Referee's Point of View

 "Between the Lines" is a column written for the HSA newsletter by Stu Gentry, a long time member of Horsham Soccer, coach and referee. The following article originally appeared 7/02.

You''ve just gotten done watching a binge of World Cup soccer. As a player or coach, you probably watched for things like skills and play development. But what did a referee see when he watched those same games?

Fitness

The center referees (CR''s) demonstrated incredible fitness. The best are usually seen within the frame of the TV picture no matter how quick the game flows from one end to the other. The CR''s needed to match the running skills of the world-class athletes for the full 90 minutes.

Game Control

The best of the referees had an exceptional way of handling the players. They knew when to have a quiet word or smile, or alternatively when to bring out the yellow. There is a time and a place for each, and the effective referees demonstrated they had the feel of the players to know when to escalate their response or when to keep things low key.

Communication

The best of the referee teams showed that the center referee and the assistant referees were in constant communication with each other. They looked at each other during each stoppage. The CR was not afraid to ask for input if needed or overrule the AR if he had a better view. Conversely, some of the worst officiating blunders may have been avoided if the three members of the team were operating more in unity with one another.

Professionalism

The referees seen during the Cup games represented the elite of their profession. Just like the players, the referees reached this level by constantly training and by evaluating their performance after each game. It was a pleasure watching these individuals, even when they showed that to err is to be human.

Sportsmanship

"Between the Lines" is a column written for the HSA newsletter by Stu Gentry, a long time member of Horsham Soccer, coach and referee. (This article 1st appeared in our 6/02 newsletter)

This is the first in a series of columns aimed at sharing a referee’’s perspective on the game of soccer. I thought I would start with my absolute favorite play, even though it is one where the referee is a mere spectator. It is a play that goes to the heart of what soccer is all about, but one that you will not find anywhere in the rule book. It is the play that happens when someone gets hurt.

How can an injury be my favorite play? Quite simply, it is the sportsmanship shown after the player goes down. Watch any World Cup or MLS game, and you will see that when a player goes down, the team with the ball intentionally kicks the ball out of bounds to stop the play. It doesn’’t matter which team has the injured player or which has the ball, the result is the same. And this happens even though the team putting the ball out knows they will lose possession. It doesn’’t stop there, because when play resumes the team with the ball will throw the ball back in to the team that originally had it.

To my knowledge, soccer is unique with this display of sportsmanship. Imagine one of the Phillies stopping at first if two outfielders crash into each other. How many times have you seen an NFL linebacker celebrating when he has hurt the quarterback?

Professional soccer players have every bit as much at stake, yet they display an uncommon respect for one another. Do not mistake this as meaning that soccer is a game for sedate ladies and gentlemen. It can be a war out on the pitch with both sides giving it all to win. But there is a basic human compassion that stays on the soccer pitch, no matter how fierce the game. That is why I choose to stay involved with the game.

How to be a Student of the Game

February 2003 Dear Players, Parents, and Coaches:I would like to suggest that you add something special to your game. It will raise your level of performance. It's fun, easy and unique because too few players do it regularly. It can make a positive impact on your personal development as an elite soccer player. What is it? Wait…I speak with young female soccer players all over the country that share your love for the game of soccer. I ask them if they want to play for the U.S. Women's National Team or for a WUSA Professional Team. The response is always, "YES!" These young players are smart. They know they have to be fit, develop their skills, and play in the most competitive environment possible. I ask them to name other things they can do to reach their dreams. Only a few mention what I want to suggest to you today. Women's National Team players Brandi Chastain and Ali Wagner have done it for years. U19 National Team player Lindsay Tarpley does it regularly. It shows in all of their performances at the international level. What is it?I'll tell you! These U.S. National Team players watch as much soccer in person and on television as they can. I recommend that you do the same. You will improve significantly by watching and learning from the best female players in the world.How to be a student of the game:

  • Observe the players who play your position.
  • Focus on the skills that make them successful.
  • Study the decisions they make with and without the ball.
  • Observe how much time and space they have or don't have.
  • Notice their first touch, does it solve pressure or create pressure?
  • Examine their fitness level. How fast, strong, and agile are these players?
  • What kind of emotional intensity do they bring to the game?
These are all critical components of your development as a player. If you want to be great, you should watch great players play! Observe what they are doing and how they do it. Take this information to your backyard, practice or game field, and add it to your game. It will provide you with an important edge as an young soccer player. Whenever possible, attend a U.S. Women's National Team or a WUSA game! There is nothing like absorbing the exciting atmosphere experienced in person at the highest level. You will see the best players in the world playing for their countries and for the top women's soccer league on the globe. Another avenue to watch high level soccer is our college game, and everyone has a college team playing near their home. Ask your mom, dad, brother, sister or coach to take you to the best and highest level game in your area. If you cannot attend a game, watch it on television. You can enjoy watching these great players and teams from your own home. Check out the at U.S. National Team schedule, or in the Fall, College Soccer. If there isn't a women's game on TV, watch a men's game! Join Brandi, Ali, Tarp and myself by becoming fans and students of the game. When you use what you learn from these talented players, you will take your game to a new level.Keep Kicking! April Heinrichs
Technical Director & Head Coach
US Women's National Teams Program