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Michigan Referee Program / Newsletter  / May Newsletter

May Newsletter

Volume 1, Issue 3
May 1, 2020

Yuya Kiuchi
State Director of Instruction

Welcome to the May issue of the MRC newsletter. We hope all of you and your family and friends are staying safe.

In April, U.S. Soccer hosted a series of webinars to make up for the Referee Workshop that was scheduled for March. The event would have invited representatives from each State Referee Committees and would have covered numerous administrative matters. Instead, the U.S. Soccer conducted a 90-min webinar every night for a week to discuss U.S. Soccer Learning Center updates, certification requirements for 2021, legal matters, to name a few. Because the current situation continues to be fluid, there is little that we can update you about definitively. But through this newsletter, the MRC website, and emails, we will keep you posted.

In this May issue, we will continue to have many exciting articles. We are featuring Danielle Chesky, one of the FIFA referees, for Michigan Referees Beyond Michigan. Roxin, Nolan, and Elina Zhang are also featured in this issue. Our State Director of Assessment, Dean Kimmith, will be sharing his views on the state’s assessment and mentoring program for the future. Jason White, PRO assistant referee, contributed to the Tip of the Month column. You will find many other articles below.

Last month, I shared that the MRC website hosted a set of short videos that explained the 2019/2020 Laws of the Game changes. The videos are still available. So if you have not watched them yet, please consider visiting here. We received quite a bit of positive feedback, and are adding more resources. You can find more about it in this special article.

Some of you have probably seen the 2020/2021 Laws of the Game somewhere online. These new laws will start to be used in Summer 2020 internationally and in some leagues in the U.S. But for local leagues, they will take into effect in January 2021. Although it is important to familiarize ourselves with most up-to-date information, please be careful disseminating partial information. IFAB, FIFA, and all the organizations under the umbrella are now creating educational materials for us so that we can correctly understand the intentions and nuances of new laws. We can easily misread or misunderstand a new law if we just rely on a text. You will receive an official update on the new laws this summer. Until then, please be mindful what information you might share with others.

Michigan Referee Committee’s New Video Resources

For many years, formal referee continuing education was based on an annual recertification clinic. Although it was fun to see familiar faces once a year and we hope there was something for everyone to learn from such a meeting, sitting in a classroom for three hours was not the best educational experience. This is why both the U.S. Soccer and the Michigan Referee Committee have been examining different ways to conduct refereeing training. A part of this effort has resulted in more online video content released throughout the year. We started this effort in March with seven videos that explained the 2019/2020 Laws of the Game changes that you can find here.

We have also started a weekly video series. Both on social media and more traditional media such as television and newspaper, we see so many so-called “controversial” calls by referees. When we attend clinics, we often watch videos to discuss, “What the referee should have done” or “What the referee could have done better.” Although it is important to learn from our and our peers’ mistakes, we should also learn from good examples. Our weekly video series features positive examples from which we can learn.

Each video is only 2-3 minutes in length. There is just one lesson to be learned. But if you watch all video clips throughout the year, you will have over 2 hours’ worth of educational material. This alone will be similar to the amount of time you would normally spend in a recertification clinic.

A new video is released on our YouTube Channel every Wednesday. You can subscribe to the channel here to be notified when a new video is released. This is the best way to stay up to date with these MRC videos. These videos are also available on the MRC website. So far, we have released Video 1 on AR mechanics, Video 2 on anticipation, and Video 3 on PK positioning. Our next video will be released on May 6. It will be about public warning.

We hope you will take advantage of our video resources. Please consider sparing just a few minutes of your time every week to improve yourself as a referee.

Michigan Referees Beyond Michigan: Danielle Chesky

Danielle Chesky
FIFA Referee

For the May newsletter, we had the honor to interview Danielle Chesky, a FIFA referee.

What is your relationship to Michigan?

My family moved to Michigan as I started middle school, and so playing soccer and getting certified to referee were ways for me, as well as the rest of my family, to get involved in the community.

What do you miss the most about MI?

A good portion of my family is still in Michigan, and I have lots of fantastic memories of growing up there, whether out fishing on the lakes or running around on the pitch. Michigan, the referee community, my family, all hold a special place in my heart and memory even though I now live in the Washington, D.C. area.

Do you have any referee or soccer-related memories from MI?

Loads! Regional tournaments, the Saginaw 7/11 tournament (as a player and a referee), as well as so many inspirational mentors, locally and at the state level. It was such a special occasion for me to be able to come back as part of the mentoring group at the Region 2 Youth Championships in Saginaw last summer (2019) and reconnect with so many of these folks who helped me and are still helping other referees. The entire leadership crew in Michigan, as well as all of the volunteers and mentors who give their time, it’s incredible.

What are your current referee-related responsibilities/roles/appointments like?

2020 is my first year appointed as a member of the FIFA panel, which is an absolute honor. When I received the call, and then received my badge earlier this year, you could not wipe the smile off my face. It is an accomplishment but also another level of opportunity. Prior to the shutdown of sporting events across the country, I officiated in the SheBelieves Cup, so I was able to get in my first appointment. I’m also involved in officiating at the collegiate level, as well as other leagues around D.C. Every game has something to offer.

What is the best memory of your referee career so far?

Wow, it is hard to choose one. There has always been a defining memory as I continued to progress, whether that be my first professional match, a college cup experience, an international match, or my first international match wearing the FIFA badge. Not sure I can choose just one, but the list of memories continues to grow.

What are a few things that you learned early in your referee career that continue to be important today?

There were some really hard days and moments, and yet through those times, I was fortunate to find some mentors and colleagues that I could call and work through the situation. It was those same folks that I called to celebrate good news as well.

What are a few of the things that helped you become a successful referee?

Coachability: the laws, the tactics, and other aspects of the game continue to evolve. There is so much experience available, so take advantage of those willing to share it!

What advice do you have for young aspiring referees?

Watch and learn from what others are doing and saying. Elizabeth Roosevelt said “Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.” We all make mistakes, but learning from others, watching games, thinking critically and constructively, makes the learning process go more quickly.

Thank you, Danielle.

Thank you.

Referee of the Month: Roxin, Nolan, and Elina Zhang

It is truly a soccer family. Roxin Zhang, Nolan Zhang, and Elina Zhang are all soccer players as well as referees in a family of four living in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Roxin has been an USSF and MHSAA referee for 18 years and a NISOA referee for 13 years. He enjoys every aspect of soccer including refereeing, playing, and organizing both youth and adult soccer programs. He also enjoys mountain and snow biking. Nolan, son of Roxin and Jing Niu, has been a USSF and MHSAA referee since 2008 and a NISOA referee since 2010. Nolan played soccer in high school and enjoyed refereeing after high school. Elina, the daughter in the family, is a currently a graduating senior in high school. She started refereeing youth soccer when she was 13 years old and is currently an USSF referee and also an MHSAA soccer referee.

They enjoy being soccer referees mainly because the love of the sport. “It is really fun to working with different referees from different places, travel to tournaments and just be part of the local soccer community,” they said.

Going to some of the soccer tournaments as a family of referees is the most memorable experience for the family. For example, the family has been going to the USA Cup and USA Cup Weekend Soccer Tournament in Blaine, MN, for many years. Not only does the family get to spend several days together to do fun things, but working with referees and interactions with players from all over the world are some truly incredible learning experiences.

Our Goal: Helping All Referees Develop

Dean Kimmith
State Director of Assessment

As State Director of Assessment, I spend a lot of time every year assisting candidates trying to upgrade from Grassroots to Regional Referees. In a nutshell, in order to be considered for upgrade, their lifetime game count must include at least 50 games as a referee and 25 games as an assistant referee at the U-18 and higher adult levels. For qualified candidates, we schedule three assessments: one at the highest youth level of competition and the other two at adult competitions. Candidates must also pass a fitness test. You can learn more about the details on the upgrade process here.

As I write this article, all of us are uncertain when we can get back on the field again. When the time does come, I wanted to share with you one of my objectives going forward. Of course, we will continue to help those officials looking to climb the ladder toward higher referee grades and better assignments.

At the same time. I do not want to lose sight of the needs of our newer officials, both youth and adults. They comprise the majority of our 5,000+ Michigan referees but rarely receive feedback (except from angry coaches and parents). Many referees have never received any formal feedback from a mentor.

As soon as we are able, I plan to encourage our referee mentors to watch more of those officials. They are the ones who would benefit from constructive feedback the most. These officials are either brand new or have only been out there for a few seasons. A small tip or two can vastly improve their performance as a referee.

Mentoring opportunities exist at local “house leagues” where new referees often get their first exposure to officiating. The MRC is also developing a plan to do more observations at in-state tournaments. As I noted above, while we continue to mentor advanced officials, we also want to cast a “wider net” and see more officials at those events. Observations of 15-20 minutes—just as an example—at a tournament game can allow us to be smarter in how we use our mentor resources.

Your thoughts on how to expand the reach of the mentor program are always welcome. If you are a younger official reading this article and would like someone to watch one of your games, simply let me know (contact information of all MRC members can be found at the end of this newsletter). If you are an experienced official, you can help by flagging those younger promising officials for us. I promise we will do our best to help you. Contact me at

Flipping the Switch

Jacob Little
Regional Referee

Escaping “Comfortable”

Whether you are refereeing for multiple assignors across USSF, NISOA, or even MHSAA, you know you can fall quickly into a rhythm as the season progresses, such as:

  • You work with familiar crew members from week to week
  • You visit schools/clubs on a regular basis
  • You get to know coaches and players more on a personal level.

In other words, we start to get “comfortable.” For instance, instead of talking about tactics, certain expectations, or even doing your pre-game warm-up with your crew members, we fall into the trap of assuming that “everyone knows what to expect from each other.” This mentality alone sets the tone for the match, and ultimately our performance on the field.

So, as we impatiently wait for the season to start, how can we escape the comfortableness before it even arises and determine when to flip the switch to ensure that we are mentally prepared? Here are a few tips.

Control the Controllable:

  1. Establish game day rituals
    1. Go to bed/wake up at a reasonable time
      1. Whether you get sufficient sleep affects more than just your physical performance. Lack of sleep also impacts your mental focus, mood, and stress levels.
  2. Pack your bag a specific way
    1. Staying organized is a key factor that can help you remain focused on what you need to do. Everything from your jerseys, to packing your favorite pair of socks can help you get into “game day” mindset and ensure that you perform your best. Little wins like this will help you remain positive.
  3. Communicate with your crew
    1. Game day essentials/equipment
      1. The last thing you want is to be 5 minutes away from kick-off and no one on your team has brought flags (it has happened to all of us). Communicate with your crew on who is bringing what so that you can pack it prior to leaving for the match.
  4. Get the non-game related talk out of the way
    1. In most instances, the people that we ref with become our friends, and we are fortunate to get to know one another on a personal level. Though this is one of the great aspects of the game, we as a team need to know when to flip the switch. As a team, we set these guidelines.
  5. Be on time!
    1. Plan a specific time to leave for the match
      1. In most cases, assignors and even amateur/professional leagues require a mandatory arrival time to the field/stadium (e.g. 90 minutes before kick). As the season progresses, we tend to take these requirements for granted and therefore get comfortable. Arriving on time not only enables you to get prepared for the match, but it is the first impression you make to your crew, the teams, and the staff on what this game means to you.
  6. Pre-game Homework
    1. No game is the same
      1. Even if you have refereed a specific team before, research on the teams, coaches, and even playing conditions can help set you and your team up for success and to be in the correct mindset.
        1. New to a certain stadium, club, have a new referee on your team, or have a big match coming up? Talk to veteran officials who may have the experience, or even attend a match beforehand to take in the atmosphere for yourself!

With these tips in mind, try and find your routine that helps you “flip the switch,” and keeps you in the correct mindset prior to every kickoff!

Who’s Who in Michigan: Pat Mathieu

Pat Mathieu
Instructor and Assessor

Greetings from an appropriate social distance. The MRC asked me to submit a brief profile of my experience as a referee for the newsletter. The request sent me down a memory lane of why/how I became a referee, and the many people in the referee community who contributed to my experience.

Like most referees, I started out as a player. I loved the game so much that I decided to coach my nieces’ teams in Redford. At the time, the club required coaches to take the 16 hour class to become referees. This reduced the number of cards to ignorant coaches (me), AND provided a cadre of referees for the club. Additionally, the newer referees were mentored by their fellow coach/referees. It was a great idea and a good start ably managed by Cindy and Dave Courval.

Playing goalie at an indoor game officiated by “some old guy standing at the half line,” I saved the ball on the goal line and the “old guy” ruled it a goal. My protests, including citing the Law verbatim, earned me a yellow card and a quiet conversation after the game. The questions asked were: “Are you a referee? Would you like to get better?” The referee was Pete Morrissey, and my answers were: “Yes” and “I can be better than you.”

I was incredibly lucky to have Pete as a mentor, who arranged to have me assigned to more difficult games as my skills improved. The experienced referees (Jerry Potter, Julie Ilaqua, Ken Burcaw, Marie Smith, and many others) that I later worked with had different strengths and styles. What I learned from the best of them was to respect the game. My goal as a referee, no matter the skill or age level, is to be an invisible conductor while the players enjoy the game. For me there is no such thing as a “nothing game.”

I eventually became an Instructor/Assessor/Coach, which I really enjoy much more than officiating. It allows me to communicate my love and enthusiasm for soccer and to share my 30+ years of experience with newer referees. To let them feel safe to ask questions, to try new game management strategies and progress to more difficult and challenging matches as I did. I tell the younger referees I work with: “There is no such thing as a stupid question. You can’t learn if you don’t ask.”

I was extremely fortunate in having mentors. I wish there were enough experienced referees for new referees to work with, but there are so many more games and not enough referees. I am still coaching less experienced referees, but am almost old enough to retire from 40 years as a scientist, and my garden and sailboat are going to be visited more often. Am I a referee? Yes. Am I a better referee than Pete? Yes. The referee community did a good job, which I intend to pay forward.

Tip of the Month: Build a Better Snapshot

Jason White
PRO Assistant Referee

So, what’s YOUR flash lag? It varies by situation, but my flash lag is about 2 yards.

Most of us are likely familiar with the concept of flash lag in context of offside decisions in football. As a refresher, this website has a simple flash lag test. (Adobe Flash must be allowed.)

Simply put in football terms, flash lag accounts for the phenomenon that we think a moving object – usually the attacker – is ahead of its actual position.

When watching a game on TV, how good is your gut feel about whether a player was offside or not? When you see the replay and compare it to your gut feel…if you were wrong, why were you wrong? Do you try to figure it out, or just keep watching the game?

No matter how hard we concentrate or focus as assistant referees, flash lag will affect us to some degree. We may think we have the right snapshot of the play or offside decision in our mind, but that snapshot is almost always after the actual moment the pass was made.

So, what’s YOUR flash lag? Have you seen your own offside decisions on video and compared them to the snapshot you took in your mind live on the field? How far “off” was your snapshot? Was the attacker a yard further onside than you thought? Was it 5 yards more onside?

How well have you developed your ability to process the variables affecting the amount of flash lag? Some of these factors include:

  • Distance ball travels between passer and recipient – the longer the travel, the more lag that may add in our processing of when the pass was made.
  • Reaction time of the players – often, the attacker times the run perfectly and the defender is slow to react, which typically leads to an onside situation.
  • Player does not receive ball until behind the second-last-defender. The clip at 4:44 of the June 5 2017 MLS Instant Replay is a good illustration.
  • Defender is stepping forward before/during/after the pass.
  • Speed of attacker downfield – a professional player can cover 8-10 meters in 1 second, so misreading the snapshot by just ¼ second can skew the decision by 2 yards or more. The clip at 3:52 of the same MLS Instant Replay segment shows this.
  • Direction of the attacker’s run – is he heading directly toward the goal line, or at an angle? Or making a smart lateral run and trying to time his run and peel off the offside line at just the right moment?
  • Attacker ‘checking back’ for a ball – starting in offside position and running away from goal after the pass is made. This is the exact opposite of the usual flash lag scenario and in these situations, the attacker is further offside than he may seem.

The more you learn about your strengths and weaknesses in your ability to recognize, understand and account for these situations, the better you can calibrate and ‘build a better snapshot’ to get a feel for whether a player is onside or off.

Handling Injured Players

Ken Wikle
Regional referee first registered with USSF in 1978

How does a new referee learn how to handle injured players appropriately? It has often been left to the experience and common sense of officials to decide how they handle injuries.

On a game with younger children, referees must consider any injury that stops a player from participating in the game serious enough to stop play so that they can be attended. Such a player may not be seriously injured in a strict medical sense but because of the player’s age, even slight injuries may be temporarily “serious.” Referees must be cognizant that young children may perceive a minor injury as major. Additionally, with parents and guardians present, referees must be compassionate about their concern for their children. Referees who do not stop the game immediately for injuries in younger youth games will suffer the ire of parents and coaches who will interpret their behavior as lack of concern or at the most “incompetence.” A flood of dissent may shortly ensue. Referees must stop the game immediately at this level no matter how “serious” the injury is.

Showing some empathy for the injured player can also help sell your decision to stop the game and demonstrate that the referee is in charge of the game. Back out as soon as the coach or trainer arrives to attend the player. Get the game started as soon as the injured player has left the field and a substitute has replaced them.

As youth players get older, a game may continue after a player suffers from a slight injury. A player sitting on the ground holding their leg or foot is generally not a reason to stop the game immediately.

Serious collisions between two players can occur at all levels of the game. Serious injuries can occur when players go up to head a ball simultaneously and collide head to head. This type of collision can result in serious head injuries and most likely concussions. Players may not only bleed from cuts, but also even stop breathing. With head injuries, you must stop play immediately and have a trainer attend the player. Play must stop whether you are officiating a U12 youth game or professional games.

Referees need to make sure players returning to play are no longer bleeding and do not have any blood on their equipment. Players who might have had a concussion must follow the concussion protocol set out by the authority.

Observing injuries and determining their seriousness may be difficult. If you are unsure of the severity of an injury, err on the side of safety and stop the game. In the cases when coaches or players angrily protest the referee’s decision to stop play, the referee at least has the assurance that he has had the best interest of safety in mind. In almost every competition, injured players who are attended on the field must leave the field, with a few exceptions. They can only reenter after the play has restarted and the referee beckons them on to the field. Many local competitions may allow injured players to be substituted.

Referees also need to know that once they summon a coach or trainer on the field to attend an injured player, they are advised to remove themselves from the immediate vicinity. Hanging around is an invitation for dissent. Backpedaling to the nearest touchline to consult with an Assistant Referee may be advisable at this time for another opinion and to at least demonstrate that the referee wants to make sure of his decision.

Art of Health

Ryan Homik
B.S. in Nutritional Science

Whether you are doing a workout or preparing for a game, doing a warm-up is crucial to ensure that you maximize your performance and minimize injury. While there is no universal warm up, there are many general trends that should be followed while warming up. I have created a video on what my typical warm up routine looks like, and hopefully there are some drills/exercises that you can incorporate into your personalized warm up. If you are serious about performing to your highest potential, then consider taking the extra 20-30 minutes to get in a quality and non-rushed warm up.

Find the video here.

Michigan Referee Committee
State Referee Administrator (SRA): Carlos Folino
State Referee Chairman (SRC): James Wheeler
State Youth Referee Administrator (SYRA): Ronald Grobbel
State Director of Assessment (SDA): Dean Kimmith
State Director of Assignors (SDoA): John Corbett
State Director of Instruction (SDI): Yuya Kiuchi
State Director of Futsal (SDF): Richard Gilbert
Email addresses are the title in parenthesis plus

Please reach out to us!

If you have any referee-related stories to share or someone you think should be featured in this newsletter, please reach out to us at

MRC announcements

Although soccer activities have been suspended for well over a month now, the MRC has been very active with online meetings. As was noted in the opening article, the MRC members attended daily webinars for a week with U.S. Soccer in early April. On average, the MRC has had two to three zoom calls every week to discuss various training opportunities, registrations, etc.

If you visit the MRC website, you will see a link for COVID-19 updates. Please consult the page for the latest information.

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