Thursday, January 22, 2009

How I've spent my winter break

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.


Robert Holtzman said...

Luis, being an official is not easy. Kudos for you to go out there and put up with the parents, etc.

starinyourfire said...

kudos Luis, how many games are in a season for you?

L.B. said...

Thanks for the praise.

Bob, you of anyone would know how brutal parents can be! But I heard the worst happens at boys varsity games and I haven't had too many of those.

Star, I've done 13 games this month and I probably did about the same last month. I've got nine scheduled for the rest of January and 10 in February. I probably won't do playoff games though since I'm new, but that's fine by me. We'll see if I do this again next year (I probably will) if I improve enough to try and go for playoff games but that's a long ways away.

Anonymous said...

Good on ya...As a former player, at a decently high level, one of the worst things was having a ref who didn't understand the game &/or who couldn't keep up with play. I also took up the whistle and was amazed at how difficult it was compared to what I anticipated it to be. Getting the angles correct, reading play and man management is an acquired skill. Keep it up, & I would also encourage you to not write off youth, as my experience has been that the most fun matches to work are high level youth & good amateur, NOT High School.

Evan said...

Yeah, there's no way I would want the abuse.

Have you given any red cards? If so, how did it go?

L.B. said...

No red cards yet, though I've had two games in which my partner gave a red.I have given several yellows, some for dissent, most for rough fouls.

Last night some coach got real pissed at me! I told him to stop yelling at me, warned him that his next outburst would draw a yellow and turned my back on him. I thought that may have turned into my first red but he got the message and didn't complain after that.

brucio said...

God help us all! Hahahahahahaha! Good luck Luis!

Anonymous said...

A rope, a tree, to....
J/K Luis Arriba los ref's

Union Ultra

L.B. said...

Evan, you jinxed me. The same day you asked me about a red card, I gave out a red card! My first one.

A player told another player to f-off and continued to push him from behind as the guy was walking away from him. I immediately blew my whistle and popped him with a red card.

It was strangely empowering, like I felt totally in charge. Maybe because I was 100 percent certain over the call, you know?

Anyway, Evan, don't ask me if I've ever gotten into a car accident though...

Evan said...

Sorry Luis...

How about: "Have you ever won the lottery? And shared it with one of the commenters from your blog"?