Welcome to the October issue of the MRC newsletter. Fall soccer has been at its full swing. I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy without any injuries. This is when the evening games can get quite chilly. Don’t forget to have an extra layer in your ref bag so in case the game ends up taking place in cold weather, you can stay warm! Also, a big trash bag is always good to have to keep your ref equipment dry when it is raining.
We continue to offer several brand new referee certification classes every month. We have well over 100 new referees certified this fall. But this is far from enough. If you know anyone who wants to become a referee, please send them to this registration wizard. Also, if you have any special relations with a local referee association or a soccer team, you can ask if they would cover the cost of referee registration even partially to encourage more people to become referees.
A lot of tournaments are happening. I have visited Kingdom Cup in Kalamazoo and Jag United Invitational in Wixom last weekend. It was good to see many referees working hard all day long. Other MRC members and mentors have attended Autumn Classic in Traverse City, Capital Area Classic in Lansing, to name a few. Please reach out to us if you would like to have a mentor observe you and give you any feedback.
As always, our October newsletter is full of exciting stories and information. Our first article is about Ms. Kalani Burghard, the Manager of Pedagogy. She is the latest member to the Michigan Referee Committee. Check out the article below to learn how she is going to help our referee development efforts. We are featuring Mr. Michael Kopinski for Who’s Who. As always, Mr. Ken Wikle has an article for us.
As of September 2021, we have a new member in the Michigan Referee Committee. Ms. Kalani Burghard is the Manager of Pedagogy. She will be helping the MRC particularly from the perspective of providing better referee instructions. Kalani is a teacher when she is not on a soccer field or when she is not having fun with her family. So she has a lot of experience teaching teenagers. As we know, we have a lot of teenagers and young adults in the referee community. Just having slides in a classroom session or showing how to hold a flag in a field session is no longer sufficient to be good mentors. Kalani, therefore, will work closely with the MRC mentors so that they can offer better training to both new and existing referees. If you are a mentor and is looking for any advice, please reach out to Kalani. She is filled with great experience and knowledge!
Referee of the Month: Derrick Mroz
I grew up in the UP and had played soccer since I was 6 years old. It was a local S.A.Y. rec league, and at the time, there were no USSF leagues around and none of the local schools had soccer as a high school sport either. My dad was a referee and very involved with the local league, and that was a big reason I started refereeing when I turned 14. When I moved downstate, I started working intramural soccer games, and eventually got my USSF and high school badges and started working local matches. There was a group of us referees that would do adult league games in the evening, then go out for pizza afterwards and discuss the games. Ken Burcaw and Dale Brasseur were some of my earliest mentors that really helped me as I started doing adult games and more competitive matches.
Those friendships and that camaraderie are some of my favorite things about being an official. Our local group of referees became pretty close as we started working State Cup matches together, and working our way up the ladder, eventually doing Youth Regionals, and other amateur and youth regional and national tournaments. Every tournament was another opportunity to learn from different instructors, work with different referees, and make new friends. Most of my favorite memories are from those tournaments. Becoming a National Referee and traveling out to Los Angeles for the camp was an amazing experience, and was made even better by being able to share it with many of the friends from Michigan and other states that I had made over the years.
My advice for aspiring referees would be to try and always be professional – no matter the level of the game or who is watching. Referees should aspire to be professional in all facets of officiating, including how you dress, how you prepare for your games, how you interact with coaches and players during the game, how you interact with other officials, and even your behavior away from the field or when not in uniform.
When I am not refereeing soccer, I usually spend my free time with my family. Between my fiancée Kate and I, we have five kids, so I spend my time coaching local soccer teams, teaching chess at the local elementary, swimming at the beach, camping, hiking, mountain biking, attending one of my kids’ events or performances, or just trying to find fun ways to connect and spend time with my family. We always make an annual trip every summer to head back up to the UP, visit family, and unplug for a few days as well.
A “Supportable” Decision”: What Is It?
If you listen to a post-match debrief conducted by an experience referee coach, you will notice that sometimes they say, “your PK decision is supportable.” What does this mean? If a referee coach tells you this, what should you be thinking about?
When referee coaches observe a game, they are usually not in the best position to determine the accuracy of a decision, especially at a local soccer match. There are no replays to watch, either. As a result, unless there is clear evidence that the referee’s decision was incorrect, referee coaches are advised to respect the decision made by the referee. After all, the referee should be much closer to the incident in question. They should also have a better angle.
The same goes with assistant referees. Even if an onside/offside decision looks questionable, unless the referee coach happened to be right behind the offside line, they are advised to respect the decision by the assistant referee. Sometimes an assistant referee may misinterpret the difference between a defensive play versus a deflection. In that case, a referee coach may contradict the decision by the assistant referee.
With this in mind, when a referee coach says, “your decision is supportable” or “I will support your decision,” the referee should not take it as a 100% accurate decision. It may be worthy of investigating why the referee coach is not saying, “it was a right call.” Oftentimes the referee coach has some questions or doubts for which they simply do not have enough evidence.
If you want to become a better referee, asking the referee coach about those doubts and suspicions can be helpful. It may help you understand a difference way to interpret a match situation. It may open up a new avenue for a meaningful discussion.
So if you get a chance to be seen by an experienced referee coach, pay attention to the words they use.
Say Hello to Watson!
Jake and Watson Brochu
What is your name? How old are you? And what breed are you? My name is Watson. I am four years old and a GoldenDoodle.
How long have you known Jake? How did you meet him? I have known Jake for all of my life and I met him on Memorial Day 2017 when he came to pick me up.
Do you ever go watch him referee? I have never attended one of his games, but have sat in the car with my mom while he has worked games.
What do you do while Jake is reffing if you don’t go along? While Jake is refereeing I am usually at home relaxing on my couch and making sure nothing happens to the house.
Do you help him pack him ref bag? I try to help him pack when he is packing but am never as helpful as he wants me to be.
Do you ever help Jake train for reffing? I will typically go for 2 mile runs with him at least once a week.
Have you ever chewed up any ref gear of his? I have behaved myself when it comes to chewing referee gear. I tend to chew my brother’s soccer ball instead of the referee gear.
Can you do a trick? If so, what can you do? I can do a number of tricks: sit, lay, shake, high five and dance, but I only do these when a treat is provided.
What is your favorite toy? My favorite toy is really anything that I can chew, whether it be a chew toy with my name on it or a soccer ball.
What is your favorite treat? My favorite treat is really anything peanut butter flavored.
What is your favorite game to play with Jake? I love to play fetch with my tennis ball in the backyard.
What do you enjoy about Jake being a referee? I enjoy the fact that he makes some extra money and that he spends some of that money on treats for me to enjoy.
What don’t you enjoy about Jake being a referee? I hate how much he is gone especially when I want to play.
What is something unique that you do? I can get up on almost any countertop if no one is home and eat anything that is up there.
What do you like to do when Jake is not reffing? When Jake is not refereeing, I tend to relax around the house. Usually once or twice a week I am at his office in Ann Arbor with him hanging out. I go everywhere with Jake and I love car rides.
Report from Petoskey Tournament
At the Petosky soccer tournament (September 17-19), we offered some referee training opportunities. Kevin Avery and Bruce Falberg, the District Directors of Referee Development in Northern Michigan, took the initiative to hold a field training session on Friday. A total of 10 referees including 6 new referees attended the training and learned about static positioning and PK/KFPM. Both Kevin and Bruce shared that even experienced referees found the experience to be useful. Bruce mentioned that some new referees were able to implement what they had learned during the weekend.
On Saturday, in the evening, although referees had had a long day on the field already, some referees attended a video analysis session on handball. There were some technical issues but those who attended were able to learn about handball.
Kevin and Bruce are planning to hold a similar session later this fall. If you are in Northern Michigan and are looking for training opportunities, please feel free to reach out to them.
What is Your Call?
In the September newsletter, you were given a clip that showed a possible handball in the penalty area. The survey asked you to identify if an offence existed, and if it did, what disciplinary action was needed.
We ended up with a wide range of answers from no foul to a red card.
First, was there an offense?
As you can see in this picture above, the defender’s right arm was clearly extended outwards. The arm was not close to the body. Although an arm naturally moves away from the body when a player jump, this arm is too far away from the body, creating an unnaturally bigger barrier that stopped the forward progress of the ball. Therefore, this is a handball offense.
Now that we have established this as a foul (with a PK), do we have a card? The correct answer is yes. We must issue a yellow card. A quarter of the respondents said that a red card was needed.
As you can see here, there were two defenders between the handball offense and the goal (including the goalkeeper). Therefore, this is not an obvious goal-scoring opportunity. However, because this header was a shot on goal, a yellow card for SPA (stopping a promising attack) must be given. 40% of the respondents had the correct decision.
This month, we will talk about restart. Please watch the video and decide what the correct restart might be. You can find the video here.
This month, we interviewed Michael Kopinski. He has been officiating for about 30 years and you can find him at Grand Rapids FC home games (USL2).
When did you start officiating? Why?
I did not play soccer while growing up. It had not yet caught on in the U.S. As many of my generation of referees, I became involved in soccer in about 1990 by way of my children participating. Because I hadn’t played, I was not in a position to coach. Yet I found soccer very interesting and with my background as an attorney felt that being a referee and administering the Laws of the Game was suited to me. And the active physical part was also appealing. So I took referee training through the local AYSO program and worked at that level for a year or two. I began to attend local high school and college matches and thought I could handle those. So I found my way to the USSF classes in 1991 or so and went from there.
What do you enjoy the most about officiating?
Early on as a referee, I most enjoyed “having the best seat in the house” to watch soccer action with an up-close view of the often intense individual efforts occurring during a match. As time went on, this changed a bit to realizing and appreciating that as a referee I was a small and temporary cog in a long historical and world-wide tradition of the Beautiful Game. Meeting and working with other referees of varying experience and backgrounds has been especially enjoyable. I warmly recall working many out-of-town tournaments (KISS and Portage in Kalamazoo, Canton, Ann Arbor, and Saginaw 7-11, to name a few) and road trips with referee partners to work D3 matches throughout the state. And it was always a guilty pleasure to leave work mid-afternoon on those ideal-weather spring and fall days for a HS double-header, and getting in both a physical and mental workout.
What is your best officiating memory?
Among many significant soccer experiences, perhaps my best officiating memory occurred during the 1996 AYSO National Games held in Kalamazoo. I was assigned the center of a 13B match with a team from New York City (don’t remember if it was Brooklyn or the Bronx). Those kids were so thrilled to be playing on a full natural grass field instead of, as one player put it in a pregame comment, “a dirt or sand littered with broken glass and syringes and stones among occasional patches of weeds.” Once the match began the passing skills of this team on a flat smooth surface were really something to watch. And the genuine joy they played with was inspiring to me. They won this match handily. It gave me a long-lasting boost (even to this day) to do my best on the pitch as it was a privilege here in the Midwest to have such advantages as decent (and better) soccer fields which we take for granted. When I’ve had a frustrating on-field situation, I can usually reset myself by recalling that day in Kalamazoo when I received an insight into the larger picture and joy of soccer.
What made you a successful referee?
To the extent I’ve been a successful referee, the most important factor was learning from others, whether Law Book instruction or on-the-field matters. It is important to take lessons of some type from every match, whether by self-evaluation or counsel from peers. Having a calm yet friendly personality has also served me well in dealing with those on-field moments of intensity and potential trouble. It is important and useful to realize that we all (referees, players and coaches) come to the field with our own circumstances and pressures and we referees must deal with everyone in as understanding fashion as possible. Learning to successfully manage people in stressful situations is a skill with lifelong benefits.
How do you remain engaged in the refereeing world these days beyond officiating?
I’m in the late innings of my on-field referee career; perhaps “extra time” is a more appropriate description. So I’ve tried to contribute my experience by way of becoming an assessor (referee mentor in current USSF parlance). I hope to complete the new certification process in the near future. It is a goal of mine to make formal evaluation less intimidating to both new referees and more experienced ones.
What do you do when you are not on the field?
When not on the field, I spend a significant amount of time watching soccer, both in-person and on TV and other media. As I’m retired from the workaday world, I volunteer time with several non-profit organizations. I am also “furthering my education” by taking lifelong learning classes through Aquinas College and Calvin University in a wide variety of subject-matters that are of interest.
How do you spend time during the off season?
During the off-season I concentrate even more on cycling (less stress on the knees), both indoor spinning classes and outdoor rides. I do enjoy the USSF training programs whether formal instruction or self-administered. Watching soccer live on TV or videos, followed by discussion with referee colleagues, is a frequently sought-after experience for me.
What advice do you have for aspiring referees?
For aspiring referees as well as seasoned ones, I would suggest not being robotic in applying the Laws of the Game. We must of course know them inside and out. But the use of discretion and sensing other aspects of the immediate soccer action can pay big dividends in our performance as referees. Be willing both to learn from and help out fellow referees. This is hugely important to maintaining and growing our own special community of referees.
Thank you, Michael.
Arriving on Time
Officiating and mentoring referees year-round in affiliated U.S.Soccer, MHSAA, and other games exposes me to soccer on a personal level. If one is an astute observer of human behavior there are many lessons and insights you can gain from what happens on the field and along the touch line before, during, and after a match.
One bad habit I experience by referees regularly is referees arriving too close to game time to participate in a pregame conference with the crew. Prior to the start of a match, there are many things that need to be done: inspecting the field, checking and inspecting the equipment of both teams, holding the coin toss, and inspecting the game ball. Doing all this properly takes at least 20 minutes especially if there are things that need to be corrected. If an AR or referee arrives 5 minutes or less before start time how can these important items be done thoroughly and correctly?
With the shortage of referees this year due to the recent pandemic, full referee crews are not guaranteed for every game. This creates a certain amount of tension on the part of coaches, players, and parents prior to their competitions. When one of the referees is not at the field ahead of time the coaches and parents are unsettled because with only one or two officials present the game may be run with a parent as a club linesman and offside calls may suffer in that end of the field. I have been approached by coaches 15 minutes before kickoff asking if there will three officials for their game. I usually answer the only way I can saying “There are three officials assigned.”
What does it take to arrive 20-30 minutes before kick-off?
A referee must plan thir departure from home and the travel time properly.
Is there construction on the way? Is the game time during rush hour traffic? If you have never been to a field before, have you used GameOfficials to map the route and the location? These considerations should be taken into account for your proper arrival. Additional time may have to allowed for you to arrive on time.
Make sure if an assignor offers you multiple games on a weekend day that you have time to move from one location to another in time to arrive before kickoff and enough time to participate in a pregame. If this cannot be avoided you should contact your fellow officials via phone or text to let them know that you may be arriving at game time. With this notification tell them to start the pregame prior to your arrival so it will be complete when you arrive. Tell them to also notify both coaches when you will be arriving so they know there will be a complete referee crew. A little pre-match planning will go a long way to relieve worrying by the coaches and your fellow officials.
Another special situation applies to teenagers who depend on parents or siblings to drive them to their games. Refereeing soccer has its requirements (arriving on time, wearing a proper uniform, keeping your availability updated on Game Officials). If your supervising parent is someone who is habitually late or doesn’t help you keep your availability up to date, you have a problem you need to handle to be professional in your new endeavor. How you handle this is up to you, but in order not to be late to the field and unnecessarily declining games on Game Officials, you need to address this issue and resolve it.
If you are an adult or a self-driver there is really no excuse for not being at the field 20-30 minutes before kickoff.
Arriving on time takes planning and good execution. Please show respect to your fellow officials and to the teams by arriving on time.
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 @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.
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.