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Ways to Fine-Tune Refereeing Skills

Ways to Fine-Tune Your Refereeing Skills

While many recently licensed officials strive to have successful field experiences by focusing on looking professional, showing good knowledge of the Laws of the Game, and making crisp signals, other areas may need some fine-tuning to help make a good referee into a better referee.
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Keep hands off the ball. Apart from performing a dropped ball or bringing the ball to the field to start a match or the second half, it is better to make the call and let the players handle the ball. During a penalty kick or kicks from the mark, let the kicker position the ball on the spot. They will only have themselves to blame for a miss.

Assistant referees should, except in an emergency, refrain from chasing or stopping a ball that has gone out of play. Stopping the ball may send the message to players and spectators that you are helping a team by providing the opportunity for an unexpected quick restart. A team that purposely kicks the ball out may have a reason for doing so. Officials should not interfere with their plans.

The whistle—An Important Communication Tool. It can speak volumes and is understood by everyone when appropriately used. To use it effectively, officials must learn to whistle in such a way that the message they want to send is the same message that is being received. First, it must be loud enough to be heard by everyone. Multiple loud tweets may be necessary in the event of a scuffle.

In contrast, one short audible tweet followed by an arm signal may be sufficient to indicate a careless foul and the direction of the kick. A long and intense whistle should carry a strong message, including a stoppage of play and possible sanction. Officials must learn to make their whistle speak for them while carrying a clear message.

Watching the Flight of the Ball. Once the ball is airborne, the referee should divert their attention to the location where the ball is expected to land and who is there to challenge for it. That is where the focus is needed, not up in the air, in the event a foul takes place before the arrival of the ball.

Don’t Be Afraid to Talk to Players. Besides the whistle, your voice can be a useful and powerful tool. While attempting to help modify inappropriate player actions, behaviors, or comments, some officials may rely strictly on the cards. The showing of cards should be a last resort. A quiet word or short statement to players can be very helpful in preventing situations from escalating and leading to a loss of game control for the official. When using your voice, make eye contact with the individual(s), use an appropriate voice volume for the situation, limit your body language, and do not touch players.

Don’t Try to Be Someone Else. Much of what we learn comes from listening to, speaking with, and watching others. Officials are encouraged to routinely do all three to continue to learn, sharpen their skills and improve. Wanting to emulate an experienced official may be one’s goal; however, trying to become that person may be ill-advised. To be like someone else takes constant effort and concentration, which can detract from the task at hand. Your true self will eventually reveal itself. Be who you are, strive to improve, be the best you can be, and show that you enjoy what you are doing!

Pat Ferre

US YOUTH SOCCER (2021 Volunteer of the Year) USSF Referee Grade 15 Emeritus USSF Referee Instructor USSF Referee Assessor USSF Referee Assignor District-7 Youth Referee Administrator (DYRA)