Stand OutsSometimes, a really good referee just stands out in the crowd. It's more than the calls. There is a comfort and synergy on the field, a connection with players and coaches, a message that carries on the wind that says to everyone: "we're in good hands." I met a set of referees this weekend that I take great pride in introducing. This team earned a "reffie" from me this weekend & reminded me how important it is for us to see and recognize referees when we meet them on the field. They really do make a difference. Meet Debbie O'Connor, Zemery Dennis (HS Student), and Joan Suarez, our awesome referee team this weekend!What's a Reffie?A "Reffie" is a selfie taken with referees. The term was first coined, to my knowledge, by Brian Barlow of Offside. You can find his Brian on his Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/youreoffside/.Brian started a campaign to bring awareness to bad sideline behavior, obnoxious parents and coaches, and the plight of referees. Having reffed as a guest Assistant Referee (AR) on a few occasions and having coached hundreds of games, I agree with Brian on this point: We owe our referees some love and respect. For me, this weekend was an excellent example of why. Why the Reffie?This weekend, we took our 03 travel boys into Virginia for the Mid-County Fall Classic Tournament hosted by the Northern Virginia Soccer Club. The tournament was fun. The teams were pretty evenly matched. And we did pretty well - finishing second overall in a 1:0 loss in the final match this afternoon. Of course, our boys were superstars and players and parents both went home feeling pretty good. Everybody is going to be sore on Monday after 4 games this weekend, but I think I'm safe in saying we all had fun. Travel tournament situations bring teams together from all over the country. We co-own two tournaments ourselves and we see teams form up and down the East Coast from Canada to Florida. Imagine seeing all the different license plates int he parking lots. Hearing the Northern and Southern accents as you walk to the field. There is a sense of excitement at these tournaments that you just have to experience to understand. There is also a tendency for some parents to act out. People are a long way from home. They can yell and be noisy & they know they'll go home the next day and possibly never see whomever they yelled at today. I heard some whoppers this weekend. Parents ripping into referees. Yelling coaching instructions - most of it nonsense - on the field. People just acting like they didn't care very much about how they looked to the rest of us. I know some of the referees this weekend took beating. But every so often, you see something really special. I did not know the referees who's photos I posted above. I had no reason to believe the game they were about to officiate was going to any different than any other game I've seen. I zipped up my jacket against the 30 degree temperatures, checked my stopwatch, and settled in for 2 35 minute halves - fully expecting to to be annoyed by yelling parents and hoping that our players would find their rhythm and have a good game. Enter Debbie O'Connor - the Center Ref. The AR's, Juan Suarez, and Zemery Dennis had already put their stuff down, had their huddle, and taken up their positions on either end of the field. I heard Debbie's voice for the first time. I didn't catch every word she said, but there was no mistake that every player on the field and the parents along the sideline could hear her. "Boys... this is a playoff tournament game and I expect to start and stop this game on time." She began. It wasn't so much what she said. It was the fact that she said anything at all. She had clearly communicated to everyone on that field that she was in charge, that she would clearly communicate expectations, and that this game was in good hands. Her attitude was confident, playful, and no nonsense - all at the same time. I could tell immediately that there wasn't going to be...
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