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Beyond The Pitch


Beyond the Pitch is a new feature of Whistle Stop written for Referee Administrators, Referee Instructors & Assessors. "Beyond the Pitch" will run in the third issue of each month. Please email comments, questions and suggestions for future topics to

June 26, 2014

It Is Great To Be an AYSO Referee!     
 
Christine Francis, a 10 plus years volunteer from Region 4/K/1161, has contributed to AYSO in various capacities including being a National Referee, Advanced Referee Instructor and member of the National Advisory Referee Committee. Her favorite responsibility is being a referee. These are some of her sentiments about refereeing:

I am a soccer referee. I never sought out to be a soccer referee. Who does that anyway? Maybe a few type-A people, but those are rare. I volunteered. Yes, that’s right. I wanted to be a part of something where kids could have fun and smile. I wanted to referee so that kids could play soccer. I wanted to get some exercise and run around a bit with my own kids. Little did I know what I was getting myself into.

All soccer referees begin as a novice. Referee training begins in a classroom. There is no on-the-field training. A huge part of learning how to referee is to correctly apply the Laws of the Game on the pitch. Coaches, parents and spectators expect the referee to know how to do this. Do you become a great chess player overnight? Do you become an excellent swimmer the first time you swim? Do you become an NBA star by playing basketball once or twice? Do you become an American Idol star by just singing a few times? The answer, of course, is no. It takes time, experience, and practice. This was a lot of pressure for me to stomach as a new referee. I was nervous. I am sure my first game was atrocious. As an adult, it was difficult for me to handle. I can’t imagine how it is for youth referees!

I studied my Law book diligently. I approached every game as a learning experience. I analyzed every game I ever did. I became my worst critic. I lamented over missed fouls. I tried to learn something from every game so as to improve even more the next time. I kept studying the game. I watched other referees. I asked for feedback. I learned from my own mistakes and the mistakes of other referees so as to not repeat them. I conditioned my body and exercised more. All of this took time and hard work and effort. It did not happen overnight. I continued to push myself because I wanted to get better. I studied more. I upgraded, ran fitness tests, and began doing upper level games.

Suddenly, I discovered things about myself. I developed confidence. I learned how to deal with conflict. I learned how to manage players and coaches. I developed my own style of officiating. I was having fun! I earned respect. These values are not taught in a classroom. They come with experience and time. It happens during those games when emotions are high and the parents and coaches are yelling, “Hand ball!” It happens when you want instant replay just to have another chance. My own style emerged at my worst moments as an official. That is when the learning began, at the lowest times, the hardest games, the un-awarded penalty kicks, the missed fouls, the questioning parents, and the emotional coaches. That is part of the beautiful game of soccer.

Surely referees are a rare breed. Who can love to volunteer for something which often is noticed for mistakes made? I love it. I am a volunteer. I am human. I will make mistakes. I am a soccer referee who never sought out to be one. It has been life changing. May the journey continue.

June 12, 2014

Access Rights for Referee Instructors and Administrators Have Changed
 
Earlier this year, AYSO increased the security of our eAYSO database by conducting a full review of the access rights granted to volunteers as well as utilizing the eSign volunteer registration process for all volunteers to better protect the kids in our programs. As a result of this review, measures were put in place to ensure that non-registered or non-current volunteers did not continue to garner access.   

A task force, made up of AYSO volunteers and National Office staff, created “packages” of access rights specific to each volunteer job at the Region, Area, and Section levels that may affect administrators and instructors. For Referee Administrators, it is important that you have your Region’s instructors added to your Regional Board by the Regional Commissioner (RC) as a Regional Instructor in the Board RIF list. If the RC does not add your Region’s instructors to the Board listing in eAYSO, they will not be able to manage course rosters. This change also affects Area and Section Boards, thus instructors must also be added as an Area Instructor and, as needed, a Section Instructor.  

As volunteers, it is also now very important that you pay closer attention to the term expiration dates on the roles assigned in eAYSO. When that term expires, you will be automatically removed from that role (i.e., RRA, RDA or RDI) and access rights will cease. In addition, if your Region opens up the new membership year prior to the expiration date of your term, and you have not submitted an application for that year, your access rights will be removed. So, it is crucial that administrators, as well as individual volunteers, pay more attention to this than in the past.

For the instructors, there has been a change with roster management (aka attendance). Previously, a participant (same day walk-in or not currently registered volunteer) could attend a certification course and the instructor could enter some minimal data into eAYSO on the attendee. This would allow the instructor to list this person on the course roster until such time as their volunteer application was submitted and processed by the respective CVPA. As part of the security enhancements, this is no longer an available option.  

Beginning, January 1, 2014, the NBOD mandated that all AYSO volunteers must complete a volunteer application online and use eSign. This allows for full background checks to be completed in a timely manner and it better protects the participants in the program. The bottom line is that instructors will need to adjust how they manage attendees that are not in eAYSO. Some suggested solutions include:

  1. Roster the course early and provide those that sign up with online instructions on registering as a volunteer in eAYSO prior to coming to class.   
  2. Have the CVPA provide a list of registered volunteers so that names can be checked against the database.
  3. Have a computer or computers with internet access available so that volunteers can complete their volunteer application prior to class or at breaks so they can, at a minimum be on the roster. Checking off the course completion box should be delayed until verification that the attendee has completed volunteer registration, completed Safe Haven and completed the CDC Concussion training in those States that require it.

Remember, these enhancements were put in place to protect our children. Should you find that there are access rights you feel are necessary to complete your job, contact the eAYSO Support Team via the contact form found in eAYSO. They will review the request and consult with your respective administrator accordingly.

May 21, 2014

The Importance of Planning Training Courses in Advance   
 
There is a constant need for refereeing courses. Often times, the need arises at an inconvenient moment, such as a board meeting. Taking steps to prepare for the future ensures that no one is blindsided by referee course requests and eliminates last second panic.

The mad scramble for a location plus trying to find instructors and materials at the very last minute isn’t a formula for success. With a bit of up front planning, you can book the best dates, locations and instructors. Plan for success!

Referee staffs should work with their board to set up a plan that consists of course(s) they want offered, scheduling course dates, the number of candidates who are interested and budgeting how much to spend. By engaging your board early, they are more likely to help you out later. Get the key “foundation” dates, which include registration date(s), start of the season(s) and end of the season(s). Since we’re dealing with kids/parents, you must find the key dates for your local schools, including proms, homecomings, dances, spring breaks, etc. Next, get a list of the normal holidays that are celebrated in your locality and nationally. While you can train on some of these dates, generally it would be best to avoid them. Take these dates and plot them on a calendar, for at least a full year. Most of these dates are repeatable year to year.

The next step is a bit of a balancing act. Look at the best dates to hold the course(s), the best available locations, and check the availability of the instructors. The further out you can plan, the easier this is to do. Find the best combination that will work for you. Once you have these three things locked in, you’re 80 percent done. Most of the experienced instructors, once confirmed, will assist you with all the other details.

Once the date, location and venue are locked in, your primary focus needs to be on recruiting qualified candidates and encouraging them to attend. For introductory referee courses, make a list of names, emails and phone numbers of parents and siblings that have shown interest or got roped into being a club assistant referee during the year. Follow-up with them over and over, and don’t give them any excuse not to show up. Once dates, times and locations are set, make sure to communicate that. A little secret here is to try and take care of as much of the administrative type work as possible, so the instructor can just walk in and be ready to teach. They love and remember that, which gives you a better chance to book that instructor the next time.

After the training is completed, at the very next board meeting, schedule that same training for the following year. Even if you find out later that there isn’t a need, it is much easier to cancel than to put one together at the eleventh hour. It only takes a few years, and everyone (candidates & instructors) will know to plan for these dates. They start penciling them in before you even ask. This makes future years very easy. Get a plan that works and repeat it year after year, with minor adjustments. Less than 1or 2 hours of planning can set you up for years of success, and no more last second panic.

April 23, 2014

Recruiting Referees – make it easy!
 
A common theme of AYSO Regions across the country is that “we don’t have enough referees”. If your region looks like ours, you provide some sort of referee training each year to a parent or older sibling of one out of every dozen or so players, and the number of parents who want to volunteer as coaches exceeds the number that want to volunteer as referees.

Let’s assume that you’ve got enough Referee Instructors, space to hold a class, a mentoring program in place to help newbie referees have a good experience, a referee friendly culture and dedicated and experienced regional leadership in place, so that we can focus here on ways you can go about the recruiting process for new referees.

Get ‘em early
Recognize that even though soccer has soared in popularity during our lifetime, the majority of AYSO parents aren’t really familiar with the “beautiful game” and they might not have exercised a whole lot in recent years. The absolute best time to recruit referees is when the player first joins your AYSO region, or within a season or two. They should understand that we have an all-volunteer approach to how we do things, and refereeing is one of the most vital activities for which they can volunteer. To referee at the U-8 level does not require prior soccer experience or fitness.

Create some policies that make sense
In our region, our guiding policy is that we want either the coach or assistant coach on a team plus one other parent or older sibling to take referee training appropriate for that age group. One of the benefits of the approach is that the coach or assistant coach can recruit the additional volunteer by asking “who is with me?” rather than “which of you is going to do this?” Another benefit of this approach is that either the coach, the assistant coach, or maybe both) are going to become more familiar with the laws of the game, and perhaps more sensitive to the importance of maintaining positive coach/referee relationships.

Press the flesh
Most of us are getting pretty good about blasting out emails for this and that, but there’s nothing like shaking someone’s hand and looking them in the eyes as a means of developing a relationship, communicating something important and persuading someone to do something that they can be persuaded to do. It’s really easy for parents to “hide” behind their emails, but not as easy to hide behind an in-person conversation.

Make it easy for them
When parents register their children for the season, to the extent you can, let them know the date and time for referee training so that they can add the date to their calendars. It seems that everyone’s calendars are busy and most people appreciate the opportunity to “save the date”.

Try to specifically target teens and moms
For various reasons, most AYSO referees end up being fathers. But moms and older siblings can make wonderful referees and provide excellent role models for the players. And by and large, the world of moms and older siblings are often not tapped into very actively for potential referees nearly as much as they could be. Many middle schools and high schools require that students generate a minimum number of hours of community service credits; soccer refereeing can be a safe, fair and fun way for those teens to help fulfill those requirements.

For additional ideas, please read the AYSO manual “Recruiting & Retaining Referees

February 20, 2014

Preparation For Assessment
 
For many AYSO officials, the process of upgrading from Intermediate Referee to Advanced Referee is the first time that they experience an assessment. This article is meant to help these Referees achieve the most success and enjoyment from the experience.

When you progressed from being a Regional Referee to becoming an Intermediate Referee, you were “observed” in a qualifying match as a referee. You didn’t “pass” or “fail” the observation; you only experienced it. Your observer encouraged you by pointing out the things you did well. He also gave you a few suggestions to improve both your performance and your enjoyment of the game. It is also possible that, depending on your performance, the observer asked to watch you again before signing you off.  

The “assessment” is the next step up and as such, there are specific skills that you are expected to demonstrate. You will be assessed both as a Referee and as an Assistant Referee. It is one of the upgrade requirements that you must “pass” not just experience.

An assessment, like an observation, is meant to be a positive experience that helps you grow as a referee. The Referee Assessor is expected to create a positive environment for the candidate by reinforcing the areas in which the candidate performed well. The assessor will make suggestions for improvement.

A suggestion for an Advanced Referee candidate is to “control the controllables” in the assessments. What can you control?
•    Your fitness level.
•    Your uniform.
•    Most likely, the specifics of the match such as the gender of the players; time of the day; order of your officiating that day; the other members of your Referee team; and level of play (for example, whether the game is a local match, an inter-regional game, or a tournament competition).

When you are choosing a match, choose one that is appropriate for your skills. Older or less fit referees, for example, might gravitate to a U-14 Girls game because the development of play tends to be more about the game and less about the speed of the athlete.

Make sure to choose a game that is at least two weeks away. That level of advance notice increases the likelihood that a Referee Assessor will be available. Arrange the assessment through the Area Referee Administrator or the Area Director of Assessment (if your Area has one). Let the assignor know who you want to be on your Referee crew. Talk to those people in advance to be sure that they are available for your game. Choose people you know that have the requisite skills for the level of match and that have a positive reputation as an official.

Unless you and the Referee Assessor agree to do back-to-back games, it is not a good idea to do any match before the one being assessed. You should also leave sufficient time after the assessed match(es) for a debriefing.

You know your fitness level. If it is not up to snuff, work on it before getting assessed. There is no time limit on the requirement for assessment. You can do it next season if you are injured or need more time to prepare.

After your assessment has been scheduled, talk to the crew before the match day. Plan for the game. Ask about any information they have about the players and coaches. Coordinate what referee uniform shirt colors everyone has so that you (a) look like a referee team and (b) have a back-up plan if the jersey color you initially selected turns out to be similar to the color of a team’s jerseys. Develop a pregame discussion for use at the match.

Review Law 5 (or 6 if an assistant). Be prepared to do all of the action items listed or to delegate them to an assistant. Also, review the “Guide to Procedures for Referees, Assistant Referees, and Fourth Officials” to be sure that your signals are correct.

Contact the assessor before the day of play. Arrange to meet before the match to complete the paperwork the assessor will need. Identify a quiet and relatively separate location for the post-game discussion. Discuss how to give notice should the game time/location be changed or if the match is cancelled. The assessor may well be traveling a significant distance to get to the field.

The night before the assessment, pack your kit, making sure that you have all the items you might need. Invariably, something happens at an assessment – you lose a whistle, your watch battery dies, your shoelace breaks, or your pen stops writing. Don’t hesitate to ask your referee team for help if something goes wrong.

Arrive early. It is a good idea to meet the crew at least 30 minutes before kick-off so that you can adjust if issues present themselves at the venue. Have all of the referee equipment required to conduct a match regardless of your match responsibilities. Shine your shoes (if they are leather) because it is part of the positive first impression. People who take the time to shine their shoes generally are perceived to care about the job.

You must know yourself. Do you have any outside anchors which may cause you extra weight today? If you have a problem at work or home that will distract you or affect your temperament, you may need to reschedule or at least readjust yourself. Divorce or death in the family is generally too much to adjust, but a speeding ticket on the way to the pitch may need some temperament adjustment.

Teams (or at least coaches) are affected by the perception that the referees are being watched. The assessor will often wish to hear the pregame discussion. Try to find a place for the meeting other than the center of the pitch.

Smile! If you are not having fun, no one will have fun. This is just a demonstration that you are a qualified, new, entry level, Advanced Referee candidate. Do not try to show off. Do what got you here today.  

Good luck and have fun learning new things!

February 20, 2014

How do youth referees think?

Adult volunteers instruct, mentor and referee with youth referee volunteers. Most of these youth referees are between the ages of 12 and 15 years old. When we interact with them, do we remember that our youth think differently than adults?

During a recent U-12 tournament game, the youth Intermediate Referee, officiating as an AR, flagged for an offside infraction. Immediately after the AR’s flag was raised, an attacker kicked the ball into the net. While the attacking team was celebrating their apparent goal, the AR remained motionless, flag raised with spectators verbally challenging the offside flag. After a quick conference between the referee and the AR, the goal was denied, the offside offense sustained and the game was restarted with an indirect free kick.

Note that this youth Intermediate Referee is an outstanding referee with three or four years of experience. During the conference with the referee, the AR was forced to review his decision. He firmly believed that the offside offense occurred. He had raised his flag the instant the ball was passed to a teammate; the referee trusted his judgment.

After the game, I saw this AR sitting quietly and alone in the officials’ rest area. As one of his mentors, I asked him if he was okay and he said yes. Not feeling comfortable with that answer, I again asked him and he started to cry. Walking him to an area of the field beyond listening range, I gave him a pep talk appropriate for his age. He believed his offside flag was correct, it was the spectators’ verbal challenging that upset him. Such spectator challenges would have been easier for an adult to shrug off.

Later, at least two adult volunteers asked me if he was ok, as they had seen him sitting quietly and alone. Yet nobody approached him to check on his well being. Wondering whether adult and youth referees think differently, I consulted both a clinical therapist and a high school educator. Some of their comments are included in the observations below:

•    Youth have less experience and are less sure of their decisions. They are often insecure.
•    Adults have better coping skills. Too often, we assume youth have these same skills.
•    Youth need more support [read:  attention] than adults to be confident and successful.
•    Youth have a lower tolerance level for verbal abuse than adults. They must feel safe.
•    They are very sensitive at this time in their lives.
•    They are trying to figure out what they are good at so that they can build self-esteem and self-confidence.
•    Youth are in the process of acquiring self-worth and a sense of importance.  
•    Youth are not strong at self-analysis.
•    Youth often are self-conscious, second-guessing their behavior and belief system.
•    Their behavior is driven by peers and adult role models.
•    Youth want to please adults out of a sense of respect, and are easily influenced by them.
•    They wear their emotions “on their sleeve”.

Based on the above insights, and to help adults better understand the thinking and emotional maturity, and a sense of security of young teens, consider the following recommendations:

•    Youth will open up to adults when they feel safe. Create that environment.
•    Spectators often hold youth referees more responsible for their perceived mistakes than adult referees. Be aware of this and take precautions to control spectators.
•    Ongoing mentoring and emotional support is essential to the well-being of youth volunteers and must be done in a way that continues to make them feel supported and confident.
•    We adults must constantly look for ways to engage our youth referees.
•    Share your personal experiences with our youth. This will help them better understand themselves and how they feel about their refereeing.
•    When interacting with our youth, learn to “know your audience”. Each individual handles mentoring differently.
•    Treat them as one of the team.

Remember to protect our youth referees through mentoring and adult supervision. If youth are being yelled at or ridiculed, this could damage their self-esteem and might cause them to quit altogether and give up on other future dreams and goals. This age group is always looking for reassurance and support, especially from those whom they seek to become. They look to older referees and mentors for this guidance and support.

Ask yourself what you might have said to this youth under this set of circumstances. Let’s create awareness so that we adults can better communicate with our youth.

January 16, 2014

A youthful referee I know often follows a question about a referee's call on TV with the phrase, "inquiring minds want to know," as in "Was that REALLY not a foul?? Inquiring minds want to know!" If I see a text message starting with "IMWTK," I know that I'll soon be hearing about a controversial call.

This phrase came to mind recently as I was thinking of ways to start new and returning referees thinking about the upcoming soccer season. Most referees I know have inquiring minds on at least one topic: they want to know how to perform competently on the pitch. It's a great feeling to hear, "Great game Ref!" after a hotly contested match and anyone who's heard it once wants to hear it again. But, different people follow different routes to competency: some prefer to self-mentor, resisting even well-intentioned input from peers, while others are willing, even anxious, to receive suggestions from their colleagues on how to be that, "Great game!" referee. 

 For both types of referees, but particularly for the self-mentoring crowd, consider circulating a weekly Q&A challenge among your referee corps about the "soft" skills that a referee needs. Either e-mail or texting will work for this. Ask the same question each week, but each time provide a different answer for consideration. Ask your group to share their answers. 

 The Weekly Question: Inquiring Minds Want to Know, How Can I Be a Better Referee? 

Sample Answers: 

Week 1 Answer: Act the Part. Are you in uniform? Do you look like someone who can manage a game? Do you make your calls with confidence? Are you in shape (or at least actively working on getting there)? 

Week 2 Answer: Be Approachable: Set the tone at the outset. Do you introduce yourself to the coaches? Do you thank them for volunteering? Do you smile at the players or ask how the team is doing? 

Week 3 Answer: Help Someone Learn. Do you watch for a chance to teach a young player, such as someone playing keeper for the first time? Do you compliment a new referee on a good call or a well-handled game? 

Week 4 Answer: Have a Referee Buddy. Have you sought out someone who can answer questions? Or share carpooling or child-care duties? Or just wants to swap "war stories"? 

Week 5 Answer: "Box" the Play. Do you keep the play between yourself and your linesmen? (Even if you're refereeing by yourself, you can practice by using imaginary linesmen.) 

Week 6 Answer: Improve Your Positioning. Do you watch for patterns in set plays? Do you shift your position to be where you weren't expected? (This lets you keep an eye on players who like to take advantage of the referee's attention being somewhere else.) 

Week 7 Answer: Make the AYSO Philosophies More Than a Test Question. Pick one per game and apply it. Ask yourself if you helped a player improve or acknowledged good sportsmanship? 

Week 8 Answer: Engage the Spectators. Do you greet spectators from both teams before the game? Or ask for questions at half-time?

Week 9 Answer: Note the Numbers. Do you know the number of the player who scored? Of the player who set up the goal? Of the player who was moved from offense in the first half to defense in the second? You can bet the players on the other team know, and you'll be a better referee if you know what they know.

Aug 15, 2013

Youth Referees: A Survey
 
AYSO has various publications that contain information about youth referees: how to be one, how administrators can recruit and retain them and how to manage a thriving youth referee program. These publications, however, were all written by adults. We wondered what we would learn if we asked actual youth referees some basic questions to get their viewpoint on refereeing in AYSO. We emailed a short, easy to answer, informal questionnaire to about 30 youth referees in three Regions and received nine responses.


Below are some of the significant responses. In most cases, we have summarized the answers. Quoted answers may have been modified for clarity. As your read, think about your own Region and ask yourself, "Does our youth referee program serve both our Region's needs and the needs of our youths?
 
We found some responses that surprised us, you may be surprised as well.

 
Q. Why did you decide to become a youth referee?

A. Parent and friends. This included player peers and classmates. Several became a referee to become a better player and to better understand the Laws. Some became referees because of a parent. Parents and AYSO volunteers were significant role models.

 

Q. At what age level were you playing soccer when you signed up to be a referee?

A. U-12 and U-14 were most common.

 

Q. What was your age when you took the Basic Referee Course?

A. 10-14 years old, with 12-13 most common.

 

Q. Would you have preferred to have taken the Basic Referee Course with adults and youths mixed, or just youths?

A. The overwhelming response was to have taken the course with adults and youth mixed.

 

Q. Did the instructors teach at a level that you could understand?

A. Yes. Instructors taught at a reasonable pace, adjusting to make the material understandable for all ages.
"I liked the different levels of teaching that they did so that you could look at the material in different ways."

 

Q. Were all of the questions that you asked in class answered?

A. Yes.
"Not all answered directly in course, but eventually through mentoring, all were answered."

 

Q. Did the instructors present the material too fast?

A. Generally, the material was presented so that most could absorb it.
"They taught too fast for others, but not for me. Given the nature of the course and how quickly everything had to be fit in it was understandable. Some topics were covered faster than others."

 

Q. Did you enjoy and have fun in the class?

A. Yes.
"I did, hence the reason I still referee soccer today."

 

Q. Did you get enough mentoring while refereeing?

A. In general, the youth referees were satisfied with the supervision offered. Overall, the quality of mentoring was high; with the mentor letting the youth referee know his strengths and offering, usually, just one point of correction.
"I think for every game something came up that I can improve upon."
"Absolutely, senior referees and RRA gave valuable feedback, regardless whether it was a job well done or not."

 

Q. Would it have helped if you refereed an informal scrimmage before the season started?

A. These responses were almost equally divided. A small majority answered that a pre-season scrimmage would have helped them.
"I did and it helped a lot."

 

Q. Did you have problems with coaches or spectators?

A. For the most part, the youth referees experienced minimal problems in this area. The problems that they did have were major and left a significant mark on them.
"Our Region has a ‘no tolerance' policy when it comes to youth referees. Most adults at our matches know this and will step in to quiet a spectator or coach, if needed."

 

Q. How did you feel after having a problem with a coach or spectator?

A. They said I was the worst and I'm blind..."
"I gave up."
"They yelled at me because they thought I made a bad call."
"As a youth, it was a mixed emotional feeling. I was always worried about confrontation and being assaulted. But my referee corps supported me 100%."
"Horrible... just horrible."

 

Q. Would you prefer a 'youth referee-only' party?

A."No, I like talking with the adults. We referees are a team and youth referees should always be involved with the entire Region of referees, not singled out to remain uncomfortable. Refereeing requires some to go outside of their comfort zone anyhow, and I see no difference."

 

Q. Other comments from those taking the survey:
"Team up adults with kids who work together a lot, so they have a better experience."
"My friend wants to get paid in some way, but I believe that we really want an end of the year award."
Another response expanded this to an awards ceremony.
"I feel the more positive criticism and reinforcement a young referee gets, the more confidence they attain, the more fun they have and the longer they stay."
"Remind coaches with an email every week to be considerate to youth referees. The coaches can send the same email to the parents on their team."
"I thought the objective was to help us grow and move on."
"I like to know we are valued."
"We would like some of the other color uniforms."
"Offer free or discount registration to us."
"All I have to say is this is a fun and cool experience."
From a parent of a youth referee: "Please don't make kids feel guilty for not signing up for a lot of games. They have their own games to play, practices and school work. It needs to be a balance. My son really enjoyed being a referee and wants to continue."
Perhaps these answers will give you food for thought. If we had a better understanding of our youth referees, then we might also have a better idea of what they need and want, and might therefore, be able to offer them a better program. That could result in easier recruitment, greater retention and happier referees.

 

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July 18, 2013

Tackling the Referee Shortage: AYSO's greatest untapped resource
 

Did you know that female volunteers are the greatest untapped resource? Women not only make great volunteers, but they make terrific referees! Women are positive role models for all females in the sport. Some Regions face obstacles that can create challenges in recruiting women. Here are some tips on how to recruit more female volunteers in your local Region:

Obstacle: Female representation
Solution: Designate a female referee to be a recruiter at your local registration. Soccer moms enjoy talking and interacting with female referees. This makes for a friendly and relaxed approach to recruiting.

Obstacle: Afraid to referee
Solution: Allow your female referees to begin on U-8 games and/or as Assistant Referees in the lower divisions. This will allow them to get their feet wet and realize how much fun it can be to run around the soccer field with the kids. Once they have built some confidence, you can slowly introduce them to more challenging games when they feel ready.

Obstacle: Getting them trained
Solution: Offer and advertise flexible training opportunities via the Basic Referee Online Course. This course is a great way to allow female volunteers to get basic referee training in the convenience of their own home.

Obstacle: Mentoring
Solution: If possible, provide them with a female mentor. Teaming them up with another female referee is a great way to help them through their first season jitters. All referees start as beginners and by having a mentor to talk to and get feedback from, creates a supportive environment for your female referees.

Obstacle: Childcare
Solution: Form a local soccer moms club! Oftentimes soccer moms want to volunteer but have small children that need some supervision on game day. Create some type of rotation schedule that will allow mothers of small children to referee a game or two without having to worry about their little ones. This can create camaraderie and strong friendships.  

Obstacle: Lack of camaraderie
Solution: Treat your ladies to a women's night out, movie night or ice cream social. Continue to show your appreciation by offering incentives for time of service, game count, etc.

Finding ways to recruit women in your Region can be challenging, but finding solutions can reap huge rewards for your Region and its continued success. More ways to recruit female referees can be found in the AYSO Recruiting and Retaining Referees manual located at: www.aysotraining.org .

 

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June 20, 2013

E-mail Blasts are Here

Administrators at all levels have been clamoring for tools to send e-mails to players, parents and volunteers. Enhanced eAYSO features to the e-mail blast system make this possible. Referee Administrators can now connect with referees from their Region. This simple program will help administrators reach out to referees in their Region. There is a simple three step process to effectively utilize this valuable tool in eAYSO.

Step one: Make sure you are a registered volunteer with access rights to the e-mail blast system. Once you are a registered volunteer, your Regional Commissioner can grant you single access rights to this part of eAYSO.

Step two: Work with your Child Volunteer Protection Advocate (CVPA) to assign each volunteer a specific role in the Region. When a volunteer registers with AYSO, they are assigned a default role as Regional Volunteer. The CVPA should then add Referee to their role. If this was not done, you can print a Referee Certification report for the past few years and manually add the e-mail addresses. This may be an opportunity to reach out to them and see if they might return.

Step three: Send out the e-mail blast. To do this, rest your mouse on Region, move to Admin and then select e-mail campaign.

By default, the wizard shows the selection criteria for players. Click on the volunteer tab in the blue band at the top of the wizard screen. Once the screen refreshes, you will be ready to start your e-mail campaign. Here is a screen shot of what you should see:



Please note that, by default, the program will limit the distribution to volunteers within your own Region. When the wizard opens, the system will populate all the zip codes for your Region as defined by the Regional Commissioner. Next, you will simply select the membership year and the volunteer role that you wish to reach out to and add them to the selected volunteer positions box and click on next. In the event that roles have not been defined in years past, the default role of Regional Volunteer may be the best option. This will allow you to notify all volunteers and then get those returning set-up with their specific role.

Add an eye catching subject line, your message and then click on "preview and send." Once you have reviewed and approved your message, click on "send" to get your message on its way!

For more detailed instructions on this feature of eAYSO, sign in to your account, click on help - located on the upper right of the eAYSO home screen and select the e-mail campaign topic. This is a simple and effective method that can reach all of your referees for a variety of topics, such as returning referee kickoff meetings, annual updates, upcoming tournaments and training events.

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May 16, 2013

Instructors can help Intermediate and Advanced referees pass the written exam.

The Law exams get progressively more difficult as referees move through the Basic, Intermediate, Advanced and National Referee Courses.

The Intermediate and Advanced courses cover much of the Laws and AYSO program information that will be covered in their respective exams, but many students can't absorb all of this information successfully if they're hearing it for the first time in class.

Here are some tips that have worked in the past to increase the pass rate on written exams:
  • If you have email addresses for the students, contact them a week or two before the class. Along with a welcome message and any course/venue logistics, send them the appropriate pretest with links to the study materials (Laws of the Game, USSF Advice to Referees, USSF Guide to Procedures, AYSO Rules and Regulations). This will help them understand areas where they could benefit from further study.
  • Review the pretest with students so that they have the correct answers and have the opportunity to ask further questions.
  • After grading the Law exam, take time to review it with the students. It's very important that students understand which questions they missed, and why.
  • Consider offering the written exam twice. There are two versions (A and B) of both the Intermediate and Advanced Law exams. Students who don't pass one version can immediately take the other version. A best practice is to offer the first version early in the course, (students who have studied have a good chance of passing it) and the second version at the end of the course (after all course material has been covered). If students take both versions of the written exam without passing, they must wait one month before taking an exam again.

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April 18, 2013

Spring season is a wonderful time to expand and mentor the referees in your Region. Typically, AYSO Regions also offer games during the spring season. This is a great time to expand, mentor and increase the knowledge of your referee pool, and to encourage them to attend upcoming classes. Spring games can be a bit more challenging and can hone your Region's referees' skills. Spring is also a time to expand the knowledge of your Region's referees and to encourage them to seek advancement by enrolling in referee training classes.

Here are some ideas to help facilitate the needs of your Region's referee pool:
  • Email all referees and encourage them to participate in higher-level referee courses offered in your Region or Area.
  • Email Intermediate Referee candidates and encourage them to schedule an observation on a U-12 game during the spring.
  • Email Advanced Referee candidates and National Referee candidates and encourage them to schedule an assessment for either a U-16 or U-19 game.
  • Ensure that the Region's mentors and assessors are active in the development of newer referees.
  • Encourage your Region's referees to step into the referee position on a U-12 game. Make sure you schedule experienced assistant referees to help out.
  • Be out on the fields during game days and encourage parents to participate as referees. Encourage them to enroll in upcoming courses in their Region.
  • Encourage referees to sign up to help out in other Regions' tournaments. They will have many opportunities during the end of spring and summer.
Most of all stay in contact with your referees, this will let them know that they are part of the AYSO community all year long - not just during the regular fall season. You can do this by sending emails to the group or individually (the personal touch). And think about having an end-of-spring appreciation party to show your gratitude.

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March 21, 2013

Assessors/Mentors

"When I'm doing a debrief after watching a game, I feel bad about criticizing the referee's performance. What's the right way to let referees know what they're doing wrong?"

The most important thing to remember is not to think of the debrief discussion as criticism. There is simply no better way for referees to improve their performance than to be observed by an assessor or an experienced mentor, and then talk about what they might do differently in future games. Rather than telling a referee what they're doing wrong, discuss what you objectively saw, its effect on the game and what the referee might do instead to get a better outcome. For example, let's say you watch a referee who is consistently far from play, and although he appears to be trying, simply can't keep up. Fitness may be an issue, but it may be the case that the referee is running at his top speed.

Things you could say that would sound like criticism:
  • "You're always way too far from play."
  • "You're very slow."
  • "You don't seem to be very fit."
These are all negative statements that could cause the referee to stop listening and tune out of the good advice you might have for him. Not only that, but these statements are all very subjective and they're not backed up by anything, other than opinion.

Here's a different way to go about it. Consider starting the conversation with a general question:
  • "How do you feel about the game?"
  • "How do you think you did?"
  • "Did you have fun?"
Opening questions like the ones above have a tendency to start a friendly discussion that can often give you very useful information. Recently, a candidate for Advanced Referee asked an assessor to watch her center a game and tell her whether she was ready for her first assessment. The assessor was disappointed because the referee was consistently 30 to 40 yards from play and didn't seem interested in getting any closer. But, the assessor started the discussion as he always does, with a general question that allows the referee to self-assess.

The debrief started like this:
Assessor: "How do you think it went?"

Advanced Referee: "Terrible. I pulled a hamstring about 10 minutes into the first half. I was nowhere near play for the whole game. I probably missed everything, I should have called."
Of course this changed everything in the assessor's mind and he was able to focus his comments accordingly. The rest of the debrief covered everything other than closeness of play.

Let's imagine that the debrief had started differently:
Assessor: "How do you think it went?"

Advanced Referee: "Great! This was one of my best games ever. I think I'm ready for that assessment."
Obviously, the assessor and the candidate aren't on the same page about being close to play. The assessor has a responsibility to give the candidate the best advice he can in a way that the candidate will be most receptive to.

Here are some tips that might uncover more information and help you get your message across in a positive way:
  • During the game, if you see a recurring problem with positioning or closeness to play, start keeping track of the referee's position when important things happen (shots on goal, fouls called, fouls not called, etc.). You can use AYSO field diagrams for this, or you can just draw a field on a blank piece of paper. During the debrief, a diagram will serve as objective evidence that will help the candidate understand why you think he's not close enough to play.
  • Start the topic off with a clear statement of your expectation, stated in a manner that gets the candidate to buy in. "You know that we like
  • Advanced Referee candidates to stay between 10 to 20 yards from play as much as possible, right?"
  • Through discussion and reference to your diagram (objective evidence), let the referee know that she was nowhere near that close to play.
  • Use friendly, non-judgmental, referee-to-referee discussion about the game to get the information you need in order to provide helpful advice. For instance, ask the candidate whether she recognized how far away from play she actually was. It may be the case that she feels comfortable at that distance, or it may also be the case that she's simply not capable of staying closer to play. Once you know, you can prepare to give the appropriate advice.
  • If the candidate isn't fast enough to keep up with play, talk about the concept of anticipation. "Work on moving to where you know play is going to be, so that you're already in place when it gets there."
  • If the candidate seems comfortable being 30 or more yards from play, discuss the advantages of being closer (you see more, it's easier to sell your calls, etc.). If possible, illustrate this point using your own observations of fouls that were not called, but that might have been were the referee is closer to play.
The bottom line is to make sure you know what's really going on before you comment on it. Then, discuss things objectively using AYSO's established criteria and your own observation of the referee's performance. A good assessor or mentor must be willing to point out areas for improvement. A good candidate will accept that guidance and use it to become a better referee.

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February 21, 2013

How Students Can Withdraw Themselves from a Course

How many times has this happened to you as an Instructor or Administrator?

The eAYSO roster shows 30 students that have registered for your course, but only seven actually show up. On the bright side, you will still be training new referees or upgrading existing volunteers. On the downside, you've recruited instructors that might have traveled a great distance. You've also purchased food and materials for the 30 that registered. This can be quite frustrating and result in unnecessary costs.

There's one tool in eAYSO that is oftentimes overlooked that can be a solution to help reduce this kind of situation. It's the ability of the student to withdraw their name from the course roster and automatically send a notice of withdrawal to the Lead Instructor. Many volunteers know how to register or enroll for a course, but very few know how to properly withdraw from that same course. We need to spread the word to students and prospective students on how they can do this.

For a student to withdraw from a course, they must:
  • First log on to eAYSO
  • From the home page, look for a link that says "View enrolled classes"
  • The link will probably be near the bottom right of the eAYSO home page
  • It should look like this:
      View enrolled classes


By clicking on the link, it will open up a list of all courses in which the user is currently enrolled.
  • Select the course to withdraw from by clicking on the radio button to the left of the course
  • Click on the "Withdraw from class" button at the bottom of the screen and confirm the action when prompted to do so

This will withdraw the user from the course and automatically send a message of cancellation to the Lead Instructor and Contact Person.

A video that demonstrates this procedure can be viewed here 

Spread the word to your volunteers on this powerful and effective tool!

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January 24, 2013

Take Good Care of Youth Referees

As adult volunteers, it is important to be aware of the similarities and differences between our youth and adult referees in order to better support them. We must understand how they think and adjust our thinking to give them the best possible refereeing experience.

The similarities are obvious. We all took the same referee course with the same instructors, know the Laws of the Game, have a whistle and wear a yellow jersey. Both youth and adult referees know that skilled and successful refereeing requires very fast assertive thinking. That is where the similarities end.

The substantial difference that adults have is years of experience of being in control and assertive, being decision makers and standing their ground. Youth referees come only with the entry-level training we have given them. They often don't have the self-confidence that comes from years of life experience and maturity. They have less experience and have little knowledge of supervising at any level.

Here are some things we can do to help youth referees:

  • Train them well.
  • Give them the tools to manage coaches, spectators and players from their youth perspective.
  • Provide them with proper uniforms that fit.
  • Don't push them into challenging games.
  • Encourage youth referees to upgrade.
  • Do not allow any verbal abuse.
  • Teach them how to deal with abuse and who to turn to for help in dealing with abuse before, during and after a game.
  • Give them the additional support they need to be confident and successful.
  • Familiarize yourself with the AYSO Youth Referee Program, also known as the Player Referee Organization Program (PRO).
  • Reinforce correct calls. (eg. say "Good Call", give a thumbs up, a smile, or observing and offering positive mentoring before, during and after a game from an experienced referee).
  • Mix the officiating team with adult and youth referees.
  • Have all youth officiating teams.
  • Friendship/Companionship - this takes many forms; buddies, adult ‘sponsors', instructors and mentors.
  • Respect - youth referees deserve the same respect that an adult referee receives.
  • Use teaching and mentoring methods that are effective for youth. Don't talk above them. Don't ignore them.

Youth referees trust and respect your advice and model your behavior. You are their role model and person they look up to.

It is essential that our youth referees have someone they feel safe with. Create an open environment so that the youth referee can talk about the good and bad of the game they just officiated.

Please remember: Appreciate them. Reward them. Thank them.

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December 20, 2012

Referee Administrators/Instructors/Assessors/Mentors

As a member of the referee staff, do you teach your referees to have a "thick skin" regarding negative comments from the sidelines? While it's good to help your referees learn how to deal with negativity from coaches or spectators, simply ignoring such comments can actually make the problem worse in the long run.

When referees allow such behavior to persist, they are sending a silent message that this behavior is allowed. This can result in a number of undesirable consequences.

  • Negativity is contagious: dissent from one individual can soon become dissent from many individuals.
  • Game control immediately becomes more difficult for the referee.
  • Players, spectators and coaches learn that negative commentary is permitted behavior.
  • This not only affects the current game; it's also bad news for the referee of this team's next game. Also, that referee may be a Youth Referee. Negative comments from the sidelines should always be acknowledged and dealt with quickly and firmly. Referees have a set of tools available for responding at the appropriate level when comments become negative:
  • "The Look" - quick eye contact in response to the first comment, indicating that it was heard and not appreciated.
  • "The Hand" - when comments continue, a non-threatening, non-offensive, but clear gesture indicating that it's time for the negativity to stop. When used early, this simple tool can often end sideline dissent before it really gets started.
  • "The Talk" - at a stoppage in play, the referee initiates a discussion to either ask the coach to stay positive or to help keep the spectators in line.
  • "The Warning" - a formal warning that if the negativity doesn't stop, the offender will have to leave the sidelines and the vicinity of the field.
  • Expulsion - referees must be prepared to expel a coach or spectator who refuses to behave. It usually doesn't feel good to do, but it may be the right thing to do for the good of the game and the kids.
  • Suspension - suspending the match may be necessary to give an expelled coach or spectator time to leave.
  • Termination - if the referee expels a coach or spectator and they refuse to leave, the referee may have no choice but to terminate the match. Before doing so, the referee should clearly announce that the match is in jeopardy of being terminated.
  • Often, in such cases sideline peer pressure may compel the expelled individual to leave so that the game may continue.

Depending on what the sideline comment is and how it is said, the referee may have to skip a number of these escalating steps to start with an appropriately measured response. In a future issue of Whistle Stop, we'll explore how to tell the difference between vocal disappointment and true dissent, and how to select the appropriate response to dissent based on the "Three P's": public, persistent and personal.

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November 15, 2012

Mentoring programs help women referees in your Region

A good mentoring program is vital in any Region and when managed well, it is an excellent tool for the recruitment and retention of volunteers. Every mentoring program should include all referees - veterans and rookies - and as needed, a focus and emphasis on the needs of women and youth volunteers.

Here are a few ideas to help you get started:
  • Setting up clinics, workshops or pizza parties is one avenue to getting veteran referees to help launch the program.
  • Team them up with retired referees and coaches.
  • Mentor female-to-female when asked.
  • Find out the goals of your female and youth referees.
  • Nurture with positive encouragement and feedback.
  • Motivate by providing appropriate challenges for every referee.
  • Avoid over-scheduling.
  • Protect all rookies from negative sideline behaviors; implement the AYSO Kids Zone
  • Provide assessments when upgrades are requested.
Creating a positive and rewarding referee experience in your Region will allow you to reap long term benefits. Start out small and try to build on your mentoring program every year. It does not have to be an elaborate and complicated program. Actually, simple is better.

Ask some of your retired referees if they would like to mentor; maybe there is a referee who is injured for the season and really wants to stay involved. Pair them up with another referee who really needs a mentor. Youth referees are especially in need of mentors. Most of the time they just need a bit of encouragement and a few extra pointers to keep them on the right track.

Ask your female referees how they wish to be treated; most may simply want to be treated as any other referee, or some may only want to officiating a certain age division. Nurturing a volunteer's needs at the start of their "referee" career can possibly keep them committed to the Region. Investing a small amount of time to mentor them will most likely keep them coming back year after year. Ask your veterans for ideas. Keep the mentoring going!

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October 18, 2012

What is the observation needed to upgrade to Intermediate Referee?

I recently completed the Intermediate Course; I have enough games and now realize I must have an observation to complete my upgrade. My Regional Referee Administrator said he would arrange the observation. What is this? What do I need to do to pass it?

An observation is not a pass/fail situation. It is an opportunity for you to receive positive feedback from an experienced AYSO referee. An observation is designed to provide you and other referees who are upgrading to Intermediate Referee, with positive feedback that will help improve your skills. The best way to prepare for the observation is to relax, arrive early, have a good pregame discussion with your assistant referees, remember your referee mechanics and apply the Laws of the Game. Most of all enjoy the match. Also, don't schedule another game after the observation so you can spend time with the observer.

Observations are usually conducted by an AYSO assessor, but may also be conducted by a mentor selected by your Regional Referee Administrator. In either case, the objective is for the observer to watch your match and then discuss his or her observations with you.

The observer will point out your strengths and discuss, if any, a few areas you might concentrate on improving in the future. Once the observation is complete and you have received feedback from the observer, you have then met the requirement. Don't forget to bring your upgrade form so the observer can sign off on the requirement.

The observation is designed as a positive learning experience for the referee. If you are still concerned and would like a practice observation, ask your Regional Referee Administrator to arrange one for you.

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September 20, 2012

How to Maximize Your Referee Numbers

As an administrator, are you looking for an efficient way to know how many referees will be in your Region each year?

Volunteer involvement has continually declined as economic and social conditions have strained the ability for people to have the time to volunteer. As Referee Administrators, we need to insure that we are identifying and connecting with every existing referee volunteer and, more importantly, every potential new referee volunteer. Recruiting is a never ending task but referee recruitment can be more successful if you have a method in place to confirm who your new referee candidates are as well as your returning referees!

We have a method that can help you improve your ability to connect with existing and new volunteers to maximize your referee numbers. There are a few simple steps to utilizing this method to its maximum potential.

The first phase of our recruiting and retention method is identifying your existing referees using eAYSO. Here are seven simple steps to get this information:
  1. Make sure that you have the appropriate eAYSO access rights as the Referee Administrator from your Regional Commissioner. They will be able to grant you access in accordance with your level of responsibility.

  2. Once you have signed into eAYSO, click on the REPORTS menu and then select VOLUNTEER CERTIFICATIONS and then select the REFEREE discipline.

  3. In the center of the Referee screen, you will see two boxes. On the left are the different referee related certifications. Select each certification of U-8, AR, Basic, Intermediate, Advanced, and National and move them to the box on the right by using the arrows that are located between the boxes.

  4. Once this is done, you will notice that there is a number of Sort Fields that you can select. Skip past these and you will see the Report Format selection. Change that to Excel and then click on Generate Report. You will need to make sure that you allow pop-ups for this program for the report to show. Save the Excel file to a location on your computer.

  5. Once you have this report, you can then sort the volunteers by Membership Year (MY) and delete those from many years ago.

  6. eAYSO provides the basic information you will need such as name, address, phone numbers, e-mail address, and certification level. This provides you with a great start to contact the previous year referees to invite them to return, attend a returning referee event to complete their volunteer application for the new season, and update them on any law changes.

  7. Adding column headers that will be "Region Specific" to you will also be helpful when it comes time for scheduling. Items such as team or player affiliation, best method for contacting them, physical ability limitations, work conflicts for game days, upgrade potential, and anything else that you feel would be of a benefit. Please do not share volunteers' personal information as it is considered private and we must protect it.

This second phase of this recruiting method will help you make sure that you are connecting with all the potential NEW referee prospects. Here are five easy steps to follow:
  1. Work with your Child Volunteer Protection Advocate (CVPA) as they are the ones responsible for entering new volunteers into the eAYSO system. Discuss the need with your CVPA for them to assign a job duty to the new volunteers as they are entered into the system.

  2. This is accomplished in eAYSO by selecting "REGION", then "VOLUNTEER", and then "MANAGE POSITIONS".

  3. On the volunteer form, the applicant will have checked a box for the type of position that they are applying for. Every new volunteer has a default of Regional Volunteer and can have up to three different positions. Have the CVPA add REFEREE to one of these available fields.

  4. Once this is completed, you can generate a report by selecting REPORTS, select VOLUNTEER, and add REFEREE to the box on the right.

  5. These are your potential NEW referee volunteers. Use this report to call and e-mail these new prospects to personally invite them to attend a referee training event. There is not an option to generate the report as an Excel file but, but it is not needed since you will be reaching out to them individually.

This method is just one way that can help insure you can communicate to your returning referees and connect with new referee prospects to make sure that you are getting as many referees on the pitch as possible.

Remember, without a certified referee at the game, it's just a practice!
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