The trouble with referees is they know the rules but they don’t know the game. ~Bill Shankly
Today was my annual USSF referee recertification. Being forced to attend a full day class and take an exam on the Laws of the Game that have barely changed in a recent years, is not something I typically enjoy doing on a Saturday especially when my work world has required very long hours. I can make a case for having a short class or, even better, an on line class to explain significant changes in the laws so the federation of Referees receives a common understanding, but this is not the case with the USSF who require an 8 hour retraining session every year. I started refereeing soccer in 1980 with just a few years off between then and today so I have attended on the order of 30 classes. I must attend the full day class and pay $80 just so I can have the privilege of officiating soccer. I think the big reason US Soccer has these classes is so they can collect the fees from the referees and, their claim that we are the best trained officials in the country, is secondary, a selling point.
Today’s class was better than most because it was taught by seasoned referee veteran, Paul Tamborino, a man that reached the pinnacle of the game before retiring and who was also an assessor of referees and is currently an assignor for the College conference know as ACC. His teaching emphasized the practical side of applying the laws as opposed to following the letter of the law. This was a nice change for I have heard the legalistic side so many times that hearing the letter of the law application lecture again and again nauseates me, especially when no decent referee ever works in such a way. Those that do follow the letter of the law come across as police officers rather than aficionados of the beautiful game and their stick up the butt style tends to destroy the joy that is of paramount importance to the game. Paul was entertaining and knowledgeable so the time passed relatively quickly.
After the talk, we are required to take a 100 question exam. The exam, to me, is an insult because it is to simplistic and at such a base level. The problem with the exam is that even if you score 100% there is no guarantee you will be able to referee soccer. A good referee knows when to apply the laws while a great referee knows when to set aside the laws for the good of the game, for the enjoyment of the players, for the entertainment of the spectators. This practical side can never be assessed by a written exam. I think the exam should be waived for veterans that have been on the field for many years.
Oh well, my USSF recertification is done for the 2012 leaving me free to enjoy another season on the pitch, the best seat possible from which to observe the beautiful game. All I need do now is the HS recertification in the early summer but that will be a rant for another day.