Volume 4, Issue 1
February 1, 2023
From the Editor
Hello readers and happy February. As anticipation is building for warmer weather and the outdoor spring season, we have plenty of material to keep you busy while waiting for your local soccer pitch to thaw out. In this issue we will check out PRO Preseason Camp and the MRC Mentorship Program, hear from Yuya Kiuchi about his work as State Director of Referee Development, and preview what is to come in the Continuing Education courses that are upcoming later this month. Thank you to all who take the time to read the newsletter, the MRC blog, and/or stay turned to news and events on our social media channels. As you will continue to see, the MRC is producing quality content for referees of all levels as the Michigan Referee Program continues to grow.
If you have a topic or story that you think would be a good feature in our Newsletter, make sure to share it with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also stay up to date with everything referee related from the MRC through our media channels: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and our Blog.
Editor, MRC Newsletter
In this Issue:
2023 PRO Preseason Camp
On January 20-22 the Professional Referee Organization (PRO) hosted its annual preseason camp in Houston, Texas. In attendance were all PRO and PRO2 officials, along with all PRO Assessors. Representing Michigan (left to right in photo above) were Jason White (PRO AR), Nick Balcer (PRO2 AR), Carlos Folino (PRO Assessor), Joe Suchoski (PRO2 AR), and Yuya Kiuchi (PRO Assessor).
The weekend consisted of classroom sessions for all attendees. A number of different topics were discussed. The senior referee group talked about penalty area incidents, handball, and Law 11 deliberate vs. deflection. For PRO2 officials 3 topics were discussed: Law 11 changes to deliberate vs. deflection, VAR delay for NWSL matches, and penalty area incidents.
Note: Jason White, Joe Suchoski, and Nick Balcer all passed their fitness tests the last weekend in January and are set for preseason and regular season competitions.
MRC Winter Continuing Education
Continuing Education Session #1
On January 18, the MRC held its first continuing education session. For the first 30 minutes, Jacob Little shared his path to become a national official. Jacob is a second-year national assistant referee and he emphasized the importance of taking each game seriously and learning a lot from every single game. He shared that whenever he worked on local games including State Cup games, he learned new skills.
After Jacob’s talk, Joe Suchoski, Mike Wint, Jacob Little, and Doug Prim made a presentation on offside. Each mentor showed an offside video clip and facilitated discussion.
Continuing Education Session #2
On January 29, we held our second continuing education session. For the first 30 minutes, Yuya Kiuchi shared what professional league assessors observe when they assess officials. One of the major takeaways was the importance of match control, namely consistency and accuracy of decisions such as fouls, misconduct, and advantage. While positioning and movement are important, professional league assessors prioritize other facets of referee performance. Furthermore, assessors are there to simply record the performance of each official. In other words, they are not there looking for mistakes.
After Yuya’s talk, Josh Abts, Chico Villarruel, Luis Aguirre-Rivera, and David Esshaki made a presentation on penalty area incidents. Each mentor showed a video clip and facilitated discussion.
In February, the MRC will be hosting three continuing-ed sessions: Feb 9 (Challenges), Feb 19 (Tactical fouls), and Feb 28 (Handball). The guest speaker for each day will be: Christian Little, Jake Brochu, and Ron Grobbel
For more information including the Zoom link to join the remaining continuing education sessions visit the MRC website: MRC Continuing Education
Currently in Michigan we have 51 referee mentors, 1 referee coach, and 3 national referee coaches. We now have 10 referees undergoing the referee mentor training program. They met virtually in November and January to learn about various tasks of referee mentors. On Feb 25 and 26, they will meet in person in East Lansing to have their final evaluation. By successfully completing the program, these 10 people will officially become referee mentors. The mentor candidates are: Gavin Bergquist, Meghan Brasseur, Jason Greaves, David Neill, Joshua Pederson, Steven Seward, Eric Siegrist, Joe Suchoski, Kent Timm, and Brett Willner. If you are interested in becoming a referee mentor, please reach out to your DDRD.
While the number of referee mentors is increasing, every year, the MRC has some mentors who retire. Mentoring and coaching is an invaluable asset to the Michigan Referee Program. These folks take time away from their jobs, families, and the field to help referees learn, grow, and mature. The MRC would like to thank the following individuals for their service as a referee mentor or coach: Conlan Campbell, Leighton Kelly, Dean Kimmith, Jenna Livingston, Nick Raith, Chris Rein, Igor Reznik (National Referee Coach 2019-2022), Shaun Soraghan, Jason White, and Amy Willing.
State Director of Referee Development Report
We had the chance to talk with the MRC’s State Director of Referee Development, Yuya Kiuchi, about 2022 and to preview what is to come for 2023.
Yuya, could you share some thoughts about 2022 and what the MRC accomplished?
We had a very successful year. We had six national officials (including Jason White) working on MLS, NWSL, and USLC, USL League 1, and MLS Next Pro games. Our local officials worked on NISA and semi-professional games, as well. Our mentors/coaches worked from small-sided recreational games up to MLS. We were well represented at USYS Nationals, Regionals, and Presidents Cup Nationals and Regionals and the officials at those events performed at a high level. We also had many referees travel out of state at NLC events, MLS Next, Dallas Cup, and many other tournaments and competitions. The State Cup weekends were also successful, giving many referees an opportunity to be seen. We are also very excited to add both Kristy and Eric as managers.
In 2022, the MRC was able to greatly expand the resources available to referees and referee coaches both on and off the field. Could you highlight a few of those opportunities?
On-the-field, we had about 80 games on which formal evaluations happened. About 500 observations happened in 2022. We need to do better but this is a good start. Off-the-field, we provided numerous zoom training sessions between Feb and Mar. We have a YouTube page, blog, and mentor resource folder (open to everyone). We now have a new editor for the newsletter. We have asked Krisy Bos to be the Manager of Recruitment and Retention. In this capacity, she is focusing her work on providing information to both brand-new and recertifying referees. All of these opportunities are where people can learn. We will provide more opportunities in 2023.
What is a goal for 2023 that you have from a referee & referee coach development standpoint?
For upper-level officials working on semi-pro games, we will have 3 to 4 in-person advanced referee training sessions in Feb/Mar. For those working on high-level youth games, we will have 6 zoom sessions between Jan and Mar. We have identified 10 top referee evaluators in the state. Their initial meeting happened on November 20 and they will continue to be trained. They have been recommended to take a referee coach class in 2023. Our goal is to have 7 referee coaches by the end of 2023 (in addition to Chico already as a coach and 3 National Referee Coaches). This structure will allow National Referee Coaches to train Referee Coaches, and Referee Coaches to train mentors. Mentors will be given opportunities to help develop referees working on the State Cup level and below. We will have a more structured approach.
Upgrading to Regional for 2024- Last Call
This is the last call for officials who fit the criteria listed below who would like to apply to be a Regional Referee for 2024. The application process will be closed at the end of the month of February. If you are wondering if you are able to upgrade, here is a list of requirements that need to be met for application.
- Will you be 18 years or older by December 31, 2023?
- Have you been a US Soccer certified referee for three (3) consecutive years?
- Have you completed your annual Safe Sport certification?
- Can you PASS the FIFA Women’s Referee Fitness Test?
- Taking into consideration the previous game experience for ONLY ADULT AMATEUR level soccer matches, AND those you will have officiated by December 31, 2023,
- Will you have the experience as the center referee for ~ 25 games and 15 as the assistant referee?
For the game count requirement, youth games do not count. Only adult amateur and above will count. If you said yes to all the questions above and are interested, you can submit your application here: Regional Referee Upgrade. Upgrade application is due on Feb 28, 2023.
National Referee Coach Camp
On January 7, US Soccer held its virtual National Referee Coach Camp. 68 National Referee Coaches, including 2 new National Referee Coaches, attended the class. The 4.5-hour class included 4 technical sessions: offside, penalty area incidents, challenges, and tactical offenses. Each session was led by two instructors and participants discussed multiple video clips. Yuya Kiuchi was one of the 8 instructors of the class.
Upon completion of the zoom call, Carlos Folino, Yuya Kiuchi, and Nichole Kramer-Kiuchi had their National Referee Coach license issued officially for 2023. These National Referee Coaches will evaluate officials who wish to be considered for their National Referee or Assistant Referee badge, as well as those who wish to maintain their National badge. They will also be active in Michigan for regional upgrade and maintenance evaluations.
Assistant Referee Perception Tests
While many of us might still be inside during the off-season, that doesn’t stop our ability to get prepared for the outdoor season which will be here before many of us know it. At times it is tough to simulate on field situations while we are off the field. One practice that many of the top assistant referees in the US and around the world do to stay sharp in the offseason is AR perception tests. AR perception tests are video quizzes designed to simulate on-field AR offside decisions. Each year PRO and other organizations put out videos for practice. As a way to improve your perception and offseason preparations, here are a few video links to AR perception tests that you may find valuable.
United Soccer Coaches Convention
The 2023 United Soccer Coaches Convention was hosted from January 12th to the 15th in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The MRC was represented by (left to right in photo above) State Director of Referee Development Yuya Kiuchi, SRA Carlos Folino, and SYRA Ron Grobbel. In addition to attending technical sessions led by FIFA, Concacaf, PRO, and US Soccer instructors, they met with various companies and organizations that the MRC has worked with or may work with in the future. These companies included some assigning and registration software companies that conducted demos, a company that will make referee coins with the MRC’s new logo, and others.
By Ken Wikle, Regional Emeritus Referee
In amateur soccer referees do not have radio headsets like our counterparts in professional soccer. When the referee has their back turned to one AR they will not see anything happening behind them. In youth soccer unlimited substitution allows teams to get more players into the game. In some recreational leagues players are supposed to get to play half the game. With an 18 player roster, getting everyone half a game can be a procedural challenge. Some head coaches put an assistant coach in charge of substitutions so the head coach can concentrate on the game. The officiating team must make sure that whenever there are players waiting at the half line, they are allowed to get into the game. The referee is primarily responsible for allowing substitutions. The assistant referee on the team side must signal with their flag that a substitution is requested. If there is a throw in, corner kick or goal kick in on the opposite side of the field, the referee may have their back to the team side AR.
How can they be notified of this substitution request? The near side AR if they are attentive can see the opposite AR with a substitute signal in process. By making the signal to the referee who is facing them, the request for a substitution can be easily and quickly communicated. This is referred to as “mirroring”. Without this form of “across the field” communication, substitutes, who should be allowed to enter the game, will be “stranded” until the referee notices that their AR on the team side is signaling. If substitutes have to wait through several stoppages, they will get frustrated and the coaches will also. By using the “mirroring” technique the officials can more effectively control substitutions and show the players and coaches they are in tune with the needs of the game.
In older age groups and adult play “mirroring” can be especially effective when there are incidents of misconduct committed behind the referee’s back. When play instantaneously changes direction the referee must turn and follow play. If a defender commits a late, reckless tackle just after the referee turns their back, how will the officials catch this? If the trailing AR witnesses this incident in their half, they could raise their flag for a foul. Chances are the referee, who has their back turned to the AR, won’t see the signal.
An alert leading AR on the other side could see the flag and mirror the signal. If there is a true advantage situation it is better that play continue but without advantage the late reckless tackle should be punished by stopping play and issuing a caution as soon as possible. With the AR’s communicating to the referee using the mirroring technique, misconduct will be punished expeditiously enhancing overall control of the game.
An extreme case of misconduct in a game in which I was an AR resulted in timely punishment. A shot on goal occurred in my end. The goalkeeper easily saved this shot. They cleared the ball up field quickly and their team counterattacked. The referee had turned their back to the goalkeeper and followed play in the new attacking end. For some reason the forward who took the previous shot on the goalkeeper advanced closely to the goalkeeper after the goalkeeper cleared the ball up field. A heated argument ensued and the goalkeeper punched the forward while they were still standing in their own penalty area. I witnessed this and immediately raised my flag to get the referees attention. The referee was busy following the counter attack in the other end of the field. The other AR saw my flag and mirrored my signal. The referee blew his whistle when he saw the lead AR with his flag up. The lead AR pointed across the field at me. Because the referee had his back turned he had to run all the way back to me for a description of what had happened. Once I explained the incident, he took action. The goalkeeper was sent off for violent conduct for punching the forward. Because the incident occurred in his own penalty area and the ball was in play at the time the referee awarded a penalty kick to the opponents. The player who replaced the goalkeeper had to defend the penalty kick and the goalkeepers’ team played one short for the balance of the game.
Without the mirroring technique being employed this violent incident may not have been punished or would have been delayed substantially. The mirroring technique can be a valuable tool for ARs to communicate to the referee.
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
State Director of Recruitment (mgr.recruitment): Kristy Bos
State Director of Communication (mgr.communications): Eric Siegrist
Manager of Performance Observation (mgr.observation): Tim Deters
Manager of Field Sessions (mgr.field): Jeff Dornseifer
Manager of Video Analysis (mgr.video): Nichole Kramer-Kiuchi
Manager of Pedagogy (mgr.pedagogy): Kalani Burghard
Email addresses are the title in parenthesis plus @michiganrefs.org
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 the Editor-In-Chief, Nick Balcer at email@example.com.
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.