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Michigan Referee Program / Newsletter  / November Newsletter

November Newsletter

Volume 1, Issue 10
November 1, 2020

Yuya Kiuchi
State Director of Instruction

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

Finally, in October, we were able to start holding certification and recertification classes. I know many of you had been anxiously waiting for a class to be certified or recertified. Many of you who were certified back in 2019 but were not certified this year have been able to go through necessary training to receive a 2021 badge. There will be classes almost every day until the end of the calendar year. Although we will have some recertification classes after January 1, 2021, the focus will shift to classes for brand new referees. So, if you are a recertifying grassroots referee, we encourage you to sign up for a class scheduled for November or December. You can find the recert information here.

In addition to referee classes, current instructors and assessors had been invited to participate in the referee mentor course. In the future, the mentor certification will replace the existing assessor and instructor certifications. About 80 current instructors and assessors have expressed their interests. Many of them have already started the class. The curriculum will include the U.S. Soccer training and Michigan Referee Committee training. We expect them to be certified by the beginning of the spring season.

The MRC has also started offering a monthly training session for mentor candidates. All mentor candidates are invited to this workshop. In October, we covered offside, particularly interfering with an opponent. Over 20 mentors participated in the session, watched 6 video clips, and discussed relevant laws and considerations.

As always, our November newsletter is full of exciting stories and information. Starting this month, we have a new column, “What is Your Call?” Each month, you will receive a link to a video of an incident and a link where you can submit your decision. In the following month, you will see the correct answer and explanation. We are featuring Ron Grobbel as the MRC member of the month. Our regular content includes Referees of the Month and Who’s Who. We are featuring Jay, Hannah, and Emma Pollice for the Referees of the Month column. We have Tony Buckett for Who’s Who. Ken Wikle has an article about assistant referees. Nick Balcer also talks about the importance of report writing.

We have added two videos on the new Laws of the Game changes here. Beyond this newsletter, please be sure to follow our Twitter (@MichiganReferee) and subscribe to our YouTube Channel.

MRC Restructuring

The structure of the Michigan Referee Committee has been revised as of November 1, 2020. As you read in the October newsletter, Dean Kimmith resigned as the State Director of Assessment. Dean’s decision led the MRC to reconsider how the committee should be structured to better serve its referees.

U.S. Soccer has shifted its referee and referee mentor/coach pathways. Previously, we had eight different grades of referees. Today, we have three levels: grassroots, regional, and national referees. We used to have state assessors, state instructors, assessors, and instructors. U.S. Soccer is in the middle of shifting to the referee mentor and coach model which will have referee mentors, referee coaches, and national referee coaches.

To better reflect these structural changes, the MRC decided to discontinue the State Director of Assessment and State Director of Instruction positions. Instead, the MRC has appointed Yuya Kiuchi as the new State Director of Referee Development. Yuya will work with three managers. Tim Deters will be the Manager of Performance Observation. His primary responsibilities will include assigning of mentors to games, including for upgrade and maintenance assessments of regional referees. He will work with DDRDs to ensure that grassroots referees are observed and receive feedback from mentors especially during the first few years after they become referees. Jeff Dornseifer will the Manager of Field Sessions. Jeff will work with tournament assignors and DDRDs to coordinate field sessions. Once we are able to conduct field sessions again, the grassroots course will include a field session. He will also work with DDRDs to coordinate fitness tests. Nichole Kramer-Kiuchi will be the Manager of Video Analysis. She will help the MRC with various instructional sessions, including certification and recertification classes. She will also help the MRC with other learning opportunities for referees.

DDRDs will continue to work closely with Yuya, as well as these three managers to ensure that training opportunities are provided to referees and they receive appropriate feedback in a timely manner from mentors.

Michigan Referee Committee: Ron Grobbel

Ron Grobbel
State Youth Referee Administrator

For the November newsletter, we interviewed our SYRA, Ron Grobbel.

When and how did you become the SYRA of Michigan?

In the Fall of 2016, the previous SYRA, Francisco (Chico) Villarruel was appointed the Midwest Region Referee Administrator. Michigan is also in the MW Region, so to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest, he stepped down as our SYRA. With the recommendation from Carlos Folino, Michigan’s State Referee Administrator, the Michigan State Youth Soccer Association appointed me as the new SYRA.

How were you involved in Michigan soccer before you became the SYRA?

I was first a fan of my wife, Sue, who played adult soccer for several women’s teams as a sweeper. Ultimately, our four daughters also became great soccer players. I never missed a game. Our neighboring recreational league, the Warren Youth Soccer League, provided an opportunity for all of our children to learn the great game of soccer. Similar to the Michigan Referee Committee, the success of such programs relies on its volunteers, for which Sue and I gladly participated. She became the Referee Administrator, and I became the Treasurer for many years. As our children grew, so did our love of the neighborhood game. We both became actively involved with the Macomb County Referee Association for which I volunteered as the secretary, then as President serving from 2009 till 2016. Throughout this time, in addition to my administrative involvement, I really started to enjoy working with referees to help develop their interest and skill of the game. I studied to become a MHSAA soccer referee trainer and for the past ten (10) years, I have studied and attended multiple training sessions to be licensed as an USSF Regional Instructor and Regional Assessor. Back in 2012, I was invited by Michigan’s State Director of Assessment, Gerald Oulelette, to attend Youth Regionals as an assessor. What a great experience it was to work with such fine referees from Michigan as well as those throughout our Midwest Region. It was at this event that Carlos and Chico asked Sue and I to be a part of the State Cup Tournament administrative team.

What are your major responsibilities as the SYRA?

In collaboration with the State Referee Administrator, Carlos Folino, I am responsible for overseeing the administrative and technical needs of the Michigan Referee Committee (MRC). I work closely and support the MRC instructional and assessment programs as well as the youth recreational needs of the Michigan State Youth Soccer Association (MSYSA). Together with my State Cup assigning team, we manage the referee needs for the MSYSA State Cup tournament. The MSYSA has a great relationship with our referee program and supports all of our endeavors. As the SYRA, I appoint the selection committee that reviews all of the nominations for the Young Referee of the Year. Over the past nine (9) years, Michigan referees have earned not only State recognition, but also Regional (6 females, 4 males) with 1 female and 1 male receiving National recognition. I assemble a team that selects referees and mentors to attend MW region Youth Regionals as well as the MW region Presidents Cup. Throughout the year, there are many collaborative programs Carlos and I attend. To name a few, the U.S. Soccer Annual General Meeting, the US Youth Soccer Workshop, and the U.S. Soccer Referee Program Workshop. In addition to representing Michigan, at these events we meet with fellow State Referee administrators and share ideas to improve all of our referee programs. We attend quarterly referee development meetings with U.S. Soccer to learn about the latest instructional and mentor initiatives.

What do you enjoy the most about being the SRYA?

I love to provide opportunities for referees to excel and develop as they become the best that they want to be on the pitch. I get to know some great people and help them achieve their goals.

If you can brag about MI referees to other states, what would it be?

Michigan referees are respected everywhere in the country. I don’t have to brag. When at regional or national events, our Michigan referees display the utmost professionalism. Their demeanor and skill on the pitch is acknowledged and respected by all fellow administrators.

What is your referee background? When did you start refereeing?

Back in the early fall of 1998, my oldest daughter Megan wanted to become a soccer referee just like her mother. At that time new referee courses were eight (8) weeks long. I didn’t want Sue to have all the fun so I decided to take the training with Megan as well. Since then I have been following in Sue’s footsteps eventually upgrading to a Regional referee.

What is the best memory of being a referee?

As you can tell from my previous comments, I love to officiate with Sue and my daughters. I was honored to be selected as the referee to officiate the MHSAA Boys finals and excited when appointed by Pete Morrissey, SYRA at the time, to officiate the MSYSA U15 boy’s final.

What is the best memory of being the SYRA?

Last year when I announced the Carlos Folino Young Referee of the Year scholarship at our State recertification clinic, it was very memorable as I relived his career and contribution to the referee program. However, my fondest memory was at my first President Cup regional event as Michigan’s SYRA. Among the many other grade 6 & 7 referees from other states, some of our grade 8 referees were selected for finals. Fellow SYRAs asked me to share our development program ideas with them as they were very impressed with our referee delegation at the event. I replied, we provide our aspiring referees the basic framework that enable the referees to develop to be their best, we mentor them at various events, with all of the hard work accomplished by the referees.

Besides being the SYRA, what other roles do you have in the soccer world?

I am a member of the MSYSA Board of Directors and additionally on the Michigan State Premier Soccer Program (MSPSP) Board of Directors. I have never played the game of soccer, though I am a great fan. I work hard to stay current with the LOTG as well as the latest instructional and assessment techniques. I am currently a Regional Assessor as well as Regional Instructor. I am actively pursuing, within U.S. Soccer, the new Referee Mentor license as a pathway to becoming a Referee Coach.

What advice do you have for young aspiring referees?

Review the Laws of the Game on a regular basis. Download the IFAB app and use it. Take advantage of all of the instructional material found on our website and at U.S. Soccer. Realize that the referee is just as much an athlete as the players we officiate: stay in shape. The players practice many times a week, so should referees. When provided an opportunity to attend a field clinic, do so. Maintain your availability and work to establish a relationship with your assignors. Challenge yourself on a regular basis. During a match, we will all make mistakes, it is what you learn from those mistakes and how you implement improvement is what will provide you with life-long lessons. Don’t be afraid to reach out to me for advice.

Thank you, Ron.

Thank you.

Referee of the Month: Jay, Hannah, and Emma Pollice

We have always been a soccer family. I (Jay) have been either a player, coach, or official for the last 41 years. Hannah and Emma started playing at the age of 5. In summer of 2016, both girls asked to take the Grade 9 course. After playing soccer for many years, they thought it would be a good way to continue to enjoy the game and make some extra money. I thought it would be a great way to reconnect with the game again after coaching for a number of years. What I didn’t expect it as how much fun it would be to be able to work with my girls, this time not as a coach, but as a fellow official on the field.

Being a soccer official not only allowed me to appreciate the game from a whole other vantage point, but it has allowed me to be more involved in my two teenage daughters’ lives. We have grown together as fellow officials. We have been able to experience a number of highs and lows on the field together. Being able to be working as a team with my daughters allowed them to gain an enormous amount of confidence on and off of the pitch. Now in their fifth year, they are flourishing on their own. No longer are they leaning on dad for assistance. They are now in full control of their matches. They work and strive for perfection on the field. The girls exude confidence in their abilities as referees now more than ever.

I (Hannah) have not only grown in my abilities as an official, but as a friend, teammate, family member, student, and much more. Because of my experiences as a referee, I have developed a sense of confidence in not only my abilities on the field, but in every aspect of my life. Looking back, I would credit much of my success and acceleration in school and my relationships to being a soccer player and reffing. As I move on to college, I would love to continue this journey as an official, while also developing as a better student, colleague, and individual overall.

I (Emma) have cherished refereeing so much these past few years because of the ties it has given me to the community. I have gotten to know many of the teams and coaches personally that I have refereed. It is truly amazing to see the teams you work with improve and grow as they get older. My relationship with my family has grown for the better through reffing also. Reffing gave my family the chance to connect in different ways that other families might not get a chance to do. Whether it’s refereeing at a tournament or just a random match in our hometown, I always know I can rely on my family across the field to have my back.  I look forward to continuing to be a referee in my college years and beyond. 

What is Your Call?

This is a new feature of our monthly newsletter. Every month, you will receive a link to a video clip and another link to a google form where you can submit your answer. In the following month, you will see the expected decision of the incident.

This month, our video is about challenges. You will have to decide if a foul has occurred. If it has, where was it? Was it inside the penalty area or outside? Is there a disciplinary action needed?

You can find the video here.

You can submit your answer here.

Referee Coach Class

On October 15, Nichole Kramer-Kiuchi started her U.S. Soccer referee coach certification endeavor. Earlier in the fall, she had been selected by the U.S. Soccer to be one of the 16 referee coach candidates across the nation. If she successfully completes her training, she will be the first referee coach in the state. The referee coach license is the second level certification in the referee mentor/coach pathway. While referee mentors have three tasks (conducting performance observation, leading a field session, and leading a video analysis), referee coaches have five tasks (evaluating performance, leading post-match reflection, writing evaluation, leading a video analysis, and leading a field session).

Nichole’s training with U.S. Soccer is slated to run until June 1, 2021. Her endeavor has just started with an orientation in middle October, followed by 4 weekend webinars of 2.5 hours each between late October and early November. As you can tell just from this timeline, this is a very time- and labor-intensive process. We have asked Nichole to share updates on her progress in the referee coach course in future newsletters.

NISA Final in Michigan

Jake Brochu
Regional Referee

Earlier in the month, I was assigned to the NISA Fall Tournament Championship along with an experienced crew. The Championship game brought about some challenges and definitely made us work. With all of the hard work over the summer training for a fall season, it was put to the test. Even though it was a tough game, what made it easier was the fact that we had a good pregame discussion, have all worked together before, all brought our “A” game, and had the benefit of using headsets. Having all worked together brought about the comfort that we all knew the calls that would be made by the whole crew. 

With about 10 minutes left we had a 2-1 lead and you could tell the temperature of the game was rising. Staying focused and in the game was key to a successful Championship Match. Over the last few minutes of the match every foul and call were magnified. As AR1 I had to stay very focused because my line was in front of the losing team’s bench. Keeping our composure as a crew was also vital.

Having the opportunity to work this game helped me gain even more confidence in my refereeing ability, and definitely showed to everyone watching the game that Michigan has skilled referees. The crew as a whole did a nice job in managing a professional championship match.

Assessing the Severity of an Offense: Part 5 (Direction: Front, Side, or Behind)

Nicole Green
National Referee Candidate

Last month, we introduced the concept of timing as a consideration for determining foul severity. Did the foul happen with the ball? Or was it before or after? Let’s review the example clip that you can access here.

White #2 fouls Blue #7 as he slides and makes contact to the lower shin / upper foot area. White #2’s challenge for the ball is late, as it has already been kicked ahead and Blue #7 is attempting to chase after the ball. Due to the timing and reckless nature of the tackle, the expected outcome is a foul and yellow card. 

Moving on to our new topic for this month and the fourth and final consideration to help determine the severity of a foul: Direction – front, side, or behind.  When we say direction, we should think about where the initiating player (perpetrator) makes contact when they commit a foul against an opponent (victim).    

Generally, when the perpetrator’s contact is from the front of their victim, they are within the opponent’s field of vision and the player can prepare for the impending contact coming from their opponent. Thus, this may be considered lower severity. 

When the perpetrator’s contact is from the side of their victim, they may be on the fringe or outside of the field of vision and thus, may or may not be aware of the impending contact, and less likely to be able to prepare for it. Therefore, contact from the side will generally be considered medium severity. 

Conversely, when the perpetrator’s contact is from behind their victim, they are outside of the opponent’s field of vision and the player may not be aware of the impending contact and is more than likely unable to prepare for it. As such, contact from behind is considered higher severity. 

Let’s practice this by watching a video clip:

Clip 1

Clip 2

After watching this play, please complete this brief quiz.  The appropriate decisions will be reviewed in next month’s newsletter. 

Who’s Who in Michigan: Tony Buckett

Tony Bucket
USSF Instructor and Assessor

I was volunteered “in absentia” to become a referee by my wife when a AYSO Region was being set up in West Branch.

As a USSF Instructor for 20 some years I am known by just about every referee in Northern Michigan, they all know I am a Brit.

As a Brit I was introduced to a soccer ball shortly after being able to walk. Starting at about seven years old through to “graduation” sports became a weekly class in school; soccer in winter, cricket in summer. I usually played half-back or full back when it became apparent that I had an instinct for anticipating how our opponent’s forwards were going to develop their attack only to find me there waiting. This ability still stands me in good stead as I do not need to conscientiously think about anticipating play.

I have a number of very fond memories, here is one of my favorites.

When refereeing a senior game in Midland, I made a call that upset a player. The player then uttered a profound curse in Polish. Instant Red Card. The Captain ran over to talk to me “why you give me a red card?” I responded that, due to having spent considerable time working in Poland, I knew exactly what he had called me and it easily met the standards for a “send-off.” His muttered response was “it not fair when you understand!”

Refereeing is an excellent training ground for all forms of people management, and however badly one screws up, it is only an hour or so before you can start over.

Although still qualified, I have not been an active USSF referee (former Grade 7) for several years. I have been instructing in Northern Michigan for close to 20 years. I have also been qualified as an assessor. I have attended multiple courses and seminars with world class referees. I am extremely active with H.S. and AYSO soccer as a referee and an instructor.

I am extremely proud of my contribution to the refereeing career of Brad Barlog a recipient of the USSF Young Referee of the Year.

When not involved with soccer I am a licensed real estate agent after a career in high technology machine tools on three continents.

Tip of the Month: Report Writing

Nick Balcer
National Assistant Referee

Last month I talked about some key points in writing reports and their importance in our duties as a match official. It is important to remember the facts, use proper terminology and language from the Laws of the Game, and always have the whole crew read the report to ensure its accuracy.

This month we are going to look at a video clip and a report written from this clip. What you will notice about this report is its simplicity. When writing reports, keep it simple. We don’t need to write a novel when describing the situation. If more information is needed, the administrators will ask for it.

Please watch this video.

An example of the report may read, “In the 80th minute of the match, Toronto #18 Delgado was shown a red card and sent off for serious foul play for a tackle, while challenging for the ball, that endangered the safety of his opponent. Delgado did leave the field of play in a timely manner without further incident.”

The report states language directly from the IFAB Laws of the Game and shares everything that is needed for possible disciplinary sanctions.

Assistant Referee Chronicles

Ken Wikle
Regional referee first registered with USSF in 1978

For many years, the two referees outside the field of play who called the ball out of bounds were referred to as “Linesman.” With their flag signals, they communicated with the referee for throw-ins, goal kicks, corner kicks, and offside. Although the referee was able to make many of these calls themselves, close calls on the boundary lines and cases where the referee’s sight was obstructed allowed the linesmen to add accuracy to the game. They were particularly useful for close offside situations.

In the late 1990s, FIFA upgraded the title of linesman to “Assistant Referee” acknowledging the fact that these two officials could also provide valuable assistance in providing the referee with more information to control the game.

In professional level soccer, the addition of radio headsets and beeper flags have further enhanced communication and the ability of the assistant referees to help control the game. This level of assistance is not used for amateur and youth games. The simple use of flag signals must suffice.

How do newly certified referees learn to do this? What are the challenges associated with learning? What skills and behaviors do they need to acquire? New grassroots referees will most likely get their first assignments as assistant referees for U14 and below games. They must master the assistant referee (AR) signals, proper mechanics and positioning, teamwork skills with the officiating crew, and professionalism.

There are advanced skills associated with being an AR: assisting with game control, following the referee’s pregame instructions, assisting the referee with correct interpretation of the Laws, game reporting, controlling the technical area, assisting with misconduct, and handling mass confrontations

Covering the AR’s role at succeeding higher levels will help new and experienced officials provide useful assistance to referees.

In this article and the following article(s) I will attempt to cover these aforementioned topics.

Signaling Tips:

We usually communicate with each other by word and body language. Just using a flag to communicate with someone is a new experience for most everyone. Fortunately, there are only a limited number of flag signals used to communicate with the referee, but in order to communicate effectively these signals must be easily visible and precisely made.

A few pitfalls that new ARs Need to avoid: The signal for goal kick and corner kick are low signals below the shoulder level and need to be made precisely. A corner kick signal not made clearly at 45 degrees to the ground and within a yard or two of the corner flag may be confused with a sloppily made goal kick signal.  A goal kick signal needs to be made with the goal side arm exactly parallel to the ground. ARs need to make sure these two signals can be easily differentiated for the referee. Looking at them from the referee’s angle and distance may lead to confusion if not made properly.

All signals by the AR (except a good goal) are made stopped at attention facing the field of play at 90 degrees, especially an offside signal. A throw in signal made facing the goal line or half line may be misinterpreted by the referee.   A running offside signal is not proper and will not aid the referee. Seeing an assistant referee stopped and standing with his flag straight up is what the referee is expecting.  A running signal for offside may also be obstructed by players and not recognized.

The substitution signal is to be made at a stoppage of play and to notify the referee that a team wishes to substitute. There is no need to maintain the signal once the referee acknowledges the signal. Lower the signal once the referee acknowledges it. The AR should make the signal up above the head and ensure that the flag is not obstructing their vision of the field. There is no signal for an AR to let the referee a substitution is completed. The Laws of the Game require that a player to be substituted leave the field first before a substitute enters. This should alleviate the need for a signal signifying the substitution is complete. In youth games, mass substitutions make this process more complicated and both the referee and AR may need to count players and have an “unofficial” signal to let each other know the substitution is over. The signal should be agreed upon during the referee’s pregame conference with the ARs.

An AR’s flag should always be carried in the field side hand (usually the left). Hiding the flag on the opposite side of the body does not help the referee see it as it is raised. The AR should let the flag fly and not hold the flag furled against the handle. The more flag the referee can see, the better, so he can notice a signal quickly made. If the AR turns and runs towards the half line, he should switch the flag to the opposite hand to keep it on the field side. As an AR sprints up the touchline with the flag (in his field side hand) he must refrain from pumping his flag arm. The up and down movement of the flag is a distraction to the referee. The AR needs to pin the flag to his thigh while sprinting to avoid this distraction.

The flag should not be waved at the referee to try and get his attention. Referees are supposed to keep their ARs in view as they move up the field on attack. An AR should only wave the flag to signal a foul in front of them if the referee is either obstructed or too far away to recognize it is a foul. If the AR needs to get the referee’s attention for something out of the ordinary, he simply should stand with his flag up at attention until recognized.

Some referees think they should “Crack” the flag snapping it as they make a signal over their head. This should not be necessary. Referees that keep their ARs in view should be able to respond to the visual of the flag being raised.

These basic flag signaling rules need to be practiced and become a habit to ensure good communication and project professionalism and decisiveness on the part of the AR.

In the next installment I will address positioning and mechanics.

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 Referee Development (SDRD): Yuya Kiuchi
State Director of Assignors (SDoA): John Corbett
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

While we certify many brand new grassroots referees every year, we also lose many. Some retire from many years of officiating while other stop refereeing after a year or two. Some may continue to officiate but in another state. Earlier this year, John Nadzam moved to Ohio and is now finishing up his last few games in Michigan. A small group of referees got together one evening to say thank-you to his almost 30 years of his officiating career. He now resides about 30 minutes south of Dayton, OH. We would like to thank John for his work as a referee and for many great memories that our referees cherish.

We are in the middle of the recertification process. We hope you will take a recertification class soon so that you will be able to officiate in 2021. You can find the recert information here. If you know anyone who would like to become a referee, we offer numerous grassroots referee classes, as well. You can find relevant information here.

Contact one of us on the Michigan Referee Committee if you have any questions.

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