Monday, October 14, 2013

Why Upgrade?

During a recent clinic I presented at, we asked for anonymous feedback from the group which included some open response questions, where the person giving the feedback could literally type anything they wanted relevant or not.

One thing that stood out in more than a few cases, was the request for information specific to "... lower levels of competition." Due to the fact that "... I don't want to upgrade at all ... ."

I was struck by this feedback as it had never really occurred to me that some people are content at the refereeing level that they are currently at, and don't want to progress any further.

In my (ever growing administrative) experience the "upgrade question" is a one that is either asked often by an individual, or not at all. Only in very few cases have I seen a middle ground where an individual chooses to upgrade through the referee ranks, then changes course and does not. I have also seen a converse path as well albeit less often where a referee does not want to upgrade, and later chooses to.

While I appreciate the desire to remain at a level an individual is comfortable with, I also grow very concerned that folks in these positions get "stale" and may be doing themselves, and others a disservice by deciding not to upgrade.

Then again, there is something to be said for servicing The Game at the level one feels best equipped to, and (this is a hard truth for some too), there are very limited resources and matches at the highest levels to go around ... so why try?

These are fair points ... and I am wading into these waters not from a refereeing perspective honestly as my day is here and gone for upgrading. I can go no further than I have. I am asking from another perspective ... as a cyclist.

So on 14-OCT-13 I will be racing in the Jamestown Classic, and event that captured my imagination back in 2011 when I raced it for the very 1st time ... in fact it was my very first bike race ever. It was a ton of fun and from that moment on as an amateur bike racer, I knew I wanted to climb the ranks. Not because I was any good (I anticipate I am going to get creamed on the 14th) but because I wanted to get better.

So I've ridden, and ridden, have a spectacular coach, mechanic, friends, and a very forgiving wife in Madame X, and ridden. Freezing cold, baking sun, drowning rain, race after race of DNF or DFL, and comments of "... you're too old to race ... ." I didn't care, I wanted to get better and was willing to put in the work to do so.

Recently when preparing for my upgrade in cycling, I flashed back when I am on the bike to when I upgraded from a Grade 8 to a Grade 7 referee. A night match at U-Mass Amherst at the State Cup. I can still feel the night air. A bit heavy with a little tingle in it from the aura of being a match played at night.

I remember my upgrade match from Grade 6 to Grade 5 as a state referee. A Portuguese league match in RI that was "on the fence" until I happened to be right on the goal line (as a referee) for a deciding call.

National referee was another series of matches I recall too. None the least of which was at amateur regionals in PA, where after 3 days of matches I was selected for the mens final ... and was exhausted. My legs were cement, and my brain mush after so many matches in a short time. Some how ... we got through.

What permeated all of these experiences is how much work had gone into my craft and just how uncomfortable I felt moving from one point to the next. I have never felt "ready" to be at that next level.

So once more unto the breach dear friends, once more as I prepare to take another leap forward with an upgrade in cycling. For any interested, you will be able to see it LIVE starting at around 11a on the @kicking_back Twitter account.

Lot of words that may or may not answer the question for some, why upgrade?

To allow access to higher levels of competition?

To have a commitment to get better with a tangible goal as a result?

To keep hold of that "uncomfortable" feeling?

I'm not entirely sure, but for me, it is the feeling of continuing to move forward. It's not about good or bad performance, wins or losses ... just getting that little bit further the next time I'm out.


  1. Unfortunately, there are minimal incentives to upgrade for most grade 8's - the upgrade process is extra work in the form of assessments and fitness test, and many 8's already get the upper level youth games they want. In the long run, we need more (competent) grade 7's now so we can expand the assessment corps later. Also, assignors should look to assign grade 7's to upper level youth games whenever possible, so it becomes obvious that upgrading is a worthwhile endeavor. If the career grade 8's are denied the better assignments, they may take the time to upgrade!

  2. I am with you Anon ... and in fact so is US Soccer given some of their new (much more lax) requirements to upgrade all the way to Grade 6.

    We will see what comes of these new policies, but I anticipate it will create more movement to higher grades, even if that movement is due to a much lower bar.

    Thanks for reading,