US SoccerUS Soccer

Spring Showcase Provides Educational Platform for Referees as Well as Players and Coaches

• 118 Referees in Working Showcase Games in Sarasota
• Referee Education Part of Learning Opportunities Available to Showcase Participants Across Many Platforms
• Spring Showcase Wraps Up on Tuesday, June 1

SARASOTA, Fla. (May 31, 2010)—With technical advisors, Academy Select games and SPARQ testing, players and coaches at the Spring Showcase are provided with top educational opportunities, but often overlooked are the young referees in attendance this weekend, who are also getting a special opportunity to improve their game.

Present this weekend at the Showcase are professional referees Terry Vaughn and Baldomero Toledo, and their presence has not gone unnoticed among their younger colleagues. Taking advantage of the chance to ask questions of the top referees in the country, many Academy referees are seeking out their advice.

“They are always out walking around, they make themselves available to talk to people, they’ll come up and talk to you if they see something in your game that needs to be talked about,” said Corey Parker, a Grade 5 referee. “They’re not out there to intimidate you, or show that they’re above you, they’re there to help you and make you better.”

Their work here this weekend is part of a larger U.S. Soccer educational initiative for its officiating corps, with seminars, discussions and group assessments making this weekend an important learning opportunity for the 118 referees present.

One of the topics being covered is the role of the fourth official, a position generally not notices by players and fans. But the fourth official’s job of handling substitutions, bench control and pre-match paperwork allows the three on-field officials to focus their attention on the live match.

“When you have a good fourth official who’s very competent with the benches, and has a good personality, it allows the game to flow that much better because you’re able to focus on what you’re doing on the field,” said Andrew Bigelow, a Grade 4 referee from Indiana. “That role is vital to ensuring a referee will have a successful game.”

The last new component of this Showcase is the chance for peer review among fellow referees. In meetings throughout the weekend, U.S. Soccer’s Director of Referee Development Paul Tamberino and Manager of Assessment and Training Brian Hall showed several clips from games that took place just hours before. Asking referees to assess themselves, the session allowed for different perspectives and constructive criticism to flow.

“Our goal as a group is to get it right. We’re not going to get it right by sitting here in the room, looking at the clip, and just saying ‘we’ll get it the next time,” said Grade 5 referee Kara Honthumb. “When we look at it, we try to really take a hard look at it. Sometimes you’re the one on the hot seat, and it’s uncomfortable, but at the same time we’re all supportive and know we’re all here to get better.”

“We’re able to critique ourselves, and able to give both positive and negative criticism,” said Bigelow. “It’s a difficult situation for some people, but it’s always constructive. There is a sense of humor with it, but it’s a good opportunity to learn from it as an entire group. It’s a necessary piece, the critiquing and self evaluation that we’ve implemented in Sarasota for the first time.”

With the goal of improving the level of play for the American youth soccer player across the board, U.S. Soccer’s Development Academy has taken great strides to ensure that the officiating matches the level of play. Educational opportunities like the Spring Showcase will continue to improve the level of all referees, providing a platform not just for future U.S. National Team members to display their skills but future U.S. Soccer Referees as well.

The Spring Showcase continues through Tuesday morning in Sarasota, with all 154 teams in action. The Showcase is the second event of the 2009-10 Development Academy season following the Winter Showcase, which was held from Dec. 4-8 in Phoenix, Ariz. Academy Playoffs will be held at Bryan Park in Greensboro, N.C. from June 25-29 and Academy Finals Week will be held from July 9-18 at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.