I've been running a lot this month and last. Okay, that's not a complete shocker, if you've visited this blog at all since then.
However, not all of that running has been for mileage.
My referee duties are in full swing this month and will be until the week after Surf City. I've already officiated... I don't know? 10? 15? games this season. Probably more. Actually, now that I think about it, it's probably closer to 20 games.
My most recent game was on Monday as I reffed a freshman girls game. My next game is Thursday as I'll be doing a junior varsity girls game.
While I'm not quite as nervous as I was before the start of the season, I'm still not overly excited about these games. It's money, and it's something I can do so I do it, but I'm not doing cartwheels on my way to the games either. Actually, it's more like me taking deep breaths on my way to the field, hoping things go my way, hoping I don't blow too many calls, hoping to get out of the game alive.
I've actually not heard too much from coaches and players and parents about my calls. Of course, every game you hear at least one complaint. Monday's complaints were somewhat minor. One coach yelled "she's pushing her in the back" and the other coach said something about a throw-in, but that's all I heard. Nothing major. Even when I called a penalty kick against the orange team, the orange team's coach didn't say anything, maybe because it was a clear penalty and there wasn't anything to be said.
But that's not to say that my entire season has gone smoothly. In fact, I've taken a lot of heat for some calls, or non-calls. I've had games where as soon as it ends, I made a run for my car because I didn't want to stick around any longer than I had to.
So, freshmen/JV games are each 70 minutes long (two 35-minute halves) and varsity games are 80 minutes in length (two 40-minute halves), and before most games I tell myself how I'd much rather be running for 70 or 80 minutes than reffing a game, but that's the way things go.
Oh yeah, one quick story about an experience I had on Monday. Fields for the most part have been favorable. I've done a few games on artificial surfaces and that's quite soothing to my feet. And the grass fields I've been on have been mostly grass, as opposed to dirt and holes... well, except for that one game when I reffed in the mud.
But Monday's game was on an awful field, easily the worst I've had this season. The JV game was going on at the same time, up on the nice artificial turf field, so the freshmen game was squeezed out down on this horrid, uneven patch of grass, dirt, holes, etc. (by the way, most schools around here don't have freshmen teams, but these two schools are the exception).
I had my cleats with me but I wore my older black sneakers. They don't provide the greatest support but they're black and comfortable, and you need black shoes to ref. And last season, my cleats destroyed my heels, and I certainly don't want that to happen this time around since I'm training for a marathon and all.
Anyway, it was near the end of the first half and I'd been doing a lot of running around. The girls were quite active and they kept knocking the ball from one end of the field to the other, so I was trying to keep up. I'm not sure if I was tired because of that and my 15-mile run the day before, if I was just not paying attention or if a gopher reached up and grabbed my foot, but what happened next floored me. Literally.
The ball was down towards one penalty box and I was just outside of the box. With about two touches of the ball, a defender cleared the ball and launched it up towards a teammate for a quick counterattack. I turned... well, let me rephrase that... my head turned, my shoulders turned and my arms turned but my legs were slow to react. My right foot dragged on the ground, and with my body turned towards the ball, my legs slow in reacting, I fell. Hard. But not on my ass. No, I my knees took the brunt of the damage.
Of course, everything was in slow motion. I felt my foot not turning properly, felt my balance knocked off, felt the ground rush up to meet me.
I looked up to see the ball and tried to keep my gaze on the ball and the action even though it was off in the distance. I heard some giggles behind me, which of course I would expect. I didn't hear anything from the sidelines and I prayed that everyone was looking towards the ball and not the stupid referee who just ate it.
At halftime I put my cleats on and wanted to burn the other shoes. I placed the blame not on a gopher or my tired legs but on those stupid shoes.
I had no problems during the second half with the coaches, parents, gravity or otherwise.