Monday, November 8, 2010

Smile. You're on candid camera.

For anyone unfamiliar with the reference, back in the late 40's arose a hidden camera television show named Candid Camera, where people would be filmed without their knowledge doing all sorts of embarrassing things, and later, these embarrassing things aired on TV. This is a little different than todays reality television, where people go in to the situation (such as living together on an island) knowing they are going to be filmed, and the antics eventually aired for all.

A soccer match can be like candid camera too ...

At professional matches and the like, you go in with an expectation a match will be filmed and you'll have a guy with a parabolic microphone following you around. It is an easy lesson to learn, as you find yourself at this level tripping over A/V equipment often. It is also a lesson that if you forget, you re-learn quickly as you hear yourself on the tape review after the match saying something inappropriate. Or better still having those comments heard by US Soccer officials during a live broadcast.

I'll tell you that one later ...

Well in this glorious electronic age I remain amazed at the number and types of affordable recording equipment that is used by the every day person to capture their local youth match. It is fair to say that at just about every level today, you can assume the referee will get recorded on video. In fact you should make that assumption. I am also sad to report that some folks will do so for a "gotcha" moment to catch referees too. I have been witness to several such video clips coming into local, state, and regional soccer boards and tournament committees. Also, while I have no direct knowledge, it would not surprise me if they made their way to the US Soccer brass at times.

The author of these clips often opine about the injustice that just occurred in the local U-6 match where Johnny or Mary was just deprived of an opportunity by a referee, and that referee should be tarred and feathered in the town square as they young player is now scarred for life and can not play on the National team in the spot waiting for them to just grow up.

I am exaggerating ... but not too much in some cases. I actually heard a mother say that her 10 year old daughter was the next Mia Hamm and it was the referee's fault a goal was not awarded in a particular case.

At times this video evidence can be useful however as referees and players who intentionally cross a line, need to be dealt with. Video is such a compelling "remembering" device in those cases. I have no pity for those who abuse their authority in any way, and even less if they deny and get caught doing so by a showing of the tape.

So here comes my favorite question ... why am I spouting all of this?

Two reasons, based on an incident that occurred when I was coaching Jr.'s match the other day.

First, if you are refereeing a match at any level, go in with the expectation that you are going to be recorded during the match, and that such a recording may be used, rightly, or wrongly in the future. I say this not to make referees nervous as watching tape is a tremendously successful tool to getting better, just be aware it is occurring. My suggestion is to smile a lot.

In my case there were several video cameras at Jr.'s match the other day recording a very average youth match. (Cue dramatic music)

Second, video tape cuts both ways, and referees are not the only target. As I was coaching Jr.'s team the other day, it was, by all accounts a pretty average match. After the match however a couple of parents alerted me to the fact that, well, both I and the head coach of the team were roundly criticized during the match for some of our coaching decisions. Our provocateur was a parent of a child on OUR team, in this U-10, local league. Yeah. You just can't make this stuff up folks.

So being fairly critical of sources of information I dug in a little, and was presented some video tape with the aforementioned comments in context. Sure enough, it was true.

Now while I personally just don't see the value in doing anything except letting this particular issue drop, it was a further reminder that people are going to criticize anyone who stands up and makes a decision generally. It does not matter if you are a referee, coach, teacher, officer, executive, fry cook, etc.. If you make a decision, be ready to have it questioned, politely or not, as there is always a pin head inquisitive individual out there who will not like it.

Referee's are in this spot often, so I would suggest being ready for it as best you can.

To boil it down to its very essence the message is clear.

Smile, you are on candid camera.

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