Tuesday, May 29, 2012

"Huffing and Puffing" Redux

Paul Levy strikes again with a good article from Not Running A Hospital. In this episode, Huffing and Puffing, Paul and some refereeing colleagues detail anecdotal examples of how the fitness levels of players has changed over the years. He comes to an interesting conclusion on that front as well. Take a look at the article, it was somewhat of a surprise ending that I don't completely disagree with.

It got me thinking however, not only do we have a larger rate of "more unfit players" (my term - and I don't think that is anecdotal, but is supported by good evidence regarding childhood weight), but I would also opine, even purely as a matter of sampling, that we also have a larger number of unfit referees.

Now there is a continuum here to be sure. Referees at the International and Professional level train nearly every day, and need to, to be able to keep up with the game. As you traverse the ranks, there is really less and less training required at the typical town level. If you go to a tournament like the Dallas Cup, all bets are off as those players in most groups are very experienced, very fit, and professionally trained. They will not hesitate to take advantage of a referee who has a "blind spot" because they can not get to a particular play.

Long story short, if you don't want to train to referee, to do well, you should plan to keep it in the youth soccer world (like U-12 and below who need a manager more than a referee), and fairly local. This may sound like a jab to youth soccer (who need good referees!), but it is really just intended to reinforce the point that you can not referee a match to train, to be ready to referee. It's a circular argument that holds no water.

Now, you can use matches to supplement your training. I used to do this a bunch where I would work a amateur match regularly to ready myself mentally and physically for a professional match. It was a "tuner" as it was. But to do no training, at all, and show up on Sunday for a match is not good practice, and frankly is not good training.

Think about it this way, you are training once a week in the event you are competing in. While I would agree by the end of a 3 month season you may have a marginal increase in fitness is it really the fitness you need for a match? Also, what about all those matches you were not "match fit" for? Is this fair to those teams?

I think not.

Train to referee ... not referee to train.


  1. Be prepared to fire 50% of referees if you plan on requiring them to train more for u15 games. Referees just aren't paid enough, it's not a job that people seek out or train for.

  2. I am with you Anon, and I think that is the heart of Paul's point, with my twist.

    Are referee's doing it because they love it, or because they have to (i.e. it's a job)? If purely the latter, and not a combination of the two, I think you will find the largest number of people who just show up, regardless of fitness, knowledge, and attire and do the games.

    A fair number of teams would rather have no referee than one of this type. This goes for youth all the way to top level amateur play. I think at times referees would be surprised to learn that players can take care of themselves without killing each other.

    I am among those who would rather be without, as a referee who does not try is far more destructive than one who tries hard and sometimes gets it wrong.


  3. Most of you will say this is trite and obvious... REFEREES who don't trained regularly are NOT doing service to the game. PERIOD. Because there are too many games and NOT enough "morally fit" (like in staying physically fit because the game REQUIRES IT) referees, you will have hundreds of Massachusetts HS refs and College refs who "walk" around the track at "required" physicals and still pass. Being a National (Peter will attest) Working out 5-6 times a week was par for the course but satifying because it allowed you to be in good position to make decisions. Good ones if you had knowledge of people and plays and fouls and rules... BUT without fitness you had a heck of a higher probability to screw up no matter how good you were in knowledge of people and plays and fouls and rules....

    1. Anon ... you are spot on.

      Don't get me wrong folks, it's real work. My only point is to be any good, you have to be prepared to put that work in.

      This is true of anything in life. In refereeing, it just requires physical fitness as well as mental acuity.