Being A Great Assistant Referee


You Are Vital

Being the AR may just seem like an easy gig to earn you/your child’s team some volunteer points for the season.

Sure, many of us are volunteering because we were “volun-told to,” and I get that.

Three years ago, my better half “asked” me if I would please be a volunteer referee for our daughter’s team. I obliged and quickly found myself loving it—signing up for games every chance I could. You may not get bitten by the bug like I did, but I’m betting you are going to find refereeing a lot of fun and a rewarding way to spend the morning out there on the field.

Granted, you usually find yourself working games away from the family (because in the U9/10 divisions and up we can’t referee our child’s games, and those darn “self-scheduling rules and guidelines”), but you are playing a vital role in the AYSO system, one that contributes to your child being able to participate in one of the greatest youth sports organizations in the country. AYSO is all about Volunteer Parents just like you!

Let’s Do Our Best Out There

OK, you might rather be golfing, out for a jog, gardening, or cheering your child on from the sidelines. Well, today you’re not…….. so, let’s embrace the moment and do the best job you possibly can.  Come on, I know you are all hard-working folks that give everything you do your best effort, why not excel here, too?!  Just take a modicum of pride in this role. The Kids are out there trying their hardest. The Coaches are out there trying their best. Don’t you want to also?

AR Basic Mechanics and Tricks For Success

There are a few universal AR mechanics that you just need to get right, and I will review these with you. There are also a few simple tricks that will just make you look like a “seasoned pro.” So, your main duties in assisting the center referee include (but are not limited to): Offside, Ball out of play, Fouls. In order to perform these duties, you need to be in the right place at the right time, and you need to be focused (mentally, visually, aurally) on your job.  When the game is about to start, be ready and focused on what’s going on in front of you (on the field of play), don’t be chatting with coaches, friends, or someone on your phone. Here we go!

  • AR Positioning: AR needs to be either in line with the 2nd to last defender or the ball, at all times, whichever is nearer to the Goal Line. This requires a certain amount of both hustle and focus.
    • Hustle: be quick; run to keep up with the 2nd to last defender or the ball whichever is closer to the Goal Line”; the Offside Offence is your most important responsibility; don’t miss a call because you weren’t there (in line with that defender or the ball) to see it; quick side-stepping also is needed.
    • Focus: it’s easy to drift off if the action is always down on the opposite end of the field; be ready for that sudden counter-attack so you can predict and keep up with the long through-ball; it’s also easy to forget you have a job to do when you’re enjoying watching a good match; remember, this is why you’re getting paid the big bucks! Keep your eyes and ears on the game.
    • Use your ears (!): when watching for that OS call, be watching the defender/attacker positioning in front of you and “listen closely” for the sound of the ball being kicked/passed by that attacker’s teammate. It’s a challenge knowing whether to use your eyes or your ears to determine the “moment of truth” (when the ball is last passed/played/touched by the attacking player), and where the possibly-Offside player is at that moment of truth! Good luck. But there’s nothing better than getting this call right!!!
  • Speaking of Offside: remember to WAIT... Even with your eagle eyes and K-9 hearing, you need to wait before raising that flag for the OS call until that forward attacker actually “becomes involved in active play.” This means basically waiting until they touch the ball, or, if they are the only person within “playing distance” of that ball you can go ahead and raise it. What constitutes “playing distance” will be determined by you. Remember it’s all “In The Opinion Of The Referee” (ITOOTR), and you are a referee, too (just as important as the CR)!
  • Flag Signals should be made with confidence: goal kick, corner kick, throw in direction. Don’t be a wimp here, there is no room for sloppy signaling—let them know you are on it (but you don’t have to be too militaristic). Your CR is taking his/her job seriously (hopefully), take yours seriously too.
  • Make flag signals with the “correct” hand, in the direction of the next restart, not across your body with the “wrong” hand.
  • Make flag signals with “good form
    • TI needs to be up sharply at 45 degrees (not lazily horizontal), in “correct” hand.
    • GK needs to be sharply horizontal, in right
    • CK needs to be sharply down at 45 degrees, in right
    • Think of the flag as a proud extension of your arm, not an embarrassing ball-and-chain that you’re stuck with for the next hour or so.
  • FOULS: the CR should give you his/her instructions before the game in terms of how they want/like to call their games. Some “call things tight,” some “let them play.” Your “job” is to assist the CR, so try to get a “feel” for how this person is calling the game out there and call fouls the same way. One of your AYSO jobs as a Match Official is to keep the game fair (as well as safe and fun) and this means calling fouls/offences when someone is committing a foul. Period. Foul recognition is an acquired skill, and “AYSO fouls” are different from “English Premier League fouls” !!! Obviously the level of what is acceptable at the professional level far exceeds what is acceptable in an AYSO match. But hopefully you will gain confidence in calling obvious fouls in your quadrant—raise the flag, give it a little wiggle, and then point the flag in the direction of the next restart (depending on which team got fouled—the flag will point in the direction that they are attacking).
  • Make frequent Eye Contact with your CR whenever the ball goes out of play. A little “thumbs up” lets him/her know everything is cool and you’re on it! And if everything is not cool, get that flag up (more on that later when we cover Law 12: Fouls and Misconduct ).
  • Try to make eye contact with your CR before making your flag signal, so that you can be sure you’re both on the same page. Hopefully the CR has an opinion and starts to indicate what the restart will be, then you can make/follow the signal. Most calls that you make for a ball going out of play (OOP) are obvious and you can go ahead and signal the restart direction, but some are not; that’s why it’s good to see what the CR is thinking. Generally, you should “defer” to the CR, unless you feel absolutely sure you have it correct and the CR is wrong. If the CR gives you that quizzical look (“ummm, did you see that”), hopefully you can initiate the call for the restart with confidence.
  • AR’s “assist” not “insist.” Remember that the CR has the last say. AR’s should never “argue” a CR’s decision publically; perhaps a subtle comment on what you think you saw, and only so that the two of you can hear it (not the entire sideline).
  • “Let it (the ball) go !!!”: Although a nice gesture, don’t worry about stopping a ball from going out of bounds (unless it comes right to your feet and you can stop the ball without losing eye contact with the FOP and the CR). Watching an AR scrambling around for a loose ball rather than being able to confirm the next restart call with that person interrupts the flow of communication between the CR and the AR. Let the players fetch the ball.
  • Be dressed and look the part: shirt tucked in, correct socks pulled up, preferably not wearing dark sunglasses (eye contact!) unless prescription and necessary to do your job. Stay off of your cell phone, please.
  • Look “dialed-in,” engaged, attentive. Don’t look too casual, as easy/boring as the game might be. Don’t be chatting-up the folks (Coaches, Spectators) along the sideline too much. All it takes is a slightly athletic stance, keep your body facing the field–sidestepping shuffling is great for when the ball is in line with you. But when you need to run to keep up with play/ball/defender please do so, once you are where you need to be then reposition yourself square to the pitch.
  • Stand by your CR: Don’t discuss (or question) the CR’s calls with the coach (or other sideline folks). A simple “I don’t know” shrug of the shoulders is usually enough. If they persist in their commentary, seeking clarification, wondering what in the world was the CR thinking—just give them the “I don’t know, I didn’t see it.” Even on calls that look WRONG to you, your best retort should be “He/she must have seen something differently.” Or, the easiest one, “I don’t know, he/she was closer.”