by Ray Moffatte, Jr.
“When we think our journey is about to end; a new journey begins.”
When we last checked in we reflected on my effort to reach the national level as a referee. Part of reaching that goal was the swallowing of my pride and making the decision to hold the flag if I wanted to get a badge that started with an “N” or to work in matches at levels that I had only dreamed of. Who would have thought that an old man from Pierce County would be able to work games at the Development Academy Finals, the MLS Reserve League, the NWSL or some US Open Cup Matches?
What it took to get to that level on and off the field was worth it. In another time and another set of circumstances I would have made the decision to climb that ladder earlier in life. But we cannot change history. The sad thing about the journey is the wear and tear put on this body. Because of my style, effort and dedication my body at times doesn’t want to work the way I want it to any more. There are also times that it doesn’t want to recover as fast as it used to. Thus the days of working all day long at a youth tournament are behind me. Will I attend those events in the future? Yes I will. But you won’t see too many back to back games from me anymore.
It is sad to say and a bit embarrassing to admit that the current fitness test to maintain the National Badge kicked my butt this year. I cannot commit the time needed to train to maintain the conditioning to master that fitness test. I can deal with the sprinting part of the test six 40m sprints in less than six seconds with 90 seconds recovery time in between each sprint. It’s the endurance part of the test; 10 laps of two 150 meter runs in 30 seconds with two 50 meter recovery walks in 40 seconds. This old body on two occasions told me “no” here in Washington (March) and in Dallas (April). Those were days that you could have seen a grown man cry.
Even with my disappointment there were words of encouragement from those in the referee world. My fellow referees helped me keep my spirits high. Some of my mentors where there in both locations to tell me that I had accomplished a lot for someone who started the climb the referee ladder so late in life. One gave me words of wisdom over a bite to eat after my second failed attempt that didn’t mean much at the time; but has proven to be a prophecy since the comment was made. My friend Don Wilbur from South Carolina casually said; “eventually we will have to replace those of us who are teaching and evaluating referees” as he looked me in the eye. He was asking who will replace the current leadership of those teaching the craft of refereeing soccer.
That comment didn’t mean much until I received a random text/email from USSF leadership: “what do you thinks about becoming a PNA (Provisional National Assessor)? Part of the reason of becoming a National Assistant Referee was to one day become a National Assessor. I always understood that to be a National Assessor one had to be a National Level Referee for a minimum of three years. Thus all of the tears that I had shed; I thought the dream was over. Now the light was once again flickering at the end of the tunnel.
My new journey was about to begin. First stop the Development Academy Winter Showcase in Bradenton, Florida. This is a place where I had travelled the previous three winters to obtain the National Badge as an Assistant Referee. This time my role would be different. Instead of trying to become a better referee; I would now learn how to become a better Assessor (evaluator) of referees.
Let me stop and say thank you to the Washington State Referee Committee (WASRC) for their continued support. With the funds they collect for referee registration a portion of it is invested back into the education and training of referees who attempt to climb the ladder to increase their: skill, knowledge and grade level as a referee. In turn we have a responsibility to give back to the referee community once those activities, events and goals have come and pass. With the WASRC’s help I was able to attend the Winter Showcase as an Assessor along with nine referees from Washington as we continue to grow within the refereeing community.
While our nine referees were busy on the field I was busy off the field. I’ve been watching the game from a referee standpoint for a while. I’ve been mentoring young referees for a while. I just completed my first year as a State Assessor. I was enlighten and awakened by my week in Florida. Over a five day period I assessed 11 matches. That 11 matches with four person crews; thus I had to assess 44 referees. All the work had to be reviewed by the experienced Assessors who were shadowing my efforts.
I showed that I can see what other Assessors are seeing when I watch a match. I can communicate verbally with a referee about their strengths. I also have the ability to communicate with a referee about their weaknesses (areas that need improvement) without them thinking I’m a jerk. I gave them the opportunity to assess themselves about their game performance. I just helped them along the way with identifying their own strengths and weaknesses.
Where I struggled was putting fingers to key board. You have to identify the problem spots along with giving them ideas of what the potential solutions are. I felt like I was back in high school English class. Do you remember when you English told you to stop being so brief to give him/her more details? Let me say that I had to re-write the first 20 assessments over again. While I can be long-winded in person; I was quick on paper (kind of ironic?). Of the 20, it took two or three more attempts at some of them to get them right. All of my assessments had to meet the approval of each of my shadows before they could be released to each referee. Each assessment is recorded in the national referee data base in the referee’s attempt to ascend to become a National Referee or National Assistant Referee.
Once the Showcase ended then the waiting game began. When do I find out if I’d past the test or not? Just as it was two years earlier; I was now at the mercy of someone’s opinion on if was good enough to ascend to a new level with in the referee world. Instead of a new level of competition on the field; it is a new level of responsibility of helping referees become better referees. For me the big announcement came on December 17, 2014 at 9:13am. Ironically it is the date of Grandchild #10’s birthday. I had been selected as a National Assessor (pending passing the 2015 National Referee test). Again, who would have thought that a guy who was once just filled in referee because a referee wasn’t scheduled for the next time slot on a field in South Tacoma could one day become a National Assessor? Can I help find the next National Referee or the next National Assistant Referee from Washington or anywhere in our country?
All is not lost with my on the field efforts. I will still be on the field at the youth and high school level. The college level still has opportunities for an old guy like me (NCAA Men’s Division III National Championship Game) as time moves along. But from a USSF standpoint the referee ladder has no more rungs to climb. Now we will focus on the other two aspect of refereeing; Assessing and Instructing. If we can’t be the best referee there is; can we help fined the next great referee within our community. I know that he or she is out there. As we’ve already helped a few reach their immediate goal; there are more out there who need the help as well. My new job is to help referees climb the ladder; just like those who have helped me along the way.