How to become a top referee (with tips from Ben Williams)

Dutch Referee Blog wishes everyone a great season. Australian former World Cup referee Ben Williams, who announced his retirement in July 2016, gives you 4 things to keep in mind to become a top referee. Also check the interview with Williams about reaching the 2014 World Cup.

So, how to become a top referee?

  1. Be the best you can be
  2. Football is a reflection of life with good and bad days
  3. There is no substitute for hard work
  4. Enjoy the wonderful game of football

How to become a top referee?

Ben Williams explains his tips: “The advice I would give to young referees who wish to reach the top is simple. Be the best you can be – that way you will prepare yourself for every match as though it is a World Cup match. The game is about the players and the fans – not about us. There are times when we have to take big decisions, and we must be courageous enough to do so, but be humble enough to know that the game is for the players and the fans.”

Ben Williams

Ben Williams on How to become a top referee. Photo privided by referee.

It is also important to realise that football is a reflection of life itself. There are good days and some bad days. There are days where we are human and make some poor decisions. However, there are some fantastic days where our matches go so very well. Ride the wave and don’t think you’ll never make a mistake. Those mistakes happen for a reason – to give you the opportunity to experience failure, but to come back even bigger and stronger.

Lastly, there is no substitute for hard work. No one else is going to go out do the hard training sessions for you. Make the sacrifices to achieve what you want. If you want it bad enough, be patient as it may take a while to achieve it.

Above all, you have to enjoy this wonderful game of ours. That is why we get involved in football, and it’s something we must always try to achieve. Enjoy our beautiful game.

Also check the interview with Williams about reaching the 2014 World Cup.

Referee positioning at counter-attacks

Leicester City have crowned themselves as winner of the Premier League. They are also masters in the counter attack. They get the ball and pass forward fast and their strikers are very effective. Are you able as referee to anticipate to that? Check out these lessons for Referee positioning at counter-attacks.

Have quick view at the video below about the counter attacks of Leicester. Please take a good look at the referees. How do they react to the change of play?

COUNTER ATTACK from coachdanwright on Vimeo.

Please let me know what you’ve seen.

You probably have noticed play goes fast and it’s not always possible to the referee to keep up with that. Not to say the referees are doing wrong, but it shows you that it’s very difficult to keep up with play. Below I’ll give some tips on how you can minimise that and anticipate better on counter attacks.

5 things that symbolize a counter attack

The old and the 2016-2017 Laws of the Game mention the counter attack: “In counter-attack situations, the AR should be able to give information such as whether or not a foul has been committed and whether a foul was committed inside or outside the penalty area, and what disciplinary action should be taken. The AR should make a clear movement along the touchline towards the halfway line to indicate when the offence took place outside the penalty area.”

Yes, I believe it is very important that your assistant referee can help you. But as referee you want to be able to follow play as well. You want to be in the right position. A Concacaf presentation I’ve seen describes it very accurate. “Mobility = being able to get ‘somewhere’ (fitness). Positioning = knowing where that ‘somewhere’ is.” Football teams have to anticipate to only one other team, as referee you need to anticipate on both.

First it’s good to see what happens in a counter attack. There are 5 things in the video that symbolize the steps in a counter attack for players.

  1. Recognize the developing play. Is it on?
  2. Regain possession
  3. The early decision
  4. Support the attack
  5. The end positioning

Counter attacks for referees

As referee you’ll have such steps well. I’ve distilled the 5 steps for referees based on the one’s for players – and yes, they’re quite similar.

  1. Recognize the developing play
  2. Regain position
  3. The early reaction (anticipation)
  4. Follow the attack
  5. The end positioning

1. Recognize the developing play

As referee you need to be aware of your surroundings. What happens on the pitch? What can be the next situation you have to focus on? You need to be able to read the game, recognize what players might do.

I’ll show in a picture below (that I took from the video) what the referee has to notice:

There is a player who wants to prevent the goalie from releasing the ball. And if you have a broader look, you’ll see five attackers that are even with the goalie or closer to Leicester’s goal-line. There must be plenty of space for a counter-attack because there are less defenders from Manchester United.

Referee needs to recognize play during the game.

2. Regain position

The goalie gets the chance to throw the ball forward a teammate, so regain position. In the clip you’ll see the referee turn his head to the player who was jumping in front of the goalie. Keep that short, focus on how play develops. As you can seen the referee has changed his direction already with his back to the Leicester goal.

Regain position when you expect a counter-attack.

3. The early reaction (anticipation)

The early reaction has a lot to do with regaining position. They might have been under the same subheading, but I’d like to follow the 5 steps as mentioned in the video. What is the first thing you’d do when you expect a counter-attack? Yes, RUN!

In the picture below you’ll see the referee is looking back to the Manchester United player. My advice: don’t focus too much on something that happened earlier on, especially when there is no opponent near it, so you don’t have to expect any problems.

The good thing you see from image is that you see that  the referee is running forward. And fast. He anticipates on the possibility of a counter-attack.

First reaction of a referee

4. Follow the attack

Once you’ve made that decision to go forward, you need to keep following the attack. The number 28 has stopped to see where he can pass the ball. That gave the referee some time to covere all the distance and he is shortly behind the ball.  But keep in mind, a ball goes faster than you can run, so keep moving forward and follow the attack. If the right midfield player passes the ball forward, you have a lot of metres to run to be close to the situation again.

A referee needs to follow the counter-attack.

5. The end positioning

In the end, all you want to do is making the right decision. So your (end) position when something happens needs to be good. The referee would ideally have been a bit closer to the situation compared to the picture below. He has a clear view, but could have been closer. In this situation Vardy scores for Leicester, but what if the defender tackled him? Or did he play the ball?

Below I summarized some tips for positioning at a counter attack.

End position at counter attack

Tips for referee positioning at counter-attacks

Being in the right position is more than being able to run fast. You need to be able to anticipate on the situation and choose your position smartly. The Concacaf experts give you three simple tips for anticipating counter attacks as referees:

  • Do not immediately go wide and deep. Keep behind play, not in front of the ball. That gives you space, so it will be easier to adapt to situations.
  • Create the best angle of vision. It must be easy for you to make the right calls by moving to the left or right.
  • Think ahead. Consider the player’s passing options. If you have an idea where the ball might go,  you can anticipate on that and move already towards the position where the next challenge will be. So be aware of players and open spaces
  • Always be alert and focused. Not just important for anticipating on counter-attacks. But if there’s a counter-attack, focus on that and ignore previous situations that are not relevant anymore. (Check out some 7 tips to stay focused for 90 minutes)
  • Keep moving. Don’t start running around like crazy, even walking is fine. But when you’re on the move it’s easier to change direction or accelerate than when you’re standing still. It makes you more flexible in your movements.

How do you keep fit enough to be able to anticipate on counter-attacks? How often do you train?

7 refereeing lessons from Willem Schuitemaker

“You won’t make it on the pitch with only the knowledge of the Laws of the Game”, says Willem Schuitemaker at a workshop I visited in Leiden this year. “You need passion, talent and motivation. That combination will bring you to your personal best and passion is the most important here.”

Schuitemaker has been invited in Leiden for a workshop about “soft skills” to educate the referees. He was active in professional football as an assistant referee from January 2010 until the 2012/2013 season. Now he’s giving workshops for his REFEREE Factory at referee organisations, sports clubs and companies.

You can read the article in Dutch in De Scheidsrechter.

Willem Schuitemaker at referee association COVS Leiden

Willem Schuitemaker at referee association COVS Leiden

The passion for refereeing had to grow for Schuitemaker himself. At his 12th he was a linesman at the games his father played. Sunday League football level. At the age of 16 he forcedly became a referee himself. The local derby between Quickboys and Katwijk. “After that game I thought: ‘never again’ . You must be crazy if you’re a whistler. I am happy I picked up the whistle myself later on.”

After his career in professional football Schuitemaker has replaced his flag for the whistle again. He wants to share his knowledge with colleagues. In this story he will share 7 tips that will help you become a better referee.

1. Get motivation after a setback

“I was unable to run the referee fitness tests. That’s something mentally and had nothing to do with my physical condition. I’ve visited a sports psychologist for that. When I saw a running track it all went wrong. Because I failed the fitness test, I had to quit. After my professional career I was about to quit. For 6 months I had a very difficult time, but found back the drive to continue.”

2. Be well-prepared

“I’ve got always the same routine. The same sandwiches on my way to the game and I’ll pack my back in the same way each time. At one game I recognized I was badly prepared. And in that game the sole of my shoe went loose. It was that day I forgot my extra pair of shoes. I ran on socks and did that for half an our. That was a good signal for myself: leave home on time and be weel-prepared. Always!”

3. Get the best out of yourself

Be aware that whatever you do, you need to do your very best. So go to referee training sessions. If the players put some extra effort in right before the end of the game, your battery need to be full as well. That’s why physical preparation is so important for referees.

4. Together you’re stronger

TEAM. Together Everyone Achieves More. You need to make arrangements with your team and keep them. That’s important on the pitch, but doing things together is also important off the pitch. Listen to colleagues at the referee meetings. Sometimes you’ll hear things you can ignore or that don’t suit you, but often it’s very useful to exchange experience with each other.

Willem Schuitemaker presenting.

5. Expect the unexpected

“Also try to concentrate on situations where’s no challenge for the ball. Some defenders will try to foul the opponent behind your back. At a higher level you can also prepare for those things due to watching video’s. If you officiate at a certain level for a longer period, after a while you know the player’s to keep an eye one.

6. Don’t give up

At my first game at the talent group for upcoming professional referees, the start of the route toward professional football, the assessor entered the dressing room. He asked why I was on the list of talented assistant referees. There was no room for me there is what he told. If you hear that, it’s a bitter disapppointment. Everyone knows the referee world is a hard one. My advice is to not give up, then you’ll be able to reach your personal top level. You need to be able to deal with a setback, that makes you stronger. I am happy I’ve been active at a higher level for years.

7. Choose your style

Schuitemaker tells about different styles to be a leader. He compares it with behaviour of monkey’s. “Gorilla’s want to show they’re powerful, want to be in the picture. The baboon is smarter and is looking for cooperation and adapts better towards the circumstances. Every referee has to pick his own style. That’s different for everybody. The most important thing is not to imitate others. Then it will become an act.”

Offside exercises for assistant referees

Offside exercises for assistant referees
Check the image aboven on this blog post. Would you flag for offside? There’s been a lot of offside discussions recently. Is a player making attempt to play the ball? Is it a deliberate play or a save? Offside is the main task of the assistant referee, but it’s also quite difficult. Not just the rare situations, but also situations where both defenders and attackers are moving. Want to practise yourself? Here are offside exercises for assistant referees.

Get pencil and paper ready and write down numbers 1 to 25. The video below will show you 25 clips in quick succession and you have to decide wether the player is onside or offside. After all the clips you’ll get the answers.

Useful information about offside:

4 types of mentors you need as referee

The new season has started. Have you ever thought about how you want to grow as referee? It’s good to have a mentor who helps you. Actually you need more than one. Read more about the 4 types of mentors you need as referee.

Board with word mentor.

Kim Kaupe brought me on Inc.com on the idea for writing this post. She focussed on mentors young entrepreneurs need. I’ve used her 4 types and projected them on the career of a referee.

Because yes, you really need people that help you when you’re stuck in your refereeing career. Some can give tips on refereeing, others can help you with personal struggles. Check out the 4 types of mentors you need as a referee.

Knows you personally and as referee

It’s not just refereeing problems you’ll face as a referee. A mentor who knows you personally and knows your refereeing career is important. You can discuss personal issues with him or her. That’s because that mentor knows how much effort you put into refereeing.

A great example that I could think of is Howard Webb’s dad. If you’ve seen the movie Kill the referee, you can see Webb’s dad visit him during the World Cup.

Knows you only personally

You need someone who knows you as a person, but doesn’t know much about your refereeing. Kaupe describes it as “someone who will slap you in the face”. A peson who is “a good sounding board for your weaknesses”.

Think about someone who knows you tend to cancel your work-outs, because you’re a bit lazy. That kind of mentor will tell you that you should go out running if you want to reach your goals. He is not afraid to say you’ve been week if he hears you sat on the bench watching tv series instead of training.

Doesn’t know you or has seen you officiating

You need someone who can ask you about your goals and then tell you what you need to do for that. They care about building the bigger picture. They’re seeing the possibilities and helping them come to pass through someone else’s life.

A mentor who’s looking at the bigger picture doesn’t say what you did wrong on the pitch for example. He’s looking for the WHY. There needs to be a reason why you make wrong calls or why you don’t get that promotion. If you together find out the WHY, then you can work on solving the problem.

Only knows you as a referee

A person who only knows you as a referee is not worried about hurting your feelings. Sometimes you need a fresh look at your performance as a referee. This mentor will give you an honest opinion.

And whatever mentor you work with, one of the most important things is that you are willing to be mentored. You must be open for tips and sometimes for some criticism. That will make you a better referee.

Do you have a mentor? Write down the names of people who could be good mentors for you and get in touch with them.

Tips for referee positioning at corner kick

This referee gave the assist of the year. After a player took the corner kick it deflects on the referee and gives a striker the perfect opportunity to shoot. The ball went straight into the goal. Could he have prevented that? Tips for referee positioning at corner kick situations.

But check out the video of this situation first. It’s a game between Sampdoria and Hellas Verona that ends in a 5-0 win for the home team.

First ask yourself what would be your ideal position for a corner kick? Do you stay in the penalty area or not?

According to guidelines by The FA you should be able to see both the ball and the players in the penalty area. In a publication they wrote: “The referee’s optimum position would be where he can view the ball and the players at the same time in the penalty area to observe any possible challenges or infringements that may occur.”

FIFA Guidelines

Ideal positioning for the referee according to FIFA guidelines is just outside the penalty area a bit left from the goal (so NOT on the side where your assistant is).

Referee positioning at corner kick

That is the positioning when the corner kick is take at the side of the referee. You’ll see a small difference in the image below, when the corner kick is at the assistant referee’s side. Have you seen it?

Referee's positioning when corner kick at assistant's side.

The body of the referee is slightly different. The first picture indicates that you should also be aware what happens to the left of you. Positioning yourself as in the first image would give you the opportunity to watch to the corner kick taker as well.

Don’t watch to the taker constantly, but have a quick look now and then so you’ll know when the ball is taken and if it moves in your direction. The main focus should be on the penalty area, because that’s where most important things might happen.

Managing a corner kick

This blog focuses only on the positioning during the corner kick. Stephen Green – a referee tutor who unfortunately passed a way while cycling for a good cause – has written a guest post on my blog. Check out his tips on how to manage a corner kick.

“Stay positive when you’re a relegated referee”

Quote of relegated referee Ronny Mulder

All promoted referees posted happy things on Facebook after the end of the season. There was one positive message from a referee that has been relegated. His motto: don’t quit, but work even harder to get back on a higher level. “Giving up is the easy way”, says the relegated referee. “You can get back if you really want to.”

It wasn’t the first time Ronny Mulder got the news that he was relegated as a referee. He refereed in the Topklasse, the highest amateur level, when it was introduced in 2010-2011. But he was already relegated twice before and worked his way up again. “I know how it feels to relegate. I am 56 now and it’s my 28th year as referee. You should always have a goal as referee – no matter how old you are. I was already 50 when I reached the national amateur level.”

His most important message for referees: don’t quit if you have a setback. “Giving up is the easiest way. That is not an option for me.”

We don’t learn to lose

“As a referee on the higher amateur levels we know that 3 or 4 out of 12 will relegate”, Mulder says. “It can happen and you should take it into account. But the problem is: we don’t learn to lose.”

Mulder is also a coach for young talented referees. “What would those refs think if I would quit?” When his pupils get a bad mark he learns them not to complain about he assessors. “I ask them how they will try to improve on that aspect of the game. They need to make reflective reports about their performance. Everybody wants the pat on the shoulder, but somotimes you need a kick in the butt as well”

The road to the top is long for referees. Mulder has much respect the referees in the lowest groups. “Only 3 or 4 out of 75 will make the step up. Then you need persistance, because the chance you won’t earn a promotion is so high”

Lessons from Ronny Mulder

  • Determine for yourself what your top level will be. Don’t set a goal that is too high, not everybody is good enough to reach the top. “If you’ve don that, you will really appreciate your games.”
  • Don’t call off your games when you know you will have a stern assessor. “Yes, that is what happens a lot.”
  • Don’t complain about the assessor, but have a look in the mirror after every game. Ask yourself how you did and what should improve.
  • You are never too young to reach the top. Mulder was 50 when he reached the national amateur level.
  • And the most important one: don’t quit when you relegate or have a bad mark.

Have you ever been relegated? How did you find the power to go for it another season and did it pay off?
For our Dutch colleagues. Ronny Mulder was referee in the game which tv host Hans Kraaij jr. threw away his jacket.

PS: Ronny sells Acme whistles. Check out his website.