Ref's View: How many games are too many?

Soccer Americans might find it ironic that I am writing about how many games are too many although I have officiated thousands of games. Yet a reason for my longevity is I’m very much more tortoise than hare and accepted assignments where I could thrive rather than simply survive.

I am now 58 years old but a decade ago I was starting to get many more injuries because I was being assigned too many games, combined with the fact that I was getting older. Yes, I pace myself but refuse to pace myself so much that I am continuously out of position. It benefits nobody if I am tired or out of position while officiating.

So I limited my time availability on referee assignment websites such as Arbiter and Game Officials and the 8-10 games I was being assigned on some weekends became a more manageable 5-6. It feels good to wake up on Monday mornings and not be in any pain whatsoever!

The two main criticisms that I hear about youth soccer refs is they are mean (small-sided games) and they are out of position (regulation fields). It could very well be that being assigned fewer games is the answer as they would be closer to play on larger fields and maybe they are being perceived as mean because they are in a foul mood over being assigned too many games.

There are those who point out that the more games referees do, the more they are paid. True, but the refs who take on more and more assignments and officiate all day from the kickoff circle are not going to advance or be recruited by other groups and others will not want to officiate with them.

I find that 180 minutes of officiating on any given day is the limit for me in being an effective ref. After that number of minutes, my ability starts to decline. (180 minutes is two Under-19 games or three Under-12 games and my figure includes being a ref or assistant referee.) This number of games has been my limit for being at my best, today, and when I was much younger.

Yes, I have officiated more than 180 minutes many times in emergency situations. And I realize that given the soccer ref shortage throughout the United States, if assignors limit all their officials to 180 minutes on Saturdays and 180 minutes on Sundays, some games will go uncovered.

But through more marketing of referee certification clinics, mentoring programs for new officials, league sportsmanship programs, harsh penalties for those who misbehave and suitable payment for refs, we can end our referee shortage. But it will take a village in all of us, including referee associations and leagues working together, to have enough qualified and effective officials for every game.

Verbal abuse by parents is the No. 1 reason why we lose most refs in their first two years of officiating. When you yell at a ref, you could be contributing to our referee shortage.

(Randy Vogt has officiated more than 11,000 games in six different decades.)

8 comments about "Ref's View: How many games are too many?".
  1. Wooden Ships, April 5, 2021 at 11:24 a.m.

    Good read Randy and thank you for all the officiating over the years. Changing the behavior of players, coaches and fans is THE greatest need. It doesn't help that we have soooo many in our society that feel victimized and era increasingly fragile emotionally. 

    On a side note maybe hopped up hover boards can help in Centerring. 

  2. David Ruder replied, April 5, 2021 at 12:59 p.m.

    On another note, I think that professional fouls when identified should be dealt with with a yellow card, especially in a breakaway counter, one on one situation.

  3. Randy Vogt replied, April 5, 2021 at 3:10 p.m.

    A hoverboard as in Back to the Future 1, my all-time favorite movie. Although I'm in shape, I sometimes wish my body could go back in time 30 years, especially regarding my declining speed. Yet I have much more experience officiating today as opposed to three decades ago so compensate that way. As the French say, "Si jeunesse savait, si vieillesse pouvait." Rough translation: If youth only knew how to do it and older folks could still physically do it. A bit of a negative expression that nevertheless does make a point.

  4. Wooden Ships replied, April 5, 2021 at 5:12 p.m.

    I know the feeling, use to run like the wind. Like you said though, awareness and positioning are most important. Keep on running Randy.

  5. Beau Dure, April 5, 2021 at 12:06 p.m.

    Randy, thanks so much for writing about this. As a soccer parent, I was often frustrated with refs who never left the center circle. When I became a ref, I understood why we so often saw that -- we had refs, often older, who did so many games that they couldn't run with the U-10s. 

    And yes, you sometimes have to run with the U-10s. At the WAGS Tournament, I had U-10 girls games that were so physical that I had to be right on top of the action. The parents who would yell at me when I inevitably got a throw-in call wrong (some calls are simply out of our sight when we don't have ARs) didn't help the stress level. 

    We need more refs. And we need refs to at least take substantial breaks between games. I told an assignor for an upcoming tournament that I could do four small-sided games in a day IF AND ONLY IF I did two, then had a couple of hours off, then did two more.

  6. Fajkus Rules, April 6, 2021 at 7:37 a.m.

    Unfortunately, the "groups" supposedly responsible for promoting ref professionalism and excellence do little to help the problem.  We have a local chapter of college officials who have close to 150 members, but only 700-some available games.  Half the chapter gets less than 3 games, and some officials who haven't paid dues or passed the FT still get games.  IF the chapter were committed to ref development and advancement, we would get the old & unfit refs into observer roles, pay them something while we get an objective DB of assessments/observations of every ref in the chapter, and provide assignments and increases in competition levels by more objective evaluations and ratings, rather than perception and relationships.  Same could go for high school.  But when many of the trainers are making over $50/hr, while every level of soccer besides pro or college, barely gets to $30/hr for the ref, the problem isn't going away, and those who are capable of either will end up coaching.

  7. R2 Dad replied, April 7, 2021 at 4:52 p.m.

    The reality is that if old referees can't run a line, they shouldn't be in the center because they should be running MORE than the ARs. But there is a default to let older more experienced referees center matches because of their experience. I have not found that experience to trump the ability of a referee to be 5-10 yards from the next foul. Assignors do get set in their ways.

  8. R2 Dad, April 6, 2021 at 6:59 p.m.

    A very timely column, as we head into a delayed spring season. I'm doing 2 per weekend, so as not tire so much. But there is "that guy" who is this experienced russian referee who does 5 matches per day, often both saturday and sunday. Yes, the assignor gives him games because he needs the money, but I wouldn't want to be him next weekend--he's signed up for 5 matches on saturday, centering 4 including a BU19. He won't be running much, that's for sure. But we need bodies. 9 times out of 10 there won't be a problem. It's just that 1 game where things go sideways....

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