All in the Details

December 3, 2015

By Brent Sorg
Collegiate official & MHSAA coach

In my experience as both an official and coach, my partners or officials assigned to work my match are judged the moment we meet and make contact. That is human nature.

What is important is to make that first impression a positive one. At first contact, when greeting an administrator, coach or fellow official, look the person in the eye when shaking hands and be sincere in your greeting. When the person speaks, look them in the eye and listen. Sounds simple, yet I’ve seen many fail at this task and thus set themselves up for a difficult match.

The next moment of impact is the conversations that take place. It is totally acceptable to have a laugh and a joke, but be sure the environment and timing is right. You may ask, “Who is to judge when the time is correct?” It is all a feeling – a sort of sixth sense. I have witnessed on numerous occasions during the pregame check-in where officials “dig their own grave” by telling the players how they are going to call the game. Then they continue with how they will only talk to the captain. That is nonsense! In the business of managing people, it is imperative to deal with everyone involved in the game.

Once the match begins, the next task to strive for is not looking at the ball the entire time. From the first class I took on officiating, I was told the ball never commits a foul. In my 25 years, this is still true. Look ahead, scan the field, watch the players battling for position prior to the ball arriving. If one of the backs has the ball at his feet and is under zero pressure, there is no need to watch him pass the ball. Look instead at the forward checking back who is tightly marked by an opposing defender.   

The game continues to evolve with faster, smarter, and more creative players. The coaches are implementing tactics to create every advantage possible. As you go about the game as the center official, don’t just judge fouls/non-foul moments, but expand your knowledge. What are the tendencies of certain players on the field? Are teams looking to build up or are they using a more direct style of play? This will help with your positioning and anticipating movement.

Almost every match has at least one defining moment that you as the referee must have the courage to deal with. It is often referred to as the “moment of truth.” It could mean you rule it is not a foul and don’t even have to blow the whistle, but you must deal with dissent. Or it could mean a stern talking to the player, issuing a caution, or showing the red card. Reflecting on the mentors I have had over the years and those I still look up today, I think about a consistent theme heard from all: Make sure you get something out of each caution or send-off.

Be brave. Make the tough decisions. Remember, the players are the ones who commit fouls forcing us to make certain decisions.

Many of you watch professional games on television, and I think we can all learn from them. In particular, I think the EPL (English Premier League) referees do an excellent job of isolating the guilty player, explaining the decision, and then showing the card. All while looking the player square in the eyes.

Your mindset to a match should be one of teamwork and one that fosters harmony with the players on the pitch. Not an “us vs. them” mentality.

Finally, be willing to admit a mistake. You are not perfect! You are a human being. It is OK to admit an error, but be genuine about it. Be sympathetic when appropriate. Be firm yet fair.

Most importantly, enjoy.

Sorg is a former National Referee and current NISOA Referee (ACC, Big Ten, Big East, Horizon, Conference USA, MAC); he also is a high school boys head coach who recently concluded his 11th season.

Be the Referee: Soccer Offsides or Goal?

By Paige Winne
MHSAA Marketing & Social Media Coordinator

May 23, 2023

Be The Referee is a series of short messages designed to help educate people on the rules of different sports, to help them better understand the art of officiating, and to recruit officials.

Below is this week's segment – Soccer Offsides or Goal? - Listen

Today we’re on the soccer field for another You Make the Call.

Team A has a throw-in near midfield. Team A’s No. 9 is clearly in an offside position when the throw-in comes directly to her. She collects the ball and kicks it past the keeper and into the goal. What’s the call?

Should the referee:

► Award an indirect free kick to Team B?

► Award a goal kick to Team B?

► Award a re-take of the throw-in to Team A?

► Award a goal to Team A?

If you said, "Award a goal to Team A" … you are correct, despite the goal-scorer being in a clear offsides position.

The soccer rulebook states that a player shall not be penalized for offsides if she receives the ball directly from a goal kick, corner kick or throw-in. It’s a legal play – and counts as a goal.

Previous Editions:

May 16: Track & Field Exchange Zones - Listen
May 9: Girls Lacrosse Self-Start - Listen
May 2: Baseball/Softball Overthrow - Listen
April 25: Fifth-Quarter/Third-Half Rule - Listen
April 18: Soccer Referee in Play? - Listen
April 11: Softball Strikeout - Listen
March 14: Basketball Instant Replay - Listen
March 7: Hockey Overtime - Listen
Feb. 28: Baker Bowling - Listen
Feb. 21: Ski Finish - Listen
Feb. 14: Swimming Touchpads - Listen
Feb. 7: In or Out-of-Bounds in Wrestling - Listen
Jan. 31: Over the Back - Listen
Jan. 24: Competitive Cheer Judges - Listen
Jan. 17: More Lines - Listen
Jan. 10: On the Line - Listen
Jan. 3: Basketball Measurements - Listen
Dec. 13: Pregame Dunks - Listen
Dec. 6: Gymnastics Judges - Listen
Nov. 22: Football Finals Replay - Listen
Nov. 15: Back Row Illegal Blocker - Listen
Nov. 8: Swim Turn Judges - Listen
Nov. 1: Soccer Referee Jersey Colors - Listen
Oct. 25: Cross Country Tie-Breaker - Listen
Oct. 18: Soccer Shootouts - Listen
Oct. 11: Safety in End ZoneListen
Oct. 4: Football Overtime Penalty - Listen
Sept. 27: Kickoff Goal - Listen
Sept. 20: Soccer Timing - Listen
Sept. 13: Volleyball Replays - Listen
Sept. 6: Switching Sides - Listen
Aug. 30: Play Clock - Listen
Aug. 23: Intentional Grounding Change
- Listen

PHOTO: An official raises his flag during this spring's Trenton/Pontiac Notre Dame Prep game. (Photo by Chris Mudd/National Photo Scout.)