Rules are Rules

When some of the kids express an interest in soccer, James offers to referee. After his first disastrous game, however, he realizes there are lots of rules he doesn’t know and considers getting certified to become a real ref and learn what to do.

Volunteering for a youth soccer club has been an eye opener. I offered to referee when one of my shop students asked for help; and after one disastrous game, I realized that I wasn’t at all qualified. I was not up to speed on the rules. It was time to get certified. I found a guide from Top Corner Magazine on how to get certified. The next step was to take a preliminary qualifying test with tough questions like:

  • The goalkeeper, while catching the ball, goes completely out of the penalty area and into the penalty arc with the ball still in his/her hands.
  • An attacking player, in an offside position, receives the ball directly from an opponent’s pass.
  • At the taking of a direct free kick outside the penalty area, when is the ball in play?
  • When is the ball in play at the taking of a throw-in?
  • The referee sees the ball enter the goal. The AR makes eye contact with the referee and then sprints up the touch line towards the halfway line. This action indicates that, in the opinion of the AR, the goal should be awarded.
  • A goalkeeper standing on his/her own penalty mark head-butted an opponent.
  • Top of Form

Once you pass the test and enroll in a referee course (and register with the USSF—known as the US Soccer Federation), you get a badge and can buy the gear offered such as a special uniform, flags, cards, whistle, watch, and shoes. There are two levels each with its own criteria for certification. I was excited at my new status when the package arrived with the uniform in the color I ordered for my new team. There are different sets for men and women. I was on my way to the top. Ha!

I felt a new sense of belonging. I had learned the meaning of the different flags—solid and diamond pattern. The whistle is very cool. I chose the finger grip style with cushion mouthpiece. You can bet that I now know the rules and believe me, as with any sport, they are extensive. Did you know that a goal may be scored directly against the opposing team from a goal kick? How about: a goal may be scored directly against the opposing team from a goal kick.

Then my job was to teach the players all the finer details of the game, especially strategy. I needed to assess their skills and design the right tactics. Soccer is super popular with kids for an athletic activity but it is also highly competitive. I wanted to instill proper ethics and fairness as part of the team experience. No fighting, arguing, hitting or kicking. You have to limit yourself to the ball, I warned each one.

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