I play soccer on the weekend with a great group of folks. I've known Paul (the organizer) and a number of regulars going on five years now. The last few weeks have been a little rough - I've developed a case of plantar fasciitis and am sidelined from playing. Boo.
Instead of sitting around sulking, I pitched in to help with the group's recent one-day tournament. I offered to do anything; organize, keep score, set up, clean up, ref, etc. I ended up reffing and helping out in the other areas as well. Along the way, I learned quite a bit about the other side of the ball.
The games were set up in rapid succession - 20 minute games separated by a two minute break. There was a group round, then elimination rounds, until the final and consolation games kicked off.
Playing the part of the referee was a challenge:
- there are silly fouls (do I let them play on?)
- there are hard fouls (was that intentional?)
- there is the aftermath of the hard foul (how do I calm everyone down enough, without tempering their competitiveness?)
- there are flops (seriously? this is a weekend league!)
- did the ball *really* go out of bounds?
All this is happening instantaneously, not to mention keeping an eye on the clock, and ensuring I am in the right position to make the call when needed. As a ref, I am responsible for all players on the field, and I needed to take the responsibility seriously.
As a side note, the hardest part of this experience was to NOT root for the players I knew really well (wow, great shot Luis! Errr...corner kick!).
What I learned was that some players were going to play within the rules and others not. No matter the call on the field, I was likely going to make someone unhappy. My job was to apply the rules of the game - to the best of my knowledge, experience, and ability - at the point in time when they were needed.
I would make a call (or let the game play on) then move on. My goal was to be consistent - whether good or bad, being consistent in the eyes of the players let them know how I was calling the game.
Would I do it again next time? Yes. Am I hoping the next time sees me playing and not reffing? Absolutely.
When watching matches on TV or in person, I'm much more appreciative of the work that goes into the game, on both sides of the ball.