Friday, July 1, 2011

Testing One's Mettle

The tournament atmosphere is one of the blacksmith's fire. Teams and referees are thrown into a crucible of activity over a very short span of time. Players endure as many as five or six games over a weekend, and referees may end up working twice that many.

Fatigue, injury, equipment failures, decision making under pressure, high stakes. Only the strong survive. It is a battle of attrition.

A Regional level tournament takes all of that to yet another level, as careers (both referees' and players') can be defined. Last week I saw a very solid promising referee get assigned a game just slightly over her head. It was a level of play she had officiated in her home state many times before, but today the skills were sharper, and the stakes were higher. Suddenly she felt stretched, and more than a little overwhelmed.

As I watched the game, I could tell she was out of her comfort zone. She was refereeing by rote - mechanically doing the things she had done many times before, but not really 'feeling' the game. Her good habits were carrying her through this game. She survived, but barely.

Observing her in the dressing room after the game, she was obviously stunned, her confidence shaken. This referee was at a crossroads. Suddenly her dreams of becoming a FIFA referee did not seem so attainable. But with a little support from her crew and quiet discussion with the match assessor, she has decided to keep going. She vows to complete this journey. I for one could not be happier for her.

Everyone gets knocked down from time to time. What matters is what you do next.

Soccer is Life

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