Monday, November 1, 2010

Role Reversal

So there I was minding my own business, when all of a sudden, an assignment came in.

I held my breath a little and a wave of fear came over me.

It was not because it was with a FIFA AR.
It was not because it was between two good teams.
It was not because there were former professional players coaching.

It was because I was assigned as an AR.

Now without going into the gory detail, while I have been fortunate enough to be an AR up to and including International friendlies, I was asked to specialize as a referee very shortly after becoming a national referee, and just held a whistle. So in essence, at the moment I received this assignment as AR, I had not held a flag for 10 years, give or take.

Fear turned into panic.

This emotion was not for concern that I had forgot in which direction to run on the line, or that my knowledge of Law 11 has suddenly vanished, it was over the knowledge that there is particular skill and fitness necessary to run an line well. These skills take practice. Just being a referee does not cut it to be able to run a line well.

While I won't get into the technical facets here (that will be for another time from a true expert such as FIFA AR Tom Supple), it is sufficient to say these referees are part of the team necessary to maintain match control. Further, they suffer the same as the referee themselves, as is clear from this article where AR Steven Craven resigned his post as professional AR in Scotland over reversing a penalty decision between Celtic and Dundee United.

As with any highly skilled craft, it is absolutely necessary to regularly "sharpen the saw" to stay at peak performance. A brief story to illustrate.

In 1990 as many are aware, we had a single referee representing the US. Vincent Mauro. In the weeks leading up to departing for Italy, Vinnie took the initiative and asked to serve as AR on a series of matches. Recall that at that time, there were not FIFA ARs yet, so the referees were the ones who ran the lines. His actions in preparing made him that much better than others for what he was going to be asked to do ... and he was ready.

While obviously I was not asked to be an AR at a World Cup match, I sure could have used some practice before taking the field the other day. While not completely horrible, to me, and my FIFA friend, it was pretty clear that my saw needed some sharpening.

So by way of a life lesson, keep your skills up to date. You just never know when you are going to be called on to use them.

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