Youíve been assigned to do the middle Ė you arrive at the field, and your assistant referees are eagerly awaiting your leadership. What to do? The very first thing you must attend to is the condition of the playing field. Ask your assistants to walk one half of the field if they havenít already done so. Itís very important to have looked for hazards. You may not spot anything dangerous, but from a liability standpoint, you were not negligent in your duties.
Before the kickoff, ask your assistants to each take a team and do equipment checks and collect passes if necessary. By so doing, you are immediately delegating responsibility and giving your assistants a chance to communicate with the players and coaches. It gets them involved and interested.
With some time left before the kickoff, take your assistants aside and begin your pre-game brief. You should know the playing time and inform them of the duration of the halves and how much time you expect to take for a halftime interval. Make sure that you expect them to back you up with their clocks. Ask them how they found the field, what the players are like, if they know anything about the teams and coaches, and anything else that may make your game management more successful. Encourage their opinions.
One of the best ways to cover pre-game instructions is a method that I learned while taking the referee assessor course (a formal assessment always includes an evaluation of your pre-game). You can generally break a game down into types of kicks that take place during a match, and your assistantís mechanics often hinge on these restarts. So cover each type of kick and where you expect them to be positioned and what they should do.
If your referee assistants know where to go in these situations, you can work much more smoothly as a team and eliminate potential sources of confusion.
As the referee, you should know what instructions you wish to give prior to a match. Even if your assistant(s) are more experienced than you are, they canít help you to do your best if you donít tell them what you expect of them. Donít be too shy to lay it out for them. There may be many more things you wish to cover, such as how to handle offside, what to signal if a foul occurs inside or outside the penalty area, what assistance you want in calling fouls or other misconduct. Halftime is another good time to discuss things that you see occurring. Ask for opinions regarding the teamsí play and encourage your assistants to "exchange notes" on how defenders are lining up during play.
Remember: get your assistants involved, give them clear guidance before the kickoff on what you expect them to do in certain situations, and look to them for assistance if you arenít sure. Donít be afraid to stop play and confer privately with an assistant referee in order to get it right. The match may have been dull and boring, but the spectators will be treated to some good officiating.