Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Showing my first yellow card

My second year/third season as a referee and finally had to show my first yellow card. One of my former players of course, and she should know better... Asked her to remove her earrings before the match started, noticed in the second half she still had them in. Which was weird not to notice earlier, but she was playing defence on a team of 11 vs a team that only had seven show up, so I didn't get close enough to notice until she was moved up to forward for the second half. Yellow for USB.

Jewelry is one of those things that is starting to annoy me. It is on the registration forms that no jewelry is permitted. Its in the laws of the game, and the intention is to prevent injury to self or others. Before every single game I have to tell players to remove jewelry, I tell the coaches to remind their players that they can't have jewelry, and yet every game I'm sending players to the sideline to take off earrings or watches or bracelets or necklaces. Which makes me the mean old referee. There is the usual litany of excuses. "I've always worn it before", "The other referee lets me" (unfortunately, this one is true), "I can't take it out/the hole will close over", "They are only little ear/nose studs". I even had a coach ask me what could be done to change the rules. I told him to appeal to FIFA.

I was getting lukewarm support for my 'strictness' using the argument that someone could get hurt. So now I use the magic word "liability". If someone gets hurt I get sued, you the coach gets sued, you the player gets sued, the player's parents get sued, and the league administrators get sued. Since none of the above have liability insurance (even if we did it wouldn't matter because the laws clearly say no jewelry) that argument worked.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Refereeing my first Adult game

Our local league is very small. Its all co-ed, there are only four teams in each age division, and multiple ages play on the same team. I used to coach 'Old Timers' and had a range of kids from 12-17 on my team. After grade eleven they are supposed to move on to the 'Geriatric' division, where there are four adult teams.

I had been refereeing U12 and U10 this summer, but was finding the littler ones didn't present much of a challenge or much exercise. Their enthusiasm for the game was a refreshing recharge after giving up coaching, but I wanted some more competitive games to warm up for the boys high school season this fall.

I was extremely nervous beforehand. These guys (and girls) have never had a referee before! All our adult refs play in the division so there has never been someone available. They called all their own fouls, ball in/out, offsides, and whatnot themselves according to the collective understanding (or misunderstanding ;) of the laws of the game. Hard to walk into that and establish a presence.

It was not my best game by any means, but serviceable. I've been off for two weeks with a vacation and then the stomach flu, so didn't feel I had my legs yet. I did better than expected with keeping up with play, but much room for improvement there. It was a very back and forth game. One team would pressure, then the defending team would pound it down the field to their high forwards and off I'd charge to the other end of the field. The ball would turn over and be blasted back to the other half and I'd run all the way back again. I use a pedometer in all my games, I had as many steps in the first half as I normally do in a full match. More than a couple times in the game I didn't have the gas to get to the penalty area as quickly as I should have. Missed a few fouls and what probably should have been a penalty kick by being out of position.

I had coached about half of the players on one team, and maybe a quarter on the other, plus played recreationally with a handful more of the older players. Knowing the players, I went in expected an amount of dissent from certain ones, but turns out I expected it from the wrong guys. Blue team was playing with only 10 but made a very good game of it in the first half. Green's outstanding keeper was unbeatable. As his former high school coach, I wish I could take even the smallest amount of credit, but I can't. 2-0 Green at the half. Blue scored early in the second to make it close, but then Green got a third, and the wheels fell off.

That's when the chirping started. From some of my favourite boys I coached in high school. Nothing overt, but careful conversations within hearing about the unfairness of the ref and he called this why didn't he call that and blah blah blah. Funny how players always forget the calls that go their way whan complaining about bias. I unleashed one of the most powerful tools in my arsenal - selective listening. Figured ignoring was the best bet since they didn't use profanity and was quiet enough to not listen to. Ironic how much it reminded me of coaching them on the high school team. When we struggled, which was often, these were the guys who could never say "I need to work harder", or "I can do better". It was all about blaming teammates, the coach, the 4-4-2 system, or the referee. Hard to come back with that kind of attitude. 5-1 the final for Green.

The other thing that reminded me of coaching high school was the total lack of midfield presence by both teams, particularly in the second half. Used to drive me nuts as a coach. Drives me nuts as a referee because all the extra running. The attacking team would have all their forwards and midfielders up in the penalty area against the defending team's defence and some mids, and all their defence back in their own half marking the defending team's forwards and a mid or two. 30 yards of basically empty space in between the two groupings.

Anyway, things I need to work on for next game. Fitness obviously. 33 pounds down from my high, but another 10 or 12 would be a big help. I'm thinking some cycling so as not to put wear on my knees. I also need to work on foul recognition. I've had a lot of trouble with this. I'm still a new enough referee that it isn't instinctive. I see a possible foul, I process the possible foul, I consider if it was a foul or not, I think about blowing the whistle, but 3 seconds have gone by and the play has moved on. I'm hoping that as I gain experience I will instantly recognize fouls and not have to think about it. It would be nice to have an assessment or some kind of mentoring system in our league, but believe it or not, I'm the only certified referee in the league. I also want to get a little stricter next game. I'm usually a firm believer in letting the players play if both teams are happy the level of physicality, but there was a fair amount of fouling going on, not all of which I called. I figured I'd let them get used to the idea of having a referee before I start calling all kinds of fouls they've never seen fit to call themselves.

BTW 11550 steps at end of match. Not sure how this works out to distance. I have a GPS that I've been thinking about pocketing for an U12 match and then comparing linear distance on that vs steps on pedometer. I would guess each step averages out to about half a meter, or about 6 km over the course of the game.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Greatest Yard Sale find EVER!

Leaf and I love yardsaleing. Which apparently isn't a word. We go on an outing most Saturday mornings to look for treasure. Yesterday we hit what I would consider the best yard sale ever! It had been advertised in the paper and mentioned lego, so of course I had to be there first thing. I love lego. Not as much as the young man there though! He was downsizing his collection, and he was an artist with lego. Saw some of his work, it was some of the most brilliant stuff I've ever seen - better than most official lego sets and legoland displays. He had a castle keep surrouded by houses that were spectacular. Accurate to every detail in period architecture and colours. The castle, about 3 feet high, also opened up and was fully detailed inside. I was in awe.

I wish I had been ten minutes earlier because there was a woman ahead of me filling a big box with loose lego. I had to settle for second pick, but still managed to fill a few boxes of my own. An incredible selection of pieces of every kind. Turns out she had scooped most of the 'basic' building blocks, so I got mostly good stuff that is harder to find. Space pieces, castle pieces, boards, minifigs... A big microwave box full, a medium tupperware box full, and a lego box full. Weighed it when we got home. Eighty-seven pounds of lego!!! I basically doubled my lego collection in one fell swoop.

If you've ever bought lego, you'll know why that's is my best yardsale find of all time.  A real treasure that I'll keep until I have grandkids to play with it. A somewhat deceptive photo of Odin sitting on the pile - he's actually about 18 inches off the ground. I sorted through it last night until my eyes blurred, reveling in that soft clinky sound of lego being stirred up. It will be a few years until Mars is big enough to play with it. Luckily, it turns out James, our current foster kid, is also a lego lover. So I have an excuse to play lego!

Lego aside, it was also a great yard sale for toys. Mars loves Star Wars - a post for another day - but I had been looking for some Star Wars toys for a while. Again, I was ten minutes late, there was a guy there with his grandson who scored a box of Star Wars action figures, but I still managed to get a dozen leftover ones, a landspeeder, y-wing bomber, imperial shuttle, the Slave 1, and a pair of lightsabres.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

I've lost 20 pounds since April!

Which is pretty exciting, even though 10 of them were 'relost' since my last "I've lost 20 lbs" note in October '08, just before Odin was born. I ended up gaining 10 of those back eating cafeteria food while I was back at school for the winter. Getting under 200 has been a long and arduous battle, but I'm down to 190 pounds (from 220), my lightest in years. Still a long way off my twenty year 'normal' weight of 155. I think I'd like to be a healthy 180. Leaf has had a hard time losing pregnancy pounds this time, rather than just me. Dieting together is much easier. We made a deal that if we both meet our target weight, we'll buy a Wii.

Haven't really followed any special or fad diet, because they are all stupid and don't work. Cut out chips and candy, still drinking a lot of tea, and moderate exercise. I referee soccer twice a week (six to 10 thousand steps on my pedometer each game), and try to get out kayaking once or twice as well - usually about 6km each time. My secret for the last 5 pounds was stomach flu. I should start my own fad diet - the barf diet. Seriously, I'm surprised there aren't clinics where people can go to be deliberately infected with stomach flu and jabbed with an IV in order to lose weight. Maybe I should create one and become rich and famous and have Tom Vu-like infomercials. "You so fat!" "You come now I make you skinny, fat boy!"

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Adventures in Pottysitting - Episode One - This will be Easy

Our kid is so much smarter than all the other kids. He wears cloth diapers, so it will be easier. The very first time he was ever sat on the potty he had a nice poop, was proud, had to be the one to flush, and he was potty trained.

Well, that very last bit wasn't true. He did poop the first time, was proud, and had to be the one to flush. But that was the last successful potty trip for ages. He just would not go. Couldn't get him to even sit on it. So we tried reading. He loves books, we all read a lot, and I often read him three or four before nap time. He sits on the potty, we read a book while we wait for some action. A second book, a third, a fourth, a fifth. Nothing.

We did get him on the potty though. It went on. Some minor successes, but still mostly in the diaper. He did start saying when he needed to go potty though. "Read me a book, read me a book!" Eventually, it struck me as funny that Mars desperately needed to go potty when Odin was getting lots of attention, or mummy was making dinner, or daddy was on the computer. He'd sit on the potty and demand to be read books, but nothing ever came out. Hmmmm..... So he is a smart little fellow.

This led to problems. The boy who cried wolf and all that. Reading is good, potty time is good, reading while going to the potty is good. But you have to do the doing part, little dude. So we no longer had unlimited reading. A book or two, if we don't have success, its off the potty again. Of course the wolf shows up. Plop plop plop as soon as he gets off. Sigh. Potty training is not easy.

A digression. Its hard to maintain parental composure when you're trying not to laugh. Like many parents, I find Elmo to be insipidly annoying. Mars loves him though. I think it started with cheerios. Three to be precise. "Look Mars, there's Elmo's nose and his two eyes!" His beloved Elmo could be found anywhere: 3 chocolate chips on peanut buttered bread, 3 coins, 3 rocks, three cups. Just about any time he saw what could be two eyes and a mouth. Of course he had to admire his handiwork on the bathroom floor, and of course he had to say "Look mommy, Elmo!"

Friday, July 17, 2009

I have been anally probed

And it wasn't by little green men who subsequently wanted to be taken to my leader. I experienced the joy of the colonoscopy. My mum got colon cancer in her mid forties, so now, ten years younger than she was, I have to get checked out. I have to admit I was scared. Not of the procedure, but of the results. I had been experiencing some other symptoms which I was foolish enough to look up online, and cancer runs in my family. Both parents and my younger brother have battled the big C. My dad is well outlasting the 2 years he was given a 10% chance of surviving. My mum keeps a notebook to keep track of all the cancers, surgeries, and chemos she has gone thru since Doctors tend not to believe she could still be alive.

The whole colonoscopy ordeal was relatively painless. No solid food for 36 hours beforehand, plus some hard core purgatives to clean out the system. That part wasn't exactly fun. You've never had diarrhea until you've downed a couple packages of Pico-Salax. I'm very serious when I say my pee was thicker than the dregs of my colon. Projectile poop! Had to make the trip to Belleville for the procedure. We planned on putting the boys in daycare, but Mars came down with something and was throwing up all night. Adding to the stress, he was sick again in the van on the way down, we were late enough that I didn't want to stop again for a bathroom break. A risky decision since I could feel the pressure building, and a simple fart would shoot out a cup of pale brown water.

First time to Belleville hospital. Their signage sucks big time, couldn't find where I was supposed to go, and very skillfully ignored by multiple desk people. Avoiding eye contact with someone standing over your desk while you stand up and walk away is an art form. Further adding to my tardiness and my stress levels.

Once I got where I was supposed to go it was smooth sailing. A few minutes in the waiting room, then into hospital gown, IV started, thumbed through a National Geographic from 1990, wheeled to the little colonoscopy room. Had to admire the giant probes hanging up. Marked along their length in centimeters. I think it is a sop to metric phobic people. If it was marked five feet, people would panic. But 150 cm... most of the old people who were also enjoying the procedure wouldn't clue into the length of the damn thing.

Got the oxygen, got the happy needle, got the general discomfort of a five foot implement shoved up my bum. There was a video I could watch, but I was pretty groggy from the anesthetic. I remember bits. Some acute discomfort at times, like a bad stomach cramp, but passed quickly. I think I was shown a polyp. The drugs had really kicked in by the end, and I don't remember being wheeled back to the recovery room. Friday afternoon, so I only got a note from the Doctor saying he had removed one small polyp and that I needed to have another colonoscopy in five years. Relief. Food. Groggy car ride home. Nap. Hug kids. All is copacetic.