. It’s your job.