As professional officials across North America begin their physical and technical preparation ahead of the 2021 season, PRO staff have been busy presenting educational and technical topics to many groups, including professional leagues, clubs, state referee associations and individual referee development programs.
However, for officials, PRO recognizes that revisiting IFAB Laws of the Game and FIFA Considerations on topics such as Foul Challenges, Handball, Tactical Fouls, Offside and Penalty Area Incidents are crucial, but only part of the coaching and education strategy.
Recently, PRO’s Head of Education, Coaching and Evaluation Alan Black spoke with Washington State Referee Association on the subject of ‘Managing Awareness’ in the context of Game Management and Player Interactions. These are some of the ‘softer’ characteristics required to be successful at every level of officiating, and relate very closely to game control, as experienced match officials will attest to.
These characteristics also differentiate the ‘by the book’ official and the official that understands the game and what it means to every participant on the field. Rather than only looking at a series of individual situations and asking whether by the book they were right or wrong, officials are being encouraged to reflect on the overall management of the game.
Through the use of heightened awareness and being proactive, officials can often prevent problematic situations from occurring in the first place, while also enhancing their credibility.
From a coaching perspective, PRO looks for two very important characteristics in any official:
- Awareness – Seeing, feeling and hearing in a way that understands every individual situation in the context of a game and how the official can enhance or jeopardize their control moving forward.
- Responsibility – Officials correctly deserve credit when they perform well in individual situations and use all their skills and training to effectively manage the game. However, stronger officials also accept responsibility individually when a situation or game could have been better, and actively seek ways to improve their own feelings and understanding of how to do this.
Therefore, in an officiating context, having awareness is about being able to interpret and act on what they see, feel and understand the game to be at any particular moment.
It is also knowing how their actions impact others associated with the game. Everything they do on the field as an official makes someone feel a certain way, so understanding how their actions impact people helps go a long way to successfully managing a game.
High quality preparation and work around awareness will inevitably equate to a higher understanding of the game they find themselves officiating. Conversely, not being prepared to work on awareness will potentially equate to officials finding many situations that could have been handled better.
In terms of Game and Player Management, there are some basic rules and visual clues to help officials with their awareness of participants in the following areas:
- Injury Management
- Restart Management
The job of an official is to protect players and protect the game:
- As a general rule, don’t be too clever on injuries, if a player is on the ground motionless or holding a part of the body in pain, stop the game. If the official lets play continue, players may stop themselves or bring the game to a halt.
- With restarts, the Laws of the Game on the restart of play (uncontested dropped ball) allows officials to NOT wait for the ball to go out of play.
- For officials, showing awareness, to be equally as vigilant for both teams and understand the issues and consequences of not stopping the game is crucial. Players have respect for officials who take control in such situations and show consistency throughout the game.
In the following clips, the referees show understanding and awareness of both their duty to protect the players and the game, and the problems they could encounter by not immediately checking on the players’ welfare.