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When Refs Must Weather the Storm
by Randy Vogt, October 11th, 2013 2:07AM

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TAGS:  referees, youth boys, youth girls

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By Randy Vogt

In “Save the Best For Last,” Vanessa Williams sings, “Sometimes the snow comes down in June, Sometimes the sun goes ‘round the moon.” Those are unusual lyrics that describe the interesting weather we have been experiencing of late.

Where I live in New York, the games in March were almost always cold and windy, April could be rainy while the weather was warm and downright hot as we got into June. With the extreme, freaky weather that I have seen of late, I don’t know what to expect.

The weather has been extreme although I don’t know if this is a result of global warming and some scientists believe that unseasonably cold weather is a result of global warming too. All I know is the weather has been very unusual.

For instance, in 2011, New York experienced an earthquake and Hurricane Irene plus in a couple of towns, a local hailstorm severely damaged cars. 2012 brought the destruction of Superstorm Sandy. But with snow this May in Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri and Colorado, New York is not alone with this weird weather.

For the first time ever, I wore gloves on a bitterly cold day during a Memorial Day weekend tournament on Long Island as snow was falling in the Adirondack Mountains in Upstate New York. And every year for the past four years, I’ve had a whole weekend of games canceled because of harsh weather that almost never occurred to me since I started refereeing in the 1970s.

Even though the increasing use of Field Turf and Sprinturf fields allows games to be played in heavy rain. After all, the turf absorbs the rain much better than grass and there is no mud. As long as there is not any thunder or lightning, games should be able to be played.

It’s interesting that the few spectators who attend games in very poor weather tend to very supportive of the referees, who might have been officiating for hours. I have heard many comments from spectators such as “You really earned your money today” and “It must be tough to ref in these conditions.” In a memorable encounter at halftime during an extremely cold, windy November day, a spectator said to me, “My son plays on the blue team. They are not very good. All I care about is going home and getting warm. If you could see that is done sooner than later, I would be very grateful.” Unfortunately for him, I obviously did not cut the second half short.

Perhaps the reason why spectators have been very supportive of me, especially in poor weather, is I’m used to it by now plus I hustle and smile no matter the conditions. Although I’m used to cold weather, I’m used to wet weather but I don’t think that I will ever get used to the combination of cold, rainy weather. It’s especially on days like those that the officials need to bring several layers of clothes and switch them at least in-between games. Make yourself as comfortable as possible while being dressed to referee.

One college showcase tournament four years ago played on turf was memorable for the weather and a colleague that I officiated with still talks about it first whenever I see him. We were assigned four Boys-U-17 games and we had rain, sleet, snow and hail but the precipitation did not build up on the turf so we could play.

The temperature was above freezing but went below it as the sun went down and the park lights came on. It was so cold and wet that my colleagues and I went to the men’s room at halftime and in-between games as the rest rooms were the only dry and warm place in the park. The few male spectators who watched the matches did the same thing and they talked to us about the game in a very positive way as they really were appreciative of our hard work in awful conditions.

Summarizing, the referee cannot change the weather but can change his or her attitude toward it. By simply concentrating on the game and not on the poor weather, the game or games will go as fast as possible. I have even officiated a Division 1 college game in Queens on a cold, rainy October night where the visiting team did not want to be there and it showed. Do not let that happen to you!

(Randy Vogt has officiated over 8,000 games during the past three decades, from professional matches in front of thousands to 6-year-olds being cheered on by very enthusiastic parents. In his book, "Preventive Officiating," he shares his wisdom gleaned from thousands of games and hundreds of clinics to help referees not only survive but thrive on the soccer field. You can visit the book’s website at www.preventiveofficiating.com/)


3 comments
  1. Ihor v Kutynsky
    commented on: October 11, 2013 at 12:10 p.m.
    CANCEL games if necessary in order not to endanger the players and YOURSELF!

  1. Paul Spacey
    commented on: October 11, 2013 at 1:44 p.m.
    There is no need to cancel games unless there is torrential rain and the field is completely unplayable or there is lightning so a danger to the players. I referee and coach in Southern California where they close fields as soon as it rains (of course, it hardly ever rains) and I always look at the fields thinking they are perfect for soccer with wet grass instead of bone-dry fields! Obviously they want to protect the fields. Much to be said for smiling during the game Randy, whatever the weather. If players can see you are actually enjoying it (even if inside you are dying to get out of the cold) then they will respond positively also. I'd certainly take refereeing in the sun over pouring rain or freezing cold but ultimately as referees we just want to go out there and do the job to the best of our ability. Keep smiling!

  1. Chris Sapien
    commented on: October 11, 2013 at 4:26 p.m.
    Great comment Paul...! I am right there with you, "If you hear it fear it, if you see it flee it" is the only mantra I use when even considering suspending a match. Let the games go on!! This is coming from a guy who braved the very playable conditions last March for the Costa Rica qualifier in Commerce CO now known as the "Snowbowl"!! Everyone had the time of their lives at the game, even though it was 17 degrees by the end.... Had the federations been wussies about it, they would have stolen that moment of glory for all!! (except CR of course ;)


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