Welcome to the July issue of the MRC newsletter. We hope all of you and your family and friends are staying safe.
We continue to live under uncertainties. We have no clear idea when soccer might resume in the state. I am sure you have heard about various professional leagues across the world restarting their season or about college leagues considering to have a shortened season. The MRC is in close contact with various leagues and associations. As soon as we hear from them with any updates, we will reach out to you.
Meanwhile, the MRC is still active online. The committee members have a phone call or a virtual meeting a few times a week, at least. We held several online training sessions. In the newsletter last month, I briefly talked about the new mentor development project. We had the initial meeting in early June and its second meeting in late June. Alex Plum has a report from the initial meeting below. Women’s Referee Academy continues to meet monthly. It recently had a guest instructor, Nami Imaizumi. Nami is a National Referee Coach from Florida and is a former FIFA referee. Being able to have a guest speaker is an advantage of the remote learning environment. Beyond the MRC, local associations are also active. Andrew Hoard’s report below is about a small instructional session that a few fellow Michigan referees participated. If your local association has a similar training session, please feel free to send me a report so that I can share what you do with the rest of the state.
Many of you may be wondering how the registration for 2021 will look like. The MRC is nearing finalizing its registration plan for next year. You should hear from us very soon about what you will have to do to remain as an active referee in the 2020-2021 season. I have also been developing numerous instructional materials that will be a part of the recertification program or a part of continuing education program.
In addition to a few of the articles I have already mentioned above, in this July newsletter, we will continue to have many exciting articles. We are featuring Marc Lawrence, a former National Referee and the President-Elect of NISOA for 2021-2022, for Michigan Referees Beyond Michigan. Because Marc lived in Michigan until very recently, many of you might have refereed with him. In the Feature Referee section, we are focusing on Stephanie and Alexis Pickerel. We will have our regular contributors such as Ken Wikle and Ryan Homik.
Our weekly video library continues to expand. In June, we have added four more videos. These videos discussed multiple consecutive decisions, corner kick management, bleeding players, and AR support. The corner kick management video includes a rare recording of the referee communication system. You can find these videos on our YouTube Channel.
For the July newsletter, we had the honor to interview Marc Lawrence, a former U.S. Soccer national referee and the President-Elect for NISOA 2021-2022.
What is your relationship to Michigan? When did you leave MI?
I grew up playing soccer and refereeing in Brighton, Michigan, and I first became a referee in 1990. Kari Seitz (four-time FIFA Women’s World Cup and three-time Olympic Games referee) used to referee my games, and I was able to referee with her on several matches when I was a Grade 8/7. Ken Burcaw was my first referee instructor. I then attended Michigan State University and lived in the East Lansing area for about 13 years graduating and practicing law in commercial and environmental litigation before moving to Commerce Township and continuing my legal and referee careers in Metro Detroit. Last year, I relocated to Charlotte, North Carolina, to continue my career at Bank of America.
What do you miss the most about MI?
The lakes. I grew up on a lake, and my family would go up north many times a year to Portage Lake and other great northern Michigan lakes to fish, swim, hike, and hunt. The numerous lakes are one of Michigan’s best assets and it’s noticeably different in Charlotte.
Do you have any referee or soccer-related memories from MI?
Yes, many. I loved refereeing in the early years of the USL and PDL, including being PDL Referee of the Year in 2003 and refereeing the PDL Finals. Generally, I also loved the seriousness of the competition and ethnic rivalries in the MPSL and MUSL in the late 1990s because some of the feelings were still very fresh in the minds of the players and families that came to the United States during and after the conflicts in their respective home countries. I was studying international relations at MSU, so I had some more in-depth knowledge of the conflicts before watching them essentially re-emerge on the field. Winning over the respect of the players and establishing their trust in me that I would handle situations and games fairly and consistently week in and week out both made me a better referee and helped me understand what is it means to be a better referee.
What are your current referee-related responsibilities/roles/appointments like (including non-USSF)?
Currently, I am the active NISOA Vice President and the President-Elect for 2021-2022. We are working to drastically improve NISOA for the coming years and bring it up to speed with respect to relevant referee education and training for the college game, the use of the Internet and social media, smart technologies, and game exposure for advancing referees through various skill levels.
What is the best memory of your referee career so far?
I always enjoyed learning at National Camps and attending the Region II Amateur Finals. I also loved going to tournaments, like the Dallas Cup, the Disney Showcase, Nike Friendlies, the Region III finals as an exchange referee, and more local tournaments. Those games always were fun because of the camaraderie with the referees, administrators, and teams associated with those events, and there was less stress from the large crowds, travel, and consequences of pro and college games. Despite the seriousness of refereeing professional and televised games, I never wanted to take it so seriously that it was not enjoyable on and off the field. There is no one game or moment that was the best for me, it always has been a long series of great moments, even from the beginning.
What are a few things that you learned early in your referee career that continue to be important today?
Preparation, viewing angle, understanding dynamic and static play, body language, eye contact, getting what you want from the game, reading people, being reasonable, and finding fairness under the circumstances. These are applicable from U-8s to pros. The LOTG are such a great equalizer and tool for managing the game, and we need to apply them consistently to get the result that the laws require and the game, players, and fans expect. Today, FIFA, USSF, and NISOA all list the considerations for making decisions when viewing challenges and etc.; and, knowing those elements and applying them consistently at the level appropriate for the game you are refereeing will make you a better referee.
What are a few of the things that helped you become a successful referee?
I think refereeing a lot of games and consistently applying what I learned from instructors, assessors, mentors, and other referee coaches in those games was the biggest factor in my improvement. Later, self-analysis from videos of myself refereeing was very helpful. It’s so helpful to have others watch your games and provide feedback because in the intense moments of the game, it will actually hurt you to dwell on that self-analysis, plus you forget some aspects of things after they happen. For example, you may not realize after the game that you mis-read a player hitting a long ball to the forward too late and you reacted too late to get into a good angle to make the correct DOGSO decision on a play the results in a mass confrontation and multiple send offs. Having another referee (or video) watch how and when you anticipated (or reacted) to the play will help you get to the root cause of the mistake and provide for a relatively easy fix avoiding the later mistake leading to a mass confrontation. Lastly, reading and understanding players reactions, emotions, voice tone, body language, and interaction among themselves, opponents, coaches, and fans is a constantly ongoing and important analysis that you need to be making from the moment you arrive at the field. Nothing happens in a vacuum, and everything is a clue as to what will happen next. Reading those clues and being prepared for what is next is essential to refereeing, whether it’s simply moving position, or talking to a player to prevent a retaliation, or disciplining the right person after a misconduct.
What advice do you have for young aspiring referees?
Keep going and always look to improve. Every setback is an opportunity to improve, and you always can get better. You need to look at failure as an opportunity, develop microsteps for improvement, and never think that you are better than the game.
Thank you, Marc.
District Directors of Referee Development Announcement
As U.S. Soccer’s referee instructor and assessor certifications are merged to the referee mentor/coach licenses, the Michigan Referee Committee (MRC) has restructured its instruction and assessment programs. As a result, the functions of District Directors of Instruction and District Directors of Assessment are being merged. The MRC has appointed District Directors of Referee Development (DDRDs) across the state to help coordinate the activities of referee mentors serving our grassroots referees. The new DDRDs are:
Metro West: Rich Gilbert and Jeff Dornseifer
Metro East: Dan Kuskowski and Eduardo Rodriguez
Downriver: Pat Mathieu
Flint/Saginaw/Midland: Russ Cossaboom and Matt Krause
North: Bruce Falberg and Kevin Avery
Lansing/Jackson: Andrew Hoard and Tom Butterfield
Kalamazoo: Jim DeBrabander and Bill Wilkinson
Grand Rapids: Bill Howard and Kristy Bos
South West: Simon Blackwell and Chris Haack
The role of DDRDs will primarily be an administrative one, but they will help shape future referee development at the local level.
1. Assigning of referee mentors who live in their districts to observe and provide on-field feedback to local grassroots referees in youth matches.
2. Assigning of referee mentors (or referee coaches) to periodically run video clip analysis sessions using materials provided by the MRC. This could happen in either online or classroom sessions.
3. Assigning of referee mentors (or referee coaches) to conduct field training exercises in the preseason or prior to local tournaments.
The needs of Regional Referees (formerly State Referees) will continue to be managed by members of the Michigan Referee Committee.
Last but not least, the MRC wishes to thank all the DDAs and DDIs who have served the referees in the state.
The MRC is Now on Twitter
It was not long time ago when we lived in the world where “information literacy” meant knowing how to access information. Twenty years ago, the Internet was becoming more and more common in many households. Today, for many of us, the challenge is not about accessing information. Information literacy now includes knowing how to survive in the inundation of information. This also means that it is very easy to miss some critical information.
This is a part of the reason why the MRC has multiplied its information sharing channels. In addition to our website and GameOfficials page, we have the newsletter and the weekly video series. Some of you who have attended state-sponsored events are on the MRC’s Team app. Now, we have our own Twitter account (@MichiganReferee).
We are starting slow with a few tweets per week. But we hope to have some original content on Twitter. For example, while the state was under the stay-at-home order, some referees who are also teachers created some videos. In the next few months, we will be adding more content on Twitter, so if you are a Twitter user, please follow us!
Referee of the Month: Stephanie and Alexis Pickerel
Stephanie grew up in a soccer family—her dad played, coached, refereed, and was president of the New Hampshire Soccer Association. So it was no surprise that Stephanie and her 3 siblings all became players and referees. Stephanie began reffing at age 12 and enjoyed it from the start. Being a referee provided a different perspective of the game, which she appreciated as a player.
Stephanie feels one of the best parts of being a referee is the camaraderie and friendships that are built on and off the field within the referee community. Some of her best friends growing up were fellow referees and she is still in touch with them today.
Refereeing also provided the opportunity to travel around New England and later to different parts of the country, which provided many great memories. Stephanie was honored to be invited to the National Youth Championships twice—once to receive the award for “National Youth Female Referee of the Year” and once as a referee. These were both great honors, which couldn’t have been done without the mentoring from more experienced referees at her now home in New Hampshire. For that reason, Stephanie now focuses on mentoring new or younger referees in her hometown of Canton. She hopes she can provide helpful guidance and tips to young referees to keep them involved and move them onto the next level, just as was done for her. She feels strongly that it is important for experienced referees to help newer referees so they can grow as soccer popularity and competition levels increase.
One of these young refs she is mentoring is her daughter, Alexis. Alexis began reffing three years ago because she said it seemed like fun and she loves soccer. Alexis said she loves to ref with her mom and learn from her in order to become a better referee.
Alexis and her mom both said that refereeing has taught them valuable life skills, such as showing confidence (even when you’re nervous), being responsible, and taking feedback as constructive criticism and using it to grow. These skills will help Alexis as she heads into high school and they help Stephanie in her job as a speech & language pathologist.
Stephanie and Alexis have been able to ref some games together, which has been a joy for both of them and they hope to continue to do and eventually have more of their family members join them. In the meantime, they both will enjoy giving back to and learning from the game they love.
Special Referee Training Meeting with FIFA Officials
On June 21, 2020, a few representatives of your Michigan referee contingent along with some other U.S. referees were invited to a one-hour Zoom training from two match officials from the Japan Football Association, Mr. Ryuji Sato, FIFA Referee, and Mr. Jun Mihara, FIFA Assistant Referee. Ryuji has been a FIFA referee since 2009 and has officiated at numerous international tournaments including the 2016 Olympics and the 2018 World Cup. Jun has been a FIFA Assistant Referee since 2017 and has also officiated numerous international matches including the AFC Asia Cup.
First, Ryuji went through a short presentation on illegal use of the arms. Using the list of FIFA considerations, we had a thorough discussion of a few video clips. It was insightful to experience how much we could dissect a clip based on the considerations to better lead us to the correct decision. Jun gave another presentation on offside decision making with one very important clip from a UEFA match. The clip selected was one in which two players—one onside and one offside—seemingly ended up being involved in a situation. But if was the onside player who played the ball to score. The offside player did not have any impact on any opponents. The video illustrated the need for offside decisions to not just be an assistant referee decision. It is a decision made between both the referee and the assistant referee. Even though these presentations provided higher level match clips, they provided some valuable lessons that could be applied in our matches at our local pitches.
The session ended with a Q&A session. Ryuji said that the best advice he had received was to be honest. He shared that referees should not any factors other than what they actually saw to affect their decisions. Of course, referees gather various visual cues on the field, but Ryuji said being honest to what you saw had allowed him to achieve what he has achieved so far.
Moving forward, these virtual meetings through an online platform (Zoom, Google Meet, VirBELA, etc.) are going to be one of the important ways that we as a referee community will be able to connect with each other off the pitch, learn from each other’s thoughts and views, and, as a result, become better referees for participants on the field. I strongly recommend all of you take advantage of any of these opportunities as they are offered through the MRC or district leaders. Just remember that this environment is a learning environment where it is okay to make mistakes before we go into “game time” on the field!
The session had to challenges for me. First, the class was not in-person. We used VirBELA in which we communicated with each other through our avatars. I was worried how not being able to see each other’s face could impact the dynamics of the class. However, unlike Zoom that many of us often use, because we could not see each other, the discussion was livelier and more organic. It felt as if we were actually in the same classroom.
The second challenge was to clearly show the criteria for fouls. We used three video clips and compared them to the Law book and the considerations. So many ideas were generated in the discussion. I believe participating referees were able to go over relevant consideration items one by one to better understand what makes a foul and what makes a yellow-card or red card offense.
Although the session was short, as an instructor, I learned a lot from the referees. I hope to utilize this experience in my future classes. I also look forward to meeting Michigan referees in person on the field.
Who’s Who in Michigan: Eduardo Rodriguez
What made you start officiating?
During the 1980s, I was a successful coach, and a “referee baiter.” If the guy didn’t perform, I would ride him till the end. So while being a VP for CYSA-S, a board member convinced me that I could truly help the sport by certifying as a referee. Then during a board meeting, after my certification, I was presented with the USSF Administrative Handbook and told to look at the Code of Ethics for referees. The sixth item was highlighted and it read, “never knowingly promote criticism of [fellow referees]”. I guess the consensus was that it didn’t look good to have a board member harassing referees. They got me there!!! The rest is history.
What are your best referee memories?
There are too many to mention. I would need a book. There are some great games like the Firefighters Olympics Final at Oxnard, CA. The intensity of the game and the adrenaline rush kept me going without being able to sit for several hours. But most importantly, the opportunities to have worked with incredible talented referees and the friendships generated over the years.
What do you enjoy about refereeing the most?
Just to be a part of the game.
Aside from being a referee, do you mentor, assess, and/or instruct? What do you enjoy?
Yes, yes and yes. Mentoring/assessing gives me the opportunity to really teach how to referee. It’s a great feeling to watch a young referee mature from what I call a “foul caller” to a full-fledged referee.
What are some tips or advice for young referees?
Play!!! The game is the best teacher. Don’t get discouraged because of spectators’ or coaches’ behavior. Ignoring them may not be the best too, but learn to deal with them.
What do you do when you are not on a soccer field?
Is there life outside of the pitch? I guess if we try hard, there is. So, I enjoy spending time with my family, working jigsaw puzzles with my granddaughters, and woodworking which I also do as an income earning activity.
Thank you, Eduardo.
Assessing the Severity of an Offense: Part 1
All offenses committed during a soccer game are determined by the referees’ interpretation of The IFAB Laws of the Game. We should strive for consistency in our decision-making, for the duration of each match, from game-to-game, and even referee-to-referee. The more consistent we become, the more successful we will be at keeping players focused on the game and the ball in play.
Offenses committed when there is a play on the ball, against an opponent, are fouls that must be judged into one of the following groups:
Careless - when a player shows lack of attention and requires no disciplinary sanction;
Reckless - when a player acts with disregard for their opponent and must be cautioned;
Excessive Force - when a player shows excessive force and/or endangers their opponent and must be sent off.
In determining the severity of a foul, and whether it will be judged to be careless, reckless, or excessive force, there are a few considerations that can be used to improve our consistency. The following has been adapted from a presentation by USSF National Coaches, Sandra Serafini and Paul Scott.
Point of contact of the perpetrator & point of contact of the victim;
Speed + Distance = Force;
Timing: early, with the ball, or late;
Direction: front, side, or behind.
During this upcoming month, as you watch a game on TV or think back to your own, have these considerations in mind when there is a foul. Can you visualize a play and describe the specific details of the four aspects above? Can you imagine a challenge in slow-motion replay and accurately describe what occurred? Pick a game to watch, observe a challenge, pause the video, and then try to verbalize the play out loud, as if you are the tv commentator, describing exactly what occurred using the considerations above.
In the next few months, we will break down each consideration into further detail and think about these considerations on a scale from low to high severity.
Mentor Development Meeting
On Monday June 1, around 20 referee leaders from across the state gathered virtually to kick-off a new Michigan Referee Mentor Development program. The MRC identified individuals with demonstrated experience at senior levels of refereeing, instruction, and assessment to move the state's referee development program forward by sharing best practices and closely collaborating with Michigan's National Referee Coaches, Carlos, Igor, and Yuya.
In light of COVID-19, we gathered electronically via an immersive software called VirBELA. Different from what we've come to expect with WebEx and ZOOM, VirBELA gives users their own avatar to walk around a simulated learning environment: think Animal Crossing, but for conferences. After registering and walking my mini-me into the auditorium, I sat down at a table with Chico Villarruel and Andrew Hoard. But instead of watering my peonies and fishing carp out of a stream, I toggled between a clip of a problem tackle on the big screen, and a small group conversation in real-time with my tablemates. After several minutes of conversation, our moderator, Yuya, pulled the whole group together for a report-out and broader discussion.
In the meeting, we watched a video clip that involved a collision in a J-league match between an attacker and a goalkeeper. We discussed how to talk to the referee crew if we had been the referee mentor on the match. We also explored how to use the video clip in a more traditional classroom setting. The whole group shared-out ideas from the small group sessions. We closed the session discussing what kind of support from the MRC would be most helpful to mentors. Some expressed their interests in learning how to engage referees during a post-match debrief or during a classroom session. Others stated that it would be helpful to learn how to prioritize discussion points. We hope that these learning opportunities will take place in the next several months.
For me, VirBELA is hands-down the best software I've used for simulating in-person workshops. While I didn't spend a ton of time customizing my avatar, there are plenty of choices to curate one's look. This gamification of what could otherwise be "just another meeting" helped increase both my personal buy-in and my excitement to gather with and "see" my referee colleagues - folks I have missed every bit as much as being out on the pitch. I'm excited to participate in this cohort of new state referee mentors and inaugurate the use of this immersive technology. Both are pushing the boundaries of innovation in referee development, something for which Michigan has long been respected, and deservedly so.
Staying Sharp during the Lockdown
Since the spring season for youth, high school, adult amateur, and professional leagues were cancelled, soccer officials nationwide were put on the couch. We all miss refereeing and can’t wait to get out on the field again.
How can referees keep sharp and be ready for when play starts again? There are at least three areas that referees need to be concerned about to stay focused and be ready for the resumption of play.
Keeping Sharp Mentally
Videos for soccer referees have become a very popular source of instruction. Video clip analysis is used widely for advanced level referee training. A group of referees all watch a situation from a game and offer their thoughts on the correct decision. Decisions by the students often vary and will spark useful discussions on the laws and their interpretation. Beginning level referees can benefit from this type of training.
Exploring the Internet can also produce great videos by PRO, English FA, Concacaf, UEFA, and FIFA. Many state referee associations are posting their own instructional videos for their referees on their websites. Our new State Director of Instruction, Yuya Kuichi, has created a series of YouTube instructional videos for Michigan referees to view. He is adding one each week. These are very informative and well worth viewing. US Soccer also has a YouTube channel filled with instructional videos for both new and experienced referees. These videos cover many aspects of soccer officiating and are full of great tips.
Laws of the Game
Another way to stay sharp is to study the Laws of the Game. The International Board, IFAB, has created an app for your computer or smartphone. All the Laws of the Game are portrayed similar to a paper pamphlet. A section entitled “Practical Guidelines for Match Officials” gives interpretations that provide additional guidance for handling situations not specifically covered in the LOTG. Loaded on your smartphone, it provides a portable guide to the Laws.
When we eventually start refereeing again, you may find yourself experiencing a loss of fitness. In order to be ready to start again, our level of fitness needs attention.
Running, bicycling or at least walking regularly to maintain fitness will help. You can go for a run or for a long walk. You may go to the gym or use home equipment (treadmills, stationary bikes, weights, etc.).
The Internet has many offerings for referees who want to stay fit. Watching videos of speed and agility drills, intervals, and stretching can provide ideas for a workout. A customized workout addressing the various elements of good fitness should yield benefits when the season starts again.
Art of Health
When preparing for games, knowing what food to eat, having proper hydration, and dialing in the timing of when to eat is crucial for performing at your highest level. Adjusting your diet and reflecting on how the food affects you can allow you to perfect your pregame diet. While this may seem like common sense, there are always areas for adjusting and improving your pregame diet routine; It all depends on how open you are to taking new information in and implementing it. Please check out this month’s video here.
As always, I encourage you to email me questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 @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 us at email@example.com.
We hope you enjoyed this month’s newsletter. The MRC continues to stay in close touch with the U.S. Soccer regarding when we can return to play. In the meantime, it has held several training opportunities. If you or your local association needs any help to keep referees engaged, please feel free to reach out to us. We want referees to remain engaged and be ready to officiate as soon as we can have games.
As always, please check out the MRC website for the latest information on COVID-19 updates.