The Transition from Preseason to “IN-season”

“It’s the most – wonderful time – of the year.”

This song is heard all over the place during the Holiday season, but I find myself humming this tune in my head as our NISOA referees are now kicking off the 2022 College Season. I can’t wait to dust that whistle off, shine my badge, and put on that 2022 badge for the first time this season.

It’s a wonderful time for the players.. I would argue more than half the players, this is a “special” year. For freshmen, they are living their dream by playing collegiate soccer for the first time on a college field with fans in the stands. For seniors, this is their last as they close out their college career and in many circumstances, this is the last season they will ever play competitive soccer.

“Let’s Give these players the game they deserve.”

It’s special for most players, but it needs to be special for 100% of our referees. Get the butterflies going. Before the referee team splits up to assume their positions, this is one of the last things I say to the referee team. The players deserve the best possible game from us. Every game. The season is so short: Just three to four months. Mental and physical performance needs to be at its peak.

Where have we been?

And that gets me into my official introduction of the 2022 NISOA Preseason guide: The transition from Preseason to “IN-Season.” Where have we come so far?

  • Physical Preparation – We started our preseason webinar series with Jonathan Weiner sharing his insights on training during the off-season to get NISOA referees ready to step on the field as we transition now. I like to think brushing and flossing my teeth 10 minutes before going to the dentist is actually going to help my lack of consistent flossing from the past 3-4 months. This is not true with the dentist, and hopefully, Jonathan got you “flossing” months before the season started.

  • Mental Preparation – Kris Bailey gave a great talk on the mental side, and if you have not seen a replay of this webinar, please get on the NISOA portal and watch it. I was at our local NISOA clinic here in Arizona over the weekend, and I had a person come up to me and tell me he found the most value out of this presentation. Being a young referee, the focus was always the physical side and knowledge of the rules. Kris introduced him for the first time to the mental side and goal setting, and he is actively now using this as he prepared for the 2022 season.

  • In-Game Execution – Paul Scott gave an amazing interactive presentation on referee and AR areas of responsibility, a topic that is overlooked quite often but so helpful to help ensure game control, player respect, and positive teamwork.

  • Points of Emphasis – This was our largest attended webinar of the year, just weeks ago, as we maxed out our Zoom account with 500 attendees! NISOA is aligned with the NCAA on points of emphasis. Rich Grady clearly laid out the benefits of ensuring the points of emphasis in your games and had some great video clips that can be referenced. If you were not able to join due to our capacity being at limit, please watch this webinar replay on the portal.

  • The NISOA Clinic in Dallas – For those in attendance, this was a true treat to see everyone and hear from the best of the best. With field sessions, classroom, and a Q&A with an MLS referee crew, including our own Tori Penso and World Cup referee Joe Fletcher, this helped both the mental and physical side. I won’t rehash the whole clinic, as you can find a recap HERE, but this helped both the mental and physical preparation for our NISOA referees going into the 2022 season.

  • Your local clinics – Ahhh, the yearly get together... when was the last time you saw your fellow NISOA referees? There are better places to meet than a track and a classroom, but all are necessary to help build us up and get us ready with several key reminders before we hit the field in August.

The 2022 Preseason Guide and the Transition to In-Season

And now, here we are at our 2022 Preseason Guide. The process was managed by Dan Lukash and his National Clinician team, and I could not thank him enough for the time he and his team put into this. We have a great collection of articles directly supporting the Points of Emphasis, along with some articles giving tools to help you in your games coming up. Here is a brief summary:

  • NISOA Dallas Clinic speaker Daniel Radford talked about Video Review. The number of schools using video review is small, but we now have smaller schools and Division 3 colleges asking about their potential to use video review with their one camera and tripod! Therefore, the percentage of games using video review is only going to increase each year. While the percentage of games remains small, we must get this right as a referee team and Daniel includes all his best practices in the article.

  • Coaching and team area decorum is a point of emphasis this year. Jim Reuther gives some great tools that directly impacts this point of emphasis and Mike Oliver gives us techniques and reminders about the area on the field in front of the benches. With enhanced referee attention to this playing area in front of the benches, we can lower the risk of the benches behaving badly and minimize those situations of extreme behavior in the team areas.

  • We want to encourage playing time and attacking soccer, and an increasing tactic is the delaying of a restart by the defending team. Joe Sheridan has an article addressing considerations for when referee involvement is necessary, ranging from verbal prevention to misconduct.

  • Staying on the topic of VB1 vs. VB2 and fighting, Todd Abraham put together a great preseason presentation for your local clinics, and also includes in this pre-season guide a handy, dandy, 4x6 pocket guide with a few quick reminders and considerations. Print this out and keep it in your referee bag or save it to your phone so you can quickly reference it before you hit the field for your next game.

  • Paul Scott started the conversation of referee and AR involvement, and Ross Meloan has some considerations to ensure we don’t insist as an AR. I also included some scenarios in this article where AR involvement might be necessary to not only assist but save the game for the referee team.

And now, we officially transition to a myriad of preseason preparation, and we begin the in-season phase.

I wish our NISOA referee team all the best this year and give the players the game they deserve. It’s the most - wonderful time - of the year.

© 2021 NISOA

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