Referee Watch: How to cope with reffing in the rain

After soccer, my favorite sport is horse racing and Soccer Americans might be surprised but my favorite annual sports event to watch is not the final of the Champions League, FA Cup or MLS Cup but the Kentucky Derby, raced on the first Saturday in May. In horse racing, I am particularly fascinated by horses who run well on a Sloppy Track after or during rain. These horses are called “mudders.” The recent Triple Crown winner, Justify, is a mudder as he won in the slop in both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness.

With the extreme weather we’ve been experiencing, an increasing number of my games have been played in heavy rain, so here are some thoughts on how refs could be mudders too.

Have a good attitude about the rain. You cannot change the weather that day but you can at least change your attitude toward it and I can immediately figure out when my ref colleagues as well as the players do not want to be at a field because it’s raining.

I remember giving pep talks to AR’s that they needed to concentrate on the game, not the weather, so we could do a good job for that match. I can also remember a coach yelling at his girls U-14 team before a game in relatively light rain, sensing that they did not want to be there.

The coach yelled, “Girls, it’s only rain and we’ve played in rain before. You need to concentrate on playing.” Which a Division 1 women’s college team did not do one cold, rainy night in Queens, even though they play their home games in a cold-weather city a long corner kick from the Canadian border.

Dress appropriately. I always wear at least one T-shirt under my ref shirt for games played in rain so wet clothing is not touching my skin. If it’s cold, I wear several layers of clothes.

Bring several shirts and a towel as you might need to switch the shirts underneath between games and sometimes between halves, depending on how wet and sweated you become.

It’s surprising to me that waterproof referee uniforms are not bigger sellers than they are. I’ve not purchased them either as I’ve had to buy so many other ref outfits that I don’t want to purchase another. Maybe my colleagues have not purchased rain gear for the same reason.

And also put your referee case in a large plastic bag so it and the contents inside do not become wet.

A cap can help with vision. Eyeglasses obviously do not have windshield wipers so if you wear glasses, you will need to wear a cap to prevent the rain from hitting your glasses. My vision was no longer 20/20 after I hit 30 years old so I experimented with wearing eyeglasses for one season, then moved on to contact lenses while reffing. It’s a better solution than glasses as I do not have to be concerned about rain hitting my glasses, don’t have to worry about getting really injured if an errant ball hits my glasses plus glasses invite snide comments like “You better get your glasses checked, ref.”

How to take notes. Rain is an issue when trying to check the roster and the passes as having a paper roster exposed to heavy rain for a minute or two causes it become wet and often unreadable. It’s very helpful if the coach stands over the ref with an umbrella while checking the roster to keep everything as dry as possible.

A bigger issue is taking notes during the rain. I never liked the printed referee score sheets with all types of info to fill in such as captain’s numbers, AR’s, which team kicked off in the first half, score, cautions, send-offs, etc., so I simply have used a blank index card where I put all that info as well as what time of day it would be when the half ends (on my watch keeping normal time) should my other watch, my stopwatch, malfunction. Yet that blank index card does not work in inclement weather because as soon as I pull it out in heavy rain, it becomes wet and hard to write.

So you need to have a notebook with a sheet inside to be able to take proper notes. What I’ve found works best is the Rite in the Rain Black Book.

It’s especially important in inclement weather to take an extra moment before restarting play to make sure that you have written something down that is clear to follow.

You might even be thanked. 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.”

Perhaps the reason why spectators have been very supportive of me, especially in rainy weather, is I’m somewhat used to it by now plus I hustle and smile no matter the conditions.

(Randy Vogt, the author of "Preventive Officiating," has officiated more than 10,000 games.)

2 comments about "Referee Watch: How to cope with reffing in the rain".
  1. R2 Dad, September 24, 2018 at 2:11 p.m.

    But where to find a yellow referee jacket that duplicates the standard shirt? American football referees get one:
    Do I really have to wear a clear plastic bag?
    Insert obligatory Take My Money meme here...

  2. uffe gustafsson, September 29, 2018 at 7:25 p.m.

    R2 dad I seen this so many timed.
    yes no ref will reverse a call, if I did a bad call and realized it I will tell the coach after the game yes u right I made a mistake. Like loosing track of a defender far away from ball and call offside and it was not really offside.
    but more importantly the coach that continues riding the ref so he will get calls in his favor, there are more then one of them actually lots of them arguing every call against his team. If you ref enough games you start to remember who they are, and never sign up for that coach games. Who needs that a coach that never shuts up and parents think that is free for them to do the same. Something need to change or ref shortages will be forever 

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