Over the years, my pregame chat as a center ref has evolved. What used to be focused on good flag mechanics, staying on the 2nd to last opponent or just simply following play all the way to the goal line has evolved into a much more detailed and nuanced conversation.
Here are the main topics I cover:
- Eye contact and non-verbal communication: We are a team. We need to make sure that we stay connected throughout the game. Often times I will look towards you and just make sure that we are good and if you have any info for me. We can give each other a thumbs up if we are good.
- Hard fouls: On hard fouls, I may also look to you for input. A quick hand to the shirt pocket is enough to signal YC, but please be inconspicuous. I may decide a RC and I don't want anyone think we aren't on the same page. If it's a RC and I'm unsure, I'll come talk to you.
- Watch my back: I can't see everything and I rely on you to help me see things off the ball. Often times, players try to get away with things when my back is turned. If you see something, feel free to call out to me and then signal with your flag. We'll discuss and I'll take action.
- Dissent from coaches, players or spectators: Please be my ears around the pitch. Dissent towards anyone of us is dissent towards all of us. Isolated outbursts and frustration about a particular call are expected. When it becomes personal, profane or prolonged, please let me know. Get my attention at the next stoppage and lets discuss. If you are concerned for your safety, then get my attention immediately and we will dismiss the offending party.
- Offside: If you do nothing else as an AR, please, please, please focus on the offside line. This can easily be a key match decision and decide the outcome of a tight game. I'd much rather an AR miss the direction of a throw-in than a close offside call.
- Throw-ins: Let's make sure we are on the same page. If it's in the AR's quadrant and they see it, I want them to lead with a small indication of the flag to their side. I will recognize it and we will both go up together. In my quadrant, I may be much closer to the play. If I see it clearly, I will lead. If I'm not sure, I will look at my AR and see if they have the call. If not, I will go with my gut. Most importantly, let's support each other.