I'm not even a week into my second year of refereeing high school soccer and it's already been an interesting week. Let's see... two games, two coaches yelled their displeasure with me, two coaches were yellow-carded... that's about right.
On Friday, I have my third soccer game of the season - a girl's varsity game. I officiated two junior varsity boys games earlier this week, and each was an adventure. Each game was 4-0 and in each game, the losing team's coach earned a yellow card.
When I say earned, I mean earned. In the first game, the coach yelled "Open your eyes!" at me across the field. That's pretty blatant. And in the second game, the coach yelled "Come on ref, that's four times they've been offside and you missed them!" at me. In each instance, I calmly walked up to the coach and showed him a yellow card, even though I wanted to do more than just pull out a card and wave it in the air.
On Thursday, I actually tried to explain to the coach why I didn't call the offside (I'll explain it to you in a second) and he seemed to take that as an invitation to keep bitching, I mean, conversing. So I raised my finger to him to try and get him to calm down and it worked, sort of. I actually told him also that if he kept at it, I'd show him another card.
If you're not familiar with soccer, players and/or coaches can get one yellow card, which is a caution. They get those for something egregious, like a hard foul, dissent or pushing or even foul language. If they have a yellow and keep at it, they'll get a red card which means they're done. See you later, don't let the proverbial door slam you on the way out. Thursday's coach was thisclose to getting a red card.
Now, offside is a very difficult rule to A) understand and B) enforce. Since I'm working by myself, I'm not looking for offside very much. There are so many things to look for, and with offside you really have to watch where the last defender is, where the attacker is and at what moment the ball is struck. When you are in a two-person system, it's one thing because you are in a position to see the offside (if you are where you should be anyway) but when you are by yourself and roaming in the center of the field, it is extremely difficult to tell where the player is when the ball is played.
And in both games I was in the middle of the field because I was alone. And every other referee I've talked to, both last season and this season, has told me to not even sweat the offside calls when I'm alone, unless it's something totally blatant. So I don't sweat them because they aren't blatant and I can't really tell if there was a last defender standing near the sideline or not.
Sorry if I got a bit too technical there. I realize all my readers don't follow soccer and I don't want to ramble about rules and such.
I've been feeling a bit nervous before the games... well, more than just "a bit." It's tough. You're out there by yourself and everyone is going to be angry at you at some point. I mean, you might as well just get that part out of the way. You. Will. Piss. Everyone. Off. Of course, it's not intentional but soccer is so subjective and everyone clearly knows the rules better than you do; they think they do anyway. But that's one thing I'm very confident in. I know the rules. I know when to give a team the "advantage" - basically to let play continue even though a foul was committed because the attacking team has something good going on. I mean, I've watched so many soccer games, it's second nature. Watching the game and being an active participant and applying the rules, though, are two different things, but I think I did a good job last season of bridging that gap. And this season, it's not really like starting over but I just have to get into a rhythm.
I suppose what it comes down to is that I just have to embrace being the villain. When you ref, you can be and are the most-hated person out there simply because you can do no good. The best-officiated game, the general consensus goes, is one in which you don't notice the referee. So that's something to shoot for, to not be noticed.