While I certainly am not looking forward to getting up at 3:00AM (literally) and drive 7 hours to the final destination, I can say that I am looking forward to the camaraderie and experiences of the week.
Being away from my family for a week is no small thing, especially over the 4th of July. It is a great time for picnics and BBQ's and fireworks and stuff that makes lasting memories for years and years. When I was actively refereeing there was a span of half a decade that I did not see 4th of July fireworks because I was out refereeing at this tournament and I really missed those experiences with family and friends.
I write this not lamenting my decision to attend this tournament, but to convey its importance. For referees this is a critical tournament. For some it is the beginning of their "regional career", where they are exposed the very first time to teams outside of their state, or even an assessment for the very 1st time.
Others are at the end of their youth career. They have traversed the gauntlet of youth soccer and will got to Youth Nationals, essentially ending any significant involvement in youth soccer as a referee, until of course they come out the other end of the pipe and do what I am, and circling back around.
Most are in the middle, some know they want to progress and be that referee that goes to the Nationals soon, others might be saying, "Is it really worth it?"
In all cases, these are critical times for a youth referee.
Here is why my particular role, and those of the other assessors and instructors at this tournament are so critical, they have the ability to influence what happens next with these careers. Open and honest feedback is so critical in these cases. So too however is a positive disposition to assure the referee what they did is okay, and here's how you can change it for a different result.
It is pretty incredible to have the opportunity to be able to reach so many young, eager minds in one place, at one time. It's rather rare actually.
At this point, that's why I'm going, to reach those minds and hope to make a difference.
I will do my best to get a post in now and then when I am away, but no promises. In the mean time Nigel and JAFO may jump in and fill the void.
Keep and eye on @Kicking_Back on Twitter as well as I can assure you, that will be popping over the week.