Last year while checking in a U-14 team, one boy's name, Briegel Morales Pérez, piqued my curiosity. So I spoke to him after the game. He had moved to California from Guatemala, and his father had indeed named him after Hans-Peter Briegel, Germany's left back at the 1982 and 1986 World Cup.
One of the reasons I enjoy the pre-game check-in process stems from the vast variety of names one comes across, how teams from certain cities reflect their demographics, and in some cases, my quest to learn the proper pronunciation. "Sorry if I mispronounce your name," I say. "Please correct me if I get it wrong."
Last weekend, one boy's surname was 16 letters long, with nine consonants and seven vowels. The 17-year-old politely corrected my attempt to get it right.
Of course, the check-in process is mainly about player eligibility and ensuring safety — no jewelry, shinguards in place. But it's also a chance to interact with the players and coaches in hopes of preventing potential strife during the game. I usually try to concisely explain the handball rule, because every non-call tends to yield protests even though "Not every touch of a player’s hand/arm with the ball is an offense."
Also, as Randy Vogt once wrote in this space, "Player-pass check provides a chance to make a good first impression." One of the ways I interpret that is to lessen the adversarial referee-player relationship — to be friendly and perhaps even crack some smiles. If I notice a birthday or one within a few days of the game, I'll offer a "Happy Birthday."
During one check-in, after I said, "Once I call your name, tell me and show me your number, and then you can move on," the all-Latino team's coach told me that not all his players understood English well.
I gave my Spanish a try and said: "Me gustaría saber tus números." Apparently that's not the usual way to phrase it, but I was pleased at having succeeded in prompting some pre-game laughter from the boys.
I've tried different approaches in pregame talks, such as asking them if they've read the rulebook or if any of them referee. I've told them I don't react well to getting yelled at but will explain calls and don't mind being queried politely by the captain when there’s a stop in play.
If you have advice on the pre-game procedure — including what refs might say regarding rules or behavior — please use our COMMENT section (blue icon below) to share.
U.S. Soccer has launched a digital-only entry-level referee license course that takes less than five hours for a cost that "can be paid off in your very first game."
The registration fee is $40 (plus $30 background check fee if 18 or older). Its requirements are: Digital Referee Online Training (approx. 2.5 hours); Digital Referee Quiz (approx. 20-30 min); Introduction to Safe and Healthy Playing Environments (approx. 20 minutes); SafeSport Training (required if 18 years of age or older); NCSI Background Screening (required if 18 years of age or older). Check HERE if the course is available in your state.
Ref Coverage around the Web
1. Players, coaches, parents: turn down the volume, or shut up By Ian Plenderleith (Soccer America)
2. Video: Assistant ref stop attack -- with a foul tackle (Soccer America)
3. Elite schools grapple with referee shortage and pay disparity amidst soaring tuition costs By Sue Pascoe (Westside Current)
4. Referees Threatening to Boycott Local High School Soccer Season Over Wages By Diego Sandoval (Noozhawk)
5. Barcelona president Joan Laporta under investigation in refereeing case (Reuters)
6. Referee Dan McFarlane rising up in Scottish soccer and is out, gay and proud By Jon Holmes (OutSports)