MLS Cup came and went, and then us West Coast-based soccer writers went into hibernation. Okay well, maybe not, but there wasn't much to cover here in the months that followed (I was unable to cover InterLiga due to personal issues not related to this post FYI). Now, the US national team will play a game and the local teams are starting to come out of their respective winter slumbers. Still, the games at Home Depot Center won't come at us quickly until mid-March, when Chivas USA hosts Colorado on March 21 and the Galaxy hosts DC a day later.
But that doesn't mean I've done nothing soccer-related over the last two months or so, and no this blog doesn't count.
Since the first week of December, I've taken up a new side job if you will, a part-time job even though I don't exactly punch in a time card or anything.
I've become a referee.
Yours truly has been officiating high school soccer games in and around Riverside and San Bernardino counties for the better part of two months now, and I've still got another month to go. Actually, the season ends the week of US-Mexico so I've still got plenty of games to officiate.
Now, I didn't want to share this until the season was coming to an end but I decided to write about it now because I feel like I've finally gotten my feet underneath me in terms of being able to properly officiate a game. Also, with US-Mexico approaching that will dominate this blog and my thoughts, so might as well get this out now.
I could seriously write thousands of words on refereeing, and I still might, but if I do I'll be sure and break it up into several different posts.
You're probalby wondering why anyone in their right mind would want to referee soccer games. Well, sometimes I think the same thing. Actually, I've asked myself that a lot over the last two months. Why? But there are a few reasons.
First, it fits well with my schedule. Since I freelance, I didn't have to get permission from my employer or anything like that. Also, it's decent money; I won't say how much but it's more than 50 for a varsity game and more than that for a junior varsity/freshman game, the latter of which you do by yourself.
Another thing too, I'm in shape. I can more than keep up with the players. I ran two 10Ks and a 5K last year and will try my first half-marathon in April, so the running-around part is actually something I embrace. I'm not some morbidly overweight soccer writer/blogger who sits on his arse all day anymore. I run for fun these days, so it helps keep me fit.
Also, though, I love the game and this has given me the chance to see the game in a whole different level. I've seen soccer games from the press box for so many years now that when I got the chance to work around soccer this way I was intrigued by seeing it from the field level for a change. I know the rules of soccer so that part hasn't been difficult; I've just had to adjust to high school rules (ie unlimited substitutions but teams can only sub in when it's their throw-in or corner, no subbing on free kicks, etc).
Overall I'd say my experience has been pleasant... okay, that's a load of bullshit. It's been rough at times and I've slowly, um, well, let's just say I've been improving. Knowing the rules of soccer and applying them are two different things. It's taken me a while to go from thinking "Oh, that looked like a foul" to actually blowing my whistle and calling a foul. I tend to let a lot of contact slide because I have a general rule that I don't like for officials to decide games so I don't call a lot of the little stuff. Soccer is after all a contact sport, but a lot of parents and coaches don't necessarily agree, and they let me know.
Like any official worth his/her salt, I've taken my share of abuse. It was a little hard at first but people have been talking shit about me for years so the only difference now is that I hear it instead of read it. Like I'm going to let the parents affect me? Ha! Okay, the first time I heard it, it started to get in my head but now if I hear somebody talking mess to me it doesn't bother me. I just laugh it off because most of the time they're complaining because they want me to call fouls that don't exist. That and a lot of people don't understand the concept of advantage. Anyway, I'll get more into the abuse part of it in the future because there is a lot I want to say about that.
Anyway, I'm spending the better parts of my weekday afternoons (and some Saturday mornings) blowing my whistle, getting questioned and yelled at, and running around soccer fields in the area. Do I want to make this into some sort of side job beyond what it is now? That would be a resounding NO. I want no part of club soccer. I don't want to think about reffing junior college or college soccer. I'll stick to high school soccer, which is plenty to keep me busy during the winter months.
Well, I just wanted to share that with you trusty readers. Again, look out for more stuff on this as it's what has been dominating my time since early December. As I said, I'll definitely get into the abuse part and share some of what parents have said to me. Until then, I'll probably be busy collecting more stories to share.