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National Referee Course in August 2017

AYSO Section Six is offering the AYSO National Referee Course over the weekend of Friday, Saturday, Sunday (11-12-13 August 2017).  The venue has yet to be determined but will be taking place in a northern suburb of Chicago.  Please advise your current AYSO Advanced badge officials of this opportunity.  Registration available on AYSOU and eAYSO.  Roster # 201701551.



I’ve been an aviation buff since childhood.  My father loved to travel, so I have many fond memories of family travels on prop-liners and jet-liners of the time: DC-3’s, DC-7’s, the Lockheed Electra, 707’s and DC-8’s. I enlisted in the Air Force right out of High School, spent time in Southeast Asia, flew on the military charters and military aircraft.  To this day I subscribe to Aviation Week and Space Technology.  And I am very interested in aviation accident investigation – the links of the chain of an accident…take one link from the chain and the accident doesn’t happen.

An article I read today detailed a corporate jet that took off with it’s controls locked – and crashed in flames killing everyone on board.  The pilots simply failed to go through the required checklists before each step of preparing the aircraft for engine start, taxi, and takeoff.  The author of the article made a direct reference to the responsibility of the instructor, that your training is only as good as your instructor.

Since many referee instructors are also assessors, we are always paying attention to how a match is being officiated, being managed, whether we are a part of the officiating team, or a mere spectator.  How often do we ask ourselves:  Why no call there?  Why no enforcement of the required distance?  Why positioned there?  Why no chat with the offender on that hard foul?  Why no caution?

Yes, there are referees who take the entry-level course and that is the extent of their training for the remainder of their officiating career – a scary thought.

The article I read today, authored by James Albright of Aviation Week, specifically addressed that pilots, throughout their career, learn Standard Operating Procedures, SOP’s so to speak, and that pilots, on occasion may find themselves having to skip or alter an SOP, for safety reasons.  And I started thinking – Referees, too, have SOPs in the form of The Laws of the Game (LOTG) and there are times because of The Spirit of the Game, that referees  alter or skip the LOTG to accommodate the The Spirit of the Game.  Referees can make a decision that, at the time, seemed prudent.  But on reflection, have these decisions just been laziness or an error in judgment?

Yes, referees do make mistakes.  I am still waiting for my perfect game.  The training and education of referees is designed to prevent or mitigate those mistakes before they become harmful to the players and The Spirit of the Game.  We instructors are there to minimize deviations.  However, if those deviations become frequent, there is a tendency to accept them as the new norm, to lower our standards and blur the distinction between what is acceptable and what is not.  And thus the normalization of deviance.  So, Referee Instructors,  consider the following guideposts when you instruct referees, whether they be new and inexperienced or seasoned by a number of matches under their belt.

TRAIN TO A STANDARD – A soccer official’s training is only as good as their instructor.  When the instructor has given in to deviant behavior such as cutting corners, or who has misguided ideas of what should or should not be taught, deviations may occur.

IMPROVE AND BROADEN YOUR PEER GROUP – Be that referee who adheres to the LOTG, best practices, and The Spirit of the Game.  Others will take notice.

LEARN HUMILITY – When we assign the title of “expert” to an instructor, assessor, or referee, we recognize that person for a skill gained from training and experience.  We also imply that the expert will be more objective than a non-expert and will be better armed against the normalization of deviance.  But with experience comes confidence – in some cases to the extreme.  Over-confidence and arrogance can be cojoined.  The antonym for arrogance is humility.  A humble referee, referee instructor, assessor, realizes that even the best referees make mistakes and that one’s guard can never be lowered, even when the title of “expert” has been rightfully earned.

-A tip of the hat to James Albright





Knowledge-based mistakes


I’ll be the first to admit that I am still searching for my perfect game.  In recent matches, especially the “one-man show” games, my errors have included:  Whistling offside when a defender (the real second-to-last defender) was screened and failure to recognize an Advantage situation (arrrgh with forehead strike).

As a veteran assessor and instructor, I know the importance of  improving not only my skills and knowledge base but also those of my students, fellow officials, and officials I am mentoring.  And these roles, as a mentor, assessor, and instructor, make me keenly aware of mistakes I observe with positioning, mechanics, and proper application of the Laws of the Game (LOTG) and the spirit of how, when, and where those Laws are applied by the referee.

“What does that mean, shouldn’t the Laws be applied to all players the same…regardless of their age?”

Mmmm…that is a very good question for a future topic.  For this post we’re going to stick knowledge-based mistakes.  The definition of a knowledge-based mistake – An error of commission in which the action proceeds as planned but the plan is inappropriate for the situation.  A knowledge-based mistake arises from incomplete or incorrect knowledge.  Here are a pair of knowledge-based mistakes that really bother me:


NO-NO-NO!  We’ve all observed this scenario – a direct free kick is awarded to the attackers and the defenders immediately move to a position 1 foot from the ball…DARING YOU TO CHANGE THEIR BEHAVIOR…because they believe the kicking team MUST ask for their 10 yards.

What is the origin of this disinformation?  The professional game, where we see this on EVERY free kick re-start?

IFAB Law 13 makes this situation VERY clear for officials:

Until the ball is in play all opponents MUST remain:

  • at least 9.15 m (10 yds) from the ball (a key word here is MUST)

Past issues of the USSF ATR (I know, we’re not supposed to refer to this document, any more) take this requirement a bit further, a bit stronger:

  • …it is the DUTY of these opponents to retreat the required distance as quickly as possible WITHOUT BEING DIRECTED BY THE REFEREE TO DO SO (emphasis added).

However, let us not forget that the kicking team has the right to a quick re-start, even if one or more of the opponents have not yet moved back the required distance.  AND, the defenders also have rights:

  • That the kick be properly taken – primarily that the ball be in the right place and be stationary.
  • That the referee is not distracting any of the defenders.

Mmmm…how could the referee be distracting the defenders?

Are you aware of what impact your actions have on the players when you address the players on any matter?  If you are going to interfere with either the attackers OR the defenders at a free kick, you MUST turn the free kick into a ceremonial free kick, requiring a whistle for the re-start.  (Thank you to Peter Guthrie for these words of enlightenment.)


Center referees pointing 45 degrees down for Corner Kicks and Goal Kicks.  Center referees blowing their whistle after a (clear and obvious) goal is scored.  Assistant referees “reaching” on Corner Kick signals.

USSF has a excellent videos on YouTube for Center Referee signals and Assistant Referee Signals

And, yes…I am aware that there now exists confusing images in AYSO -and- IFAB publications concerning these signals, especially for Goal Kick.  Please watch the USSF videos and stay with these signals.




“How are you, today?”

“Thank you for working with the kids!”

“Any comments, any questions?”

“I was told the OFFSIDE expert is sitting over here…”

“I was told the HANDBALL expert is sitting over here…”

“Each of us has a job here today.  Coaches coach, parents cheer, players play, and referees officiate the match.  Are you doing YOUR job?”

As an AYSO referee with 28 years under my belt, my communications with coaches, parents, players, and fellow officials have evolved…for the better.  For a referee who was formerly referred to as “The Flamethrower,” my communicative style had simply been, “my way or the highway.”  However, as I have worked my way up the ladder for referees, instructors, and assessors, I have been very fortunate to have watched and been mentored by several of AYSO’s elite referees.  The direct result of my exposure to these outstanding AYSO volunteers is the realization that ALL soccer officials are presented with opportunities at every match to make a positive difference in the life of a coach, a parent, a player, or a fellow referee.  Will all of you join me in being a difference maker?