The 2013-14 Development Academy season is winding down, and the national showcases and playoffs serve as optimal events for referees making their way up the ladder. The U-13/14 Academy Showcase, which ran from June 13-16 at Grand Park in Westfield, Indiana, was a huge opportunity with 96 clubs competing.
Interest from the country’s referee base was huge as U.S. Soccer received 776 referee applications. Among this group, a total of 163 officials attended and were evaluated by 24 national assessors. Two mentors/scouts were also at the U-13/14 event to provide further guidance.
In addition to the valuable games, the event included daily referee education meetings over the four-day stretch. Topics ranged from fourth official focus, to handling serious injuries, assistant referee training and other lessons.
Back on the pitch, the June 15 itinerary – which was a day off from the U-13/14 Academy teams’ schedule – included a detailed field exercise session to enhance the referees’ knowledge decision making process.
“The positive feedback from not only officials but instructors was fantastic,” said instructor Rick Eddy, who helped run the field exercise portion of the event. “Everyone left this event with new skill sets and a wealth of information that could be shared with peers to help improve all levels of officials.”
The field session was held on three fields, with three drills conducted simultaneously. Officials spent 10 minutes at each drill, and the exercises covered the following:
- Warm-up drills, targeting the concentration and mental preparation for games
- Assistant referee flag signals, intermixed with a mirror so the focus is not only with the flag but also to have the awareness of all aspects of a game
- Foul selection drill, designed to pinpoint individual players’ infractions during a game
- Offside drills to focus on quick decision making; this portion was adapted from FIFA’s assistant referee test
“For such a young group of referees, they picked up on the skills quickly and improved as the drills went on,” Eddy said. “In the beginning, there was immediate feedback by the instructors, but the learning curve was minimal. By the end of each exercise, the officials excelled at the tasks at hand.”
The U-13/14 Academy Showcase served as the bookend to the first Development Academy season for this age group, capped off by the selection of Weston FC to represent the USA at the 2014 Manchester United Premier Cup from Aug. 6-9 in Manchester, England.