Summer is a soccer wasteland!

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I never knew summer was downtime for soccer! Argh!

Around here, youth soccer is only played in the spring and summer,  so that leaves me with nothing to do except wait. Blah!

There are some adult league games, but apparently, my assignor doesn’t think I’m good enough or experienced enough to ref those games, so whatever.

I did enjoy the USA vs. Brazil Confederations Cup final — right up to the second half, when it all went to hell. My friends and I watched it at a local Irish bar, which was great fun because people were excited about the game. Whenever USA would score, we all went crazy, hugged, high-fived, etc. In the second half, when Brazil suddenly came alive and USA went straight to the crapper, we drowned our sorrows. (Well, I didn’t because I’m broke — no games to ref — and I was headed to the gym afterward, but whatever.

I’m saying “whatever” a lot today. I’m just in that kind of mood.

I do, however, want to marry and have babies with Tim Howard, the USA goalie. His goal-stopping ability is downright sexy!

But there was one controversial non-goal that the refs thought he stopped but he didn’t.  Howard hit the ball, it bounced on the crossbar then bounced out. But Howard (and the ball) were well inside the goal, which should have given Brazil a point. I imagine those refs got a good talking-to after that game.  If USA would have won by only one goal, the Brazilians would have gone completely nuts, and they’d be right.

As for marrying Howard,  I’m too late (not to mention too old, ahem) because he’s already married. Whatever.

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I owe it all to ‘Tom’

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Well, I got my home computer working again! (Yay!)  So, I’m back to tell more stories about the spring soccer season.

Here’s the coolest thing that’ s happened yet.

I was reffing a soccer tournament. It wasn’t a huge tournament, but there were lots of teams from our state and neighboring states, and I had about 11 games in one weekend.

The first day was good. I had only recently begun to get my bearings as a ref and this was the first real test. The first day was gorgeous, beautiful spring weather, not a cloud in the sky. Perfect for a South/Midwest area.

That Sunday, however, sucked ass. It was raining all day. It wasn’t c0ld, mostly, but still. It was awful. Rain, rain, rain.

I joked with parents on the sidelines that this was penance for the previous day. They all laughed and understood that they had the luxury of umbrellas, while I, the lowly ref, didn’t. Ah, well, at least it’s not cold. … Yet. I joked about how I was earning my pay today.

My first game was fine, but my second game — with the same referee team — didn’t go as well. I was on the side of the coaches and teams this time. The game was a blowout with a score of 5-0  at the half.

At halftime, the center ref said he had to go.  He had slipped in the mud and injured his knee. So, he called the ref assignor for the tournament and asked for a replacement. When none came, we went ahead and started the second half.

The center ref just kind of hobbled through the game as best he could. Then about halfway through the half, the ref assignor showed up in full ref gear. I told him the latest about the game and what had happened. They stopped the game and the assignor (whom I’ll call Tom) took over refereeing the game.

OK, for the record “Tom” is a badass. He’s a really nice guy, but he’s also a highly ranked referee and has reffed international games. He knows his stuff.

I was so excited to be reffing with him, I was making sure I did everything right. Not sure if I succeeded, but whatever.

Then Tom made a controversial call. He called a foul that some parents and players didn’t like. It all happened in the opposite side of the field, so I had no idea what was going on. Even worse (for me) was that the other AR was deaf. I’m sure it serves him well as an AR (not having to listen to obnoxious parents) but I had no idea what was said. Argh.

Tom was telling the parents to shut up.  I was standing at the center line and there was a kid waiting to be subbed in. I said, “Is that your dad?” (talking about the parent about to be chucked from the tourney) he said, “No, but this has happened before with the same ref.” I said, “Tom won’t put up with any nonsense.”

So, Tom said something to the coach about handling the parents. The coach shrugged and said, “It was a bad call.”

Holy crap!

So Tom threw out the parent, then another parent after that! OMG.

One of the parents, a big, fat redneck, walked across the field (yes, cut across the field in the middle of the game) and shook the coach’s hand. Then he walked by me and said, “He’s an idiot!”

I said, “He’s the boss.”

“He’s still an idiot!”

Sidebar: When I said ‘he’s the boss’ I wasn’t just saying he was the boss of this field. I was also saying he was the boss of the tournament,but the redneck didn’t understand that.

Siedebar No. 2: This guy was obviously a guy who didn’t like any0ne else to get the last word.

The rest of the game went on, and Tom’s phone was ringing off the hook on the sidelines. When I met him in the center of the field, I said, “Someone’s blowing up your phone.” He said, “Yeah, there was probably someone complaining about a ref, and that ref was me.”

We walked to the sideline and Tom went over to the offending coach. I don’t know what he said, but I assume it was about controlling his parents.  Then I noticed the coach was going nuts. He was screaming at Tom to “Go away! Just leave us alone!”

Oh, hell. I ran over there and stood behind Tom with arms crossed over my chest. They told us in class to back each other up, so I did. He started yelling at me to leave, too. Nope. I was prepared to intervene if necessary. Oh, I’m such a badass.

The coach was all fired up, started yelling “You always do this to us!”

Apparently, the coach believed that Tom had it out for this team. Since then I’ve heard that that team is always pretty obnoxious.

The coach was waving his umbrella at Tom. I was thinking, “Oh, please, make contact so you can go to jail. Please! Please!”

I was surprised to see Tom lose his cool. “It’s because of people like you that I can’t keep refs!”

Aw, hell  yeah!

Nothing happened that would warrant an arrest, but I was so excited I couldn’t stand it. I wanted to ask the other AR what happened, but he didn’t know. He was deaf. Damn!

Later, I related that story to someone who had known Tom for a long time and knew that he was cop in his day job. The person told me that Tom had arrested a player on the field once! Awesome.

I’ve since come to know “Tom” as a really nice guy and a dude who is very good to new refs. I like him a lot. My assignor/instructor friend thinks I’m hot for Tom, but that’s not true at all. He’s a good guy who helps out new refs, and I appreciate that.

It was a great learning experience. Lots of refs are afraid to kick out parents. I’m all for it. Tom’s example has shown me that you (as a ref) don’t need to take that nonsense. I still don’t know what was said to Tom, but I know that I won’t tolerate any silliness from parents. And I learned that from Tom.

Checking in

Not much new to report. I’ll be without Internet for the next four days or so (unless someone fixes my home computer).

It’s the off season, but I have more stories to report from earlier. I’ll post more soon.

Keep checking back!

‘I’m a soccer parent!’

I had two games this weekend at a recreational soccer tournament. I was pretty excited because I got assessed for the first time, and that was cool. Overall, the assessment was good, but there are some things I could work on.

The first game was a semi-final U10, and mostly the game went well. But there was one controversial goal. The ball bounced off the crossbar of the goal, right into the goal about a foot, then bounced out. Since it crossed the line — I saw it clearly — we called it. The coach went nuts. I don’t know why he and his team seemed to think it wasn’t a goal, but they never shut up about it. Even as they were leaving the field, they were still screaming “it wasn’t a goal!” Whatever.

The second game was the U10 championship game, with the winning team of the last game playing. Both teams were from rural areas of my state, which means there were some redneck and outright white trash parents.

The team whose side I was on had a whole row of enormous moms sitting in camp chairs smoking and screaming at their kids. I don’t normally criticize fat people, but it was funny to that they encouraged their kids to play sports while you know they never lifted a finger to exercise themselves. But I digress.

I heard one redneck dude complaining that the winning team was “obviously a select team and not a rec team.” Well, obviously, since they were beating the tar out of his kid’s team. I wanted to tell him that I’ve seen a lot of select teams play, and they’re much better than these kids.

But the best thing I overheard was this: One parent (of the fat camp-chair group) asked another if her daughter was playing softball this summer. “Nooooo! I’m not a softball parent!” She clarified: “I’m not a basketball parent, I’m not a football parent, I’m a soccer parent!”

Wow, mom. Way to make it all about you. I wonder what her kid thinks about this. Does she have a choice in what sport she plays? Apparently, not, because that would mess with mom’s precious image.

Mars and Venus on the pitch

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Ana Paula de Oliveira of Brazil.

As mentioned in an earlier post, there aren’t many women soccer referees out there. I’m not sure why this is, since women play soccer just like men, but whatever.

So far, I haven’t experienced much real discrimination on the field, other than the fact that the Latino league doesn’t like women refs, which doesn’t bother me much since the assignor still uses women in the league.

Before one recent game, the other AR and I showed up for the game, and the center wasn’t there yet. One of the coaches came over to the other AR (a man) and talked to him about the game. I walked over and joined the conversation. He assumed the man was the one in charge and never once looked at me. What he didn’t know is that the man went through the same class I did and has exactly the same amount of experience as I have. I didn’t correct him because we were both ARs. If I had been the center, I’d have made it known: “Actually, I’m the one in charge so you need to speak to me. And yes, I have boobs. Try not to let them distract you from the game.”

The only other problem I’ve had is people calling me “ma’am” in a condescending way. “That ball was out of bounds, ma’am.” Unlike a lot of women, I don’t mind being ma’amed. Many consider it a sign that you’re considered old, but it’s actually term used to show respect — when it’s used in the right tone. But when that “ma’am” is at the end of a sentence and said in a sarcastic tone, I just want to turn around and punch the guy in the face. “I got your ma’am right here, punk!”

Soccer, Latin-style

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In my town, we have an adult men’s Latino soccer league. There are about 36 teams, most of which consist of Latinos. There are also  some Africans and Croatians. Some whiteys play in the leagues, but they had better be really good. I mean, really, really good!

The Latino league has probably the best players I’ve seen in person. These guys take it very seriously, and they don’t let rookie referees into this league for obvious reasons. Fights break out all the time.

My assignor and instructor friend is in charge of the referees for this league, so a couple weeks ago, I went out to the park on a Sunday and watched some games with him.

He told me some things about the league. They don’t like women referees, for one. He uses women refs, but only those that he knows can handle it. They also like for ARs to be involved in the game, and they don’t like the advantage call.

I hung out and watched a game between a Mexican team and a Honduran team, and these guys were killing each other. There were 11 cards issued in the game, only two of which were red, surprisingly. Before I got there, there were several fights in the first half.

Later in the day, one of the refs scheduled to be an AR called in and said he couldn’t make it, and my assignor asked me to take a game! Sure! So, I ran to my car to get my gear, changed in the bathroom and took the game.

On the way out onto the field, I asked the center for some advice. “If you show any weakness, they’ll eat you alive,” he said. Oh, boy. “If you make an offside call, stick to it.”

It’s a good thing I understand the offside rule because I had to call about 15 offsides in the first half. For some reason, this team just loved to be offside. Maybe they were testing me, I don’t know. But by the end of the first half, the other team would just look at me and raise their hand as if to signal it themselves. There were a couple of close ones that I didn’t call, and the other team would just stop and not chase them, thinking it should have been an offside. Not a good idea, since the other team would just pound the ball into the goal.

The second half was much easier, since it was a one-sided blow-out. That means the ball is mostly at the other end of the field in the second half.

This was my first game reffing for a full 90 minutes — in 90 degree weather, no less! Yikes!And I was completely unprepared for reffing because I didn’t bring enough water.

After the game, one of the losing players walked by me and said, “Thank you, good game.” I nearly fainted with joy. My assignor later told me he was probably just trying to talk to me. Whatever. I’m going to say it was because I did a good job!

Parental Discretion Advised

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Obama is a soccer dad! I think he’s probably more calm than most.

In my two months of refereeing kids’ soccer games, the most shocking bit I’ve come across has been behavior of parents.

I’ve already told you a bit about coaches, and I will tell you more later. But I’ve come to realize one important thing — soccer parents are completely insane.

I don’t know if they have visions of scholarships and MLS teams in the future or maybe it’s the heat getting to their brains, but sitting or standing on the sidelines of the soccer pitch seems to make them lose all sense of reality.

Some things I’ve overheard at soccer matches:

  • One of my first games, a U10 girls game, a child had the ball near the top of the goal box and was surrounded by the defending team. Dad behind me was screaming “Turn and shoot!” When the girl lost possession of the ball (because about eight defenders were taking it away) he said to someone nearby, “GAWD! Why didn’t she just turn and shoot?!” (Um, perhaps because she’s NINE! You’re lucky she can kick the ball in the direction she wants!) Also, the turn-and-shoot move is extremely difficult to do! I still have trouble with it.
  • Same game. I called an offside and I was wrong (I was still learning). The center ref was talking to me about why she wasn’t offside, when a parent screamed, “Learn the rules!” (I’m trying, jackass, that’s why I’m reffing a U10 game, not the World Cup! Also, they’re not rules, they’re laws.)
  • In one tournament, the fields we played on dropped off sharply behind one goal. So, usually, teams will put an extra ball behind the goal so that time is not wasted chasing the ball after each shot at the goal. This aggravated one dad to no end. He asked me if they could put a ball behind the goal. I said I’d have to check with the center ref. (It’s his field and the ball has to be checked first.) The ref never came over to my side and I never got a chance to ask him. At halftime, we were busy talking about other things. After halftime, the guy asked if I had asked him about the ball. “No, I didn’t get a chance.” By the middle of the second half, this guy was livid — about the ball running down a freaking hill! “Fine! I’ll go put the ball there!” (If you do, you’ll get into trouble for your team.) He didn’t, but I think the coach finally put one there, which is his job, not the parents’ or the referees’. The parent: “FINALLY!” (Really? That’s all you can find to complain about?)
  • “Yellow card!” This is shouted out regularly when a player for the opposing team commits a foul. In soccer, you don’t call every foul. First, because you allow the fouled team to continue if they keep possession of the ball — called advantage; and second, because you want to let them play. If you called every foul, the game would be stopped constantly, which is no fun for the players. But parents want every foul called. Also, around here, parents are used to watching basketball, where refs do call every foul.
  • “That was out!” This one also happens a lot because parents watch a lot of basketball. In basketball, the ball is out if your foot or the ball is even a little bit over the line. In soccer, the entire ball has to be over the line.
  • “He’s (she’s) offsides!” To me, this is the funniest for many reasons. Except for blatant offenses, you can’t tell if a person is offside (not offsides) unless you are right in line with the second-to-last defender. Parents, standing at the other end of the field, will scream that someone is “offsides” when they have no idea where the stinkin’ player is. Secondly, most parents have no idea what offside even is. It’s a very complicated process and call, and I’m not going to explain it right now.
  • “He’s an idiot!,” said to me about a center referee after the parent had been kicked out of the game. That’s a story for another time, but he was talking about a referee that has amazing credentials and is very far from being an idiot. I would even say he’s brilliant and his skills are something I aspire to have.
  • “Guys, you’re going to have to control this game because the referee certainly isnt!” This was utter nonsense said in a tournament. It was a U15 game in which the kids were practically beating the crap out of each other. The ref was doing everything he could to let the guys play, then he eventually had to throw out a player.

Parents get way too involved with their kids’ games. Sometimes, if I’m in a good mood, I’ll talk to the parents when I’m on the sidelines during lulls in the game. Some of them are really nice and have a good sense of humor about it all. But mostly, they’re awful. For a while, I never wanted to be on the parents’ side of the field. But then, I got to know some obnoxious coaches and was the butt of their tirades. Now I don’t care which side I’m on. Usually, I’ll choose the opposite of whatever side last abused me.