And then everything changed in the next 10 days. I never would have imagined that more than 25,000 New Yorkers would have died from the coronavirus or that all schools and sports would be shut down. Tennis and golf are now allowed as long as the participants maintain social distancing.
I have noticed that everybody has lost something and everybody still has parts of their lives intact. I’m very happy to be employed at an essential business so I’ve been able to go to work every weekday. I cannot go to my health club but I can run outside and have started doing push-ups and sit-ups again for the first time since I was a young adult. I cannot socialize with my friends but can keep in contact with them through phone calls, e-mails and texts. But there’s one thing that I cannot come close to doing and it’s what I miss the most, refereeing. I have not only temporarily lost the ability to officiate but the ref tan lines that come with it, for the first time in decades.
The Rockland-Westchester NISOA chapter here in New York has been holding 2-hour ref webinars every Friday night so I have joined hundreds of refs in participating. And I am “refereeing” the live Bundesliga games on TV while also observing and critiquing the position of the ref. Sometimes the replay shows I was correct and sometimes, not so much.
What I can do, what we all can do as referees, is use this time without any games to get or stay fit, to review the rulebook, attend referee webinars and “ref” the games on TV that we are watching. The best refs are the ones who do something for refereeing every day, as opposed to those refs who only think about it when they put on their uniform, and this difference is going to be exacerbated during the long layoff. Just as we refs will immediately notice those players who individually worked hard on their ball skills during the lockdown and those who did not.
Another thing that we all could do is maintain a positive attitude that the sun will come out tomorrow as things will continue to get better and we’ll be back to soccer games in the future. Social distancing and masks will be in our rear-view mirror and when that day comes, soccer will once again be a wonderfully healthy, cardiovascular sport. I expect that games will be easier to ref than usual (even with being rusty) since there will be less dissent as people will be so happy simply to return to soccer and play will start out a little slower.
I guess handshakes and spitting on the field will be a thing of the past as will team huddles, sharing oranges and water bottles plus washing pinnies very infrequently. Less changes for referees than players as our team has many fewer colleagues and some of our games are refereed solo, with the help of club assistant referees.
My next assigned game is a college match on August 15 in New Jersey and hopefully the NCAA season will kick off on time so that it will be played. I don’t foresee soccer games starting earlier in the New York City metro area before then so I might travel and ref summer tournaments should they seek officials.
• The IFAB on Twitter features rule quizzes: @TheIFAB
• The IFAB website has rulebook downloads.
• National Intercollegiate Soccer Officials Association Educational Stimulus Quizes: NISOA YouTube Channel Twitter: @nisoadotcom
• Professional Referee Organization: PRO web site, Twitter: @PROreferees, Facebook.
• U.S. Soccer Referee Twitter: @ussoccer_ref
• Soccer America Referee Twitter: @SASoccerReferee