Slow stuff all-in-all for refereeing or at least I thought so.
Absolutely swamped in the early part with studying for back-to-back exams that I didn’t have any time to think about refereeing or football whatsoever then. At the end of Week 14, our team travelled away for friendly match in the big city. I travelled as the team manager along with them.
It was an affair for a lot of behind-the-scenes organisation as the two game times had to be finalised and we had to search for a replacement keeper to keep the game on. One of my friends filled in there and I took him out for dinner as a thank you after the games.
It was a full day’s commitment but a lot of fun and interesting to see our team put to the test with our first real opponents. Training ground is one thing but game time is something completely different!
We arrived to watch the completion of the youth finals and presentation ceremony and it was great to meet a lot of familiar faces in the league from the year before when I was around including the league president, referees and volunteers. Some of the coaches and players were familiar faces too.
It has definitely been a while since I last saw Mens court Futsal so I was getting re-acquainted to the speed but it was even more so a change to be a team official on the bench. Players to worry about, tactics, opponent strategy and inevitably, referee decisions. There was a great deal to take away from the game in terms of team tactics as every opportunity we had included team tactics to adjust our game/style of play to suit the game. In the end, the first game was lost but the second game was a narrow loss leaving our opponents afraid of the threat we posed by the time we finished.
There was a call mid-week for Futsal Nationals pre-tournament preparation so I attended it online as a representative from the region to complete the logistics and administrative part of the venture. This was a lot of fun to speak to all the great organisers of Futsal in the country on the one call and to my pleasant surprise, received an invite to referee in the National championship. It was really sad that I couldn’t accept because it was a higher calibre of Futsal to experience.
I had also taken up management of the Regional team knowing that I would be unable to take part in a refereeing capacity in order to be involved in the sport in some way. Luckily I was able to make some sort of impact. Looking forward to seeing results at the tournament including the streams/DVDs.
The second major item on the agenda and refereeing related was the fitness test. I took a two-week break off training prior to this and engaged in some light Futsal skill work to keep me active (especially working on my left foot). The day before I was engaged in a lot of packing since I was moving out so I prepared my kit on the side.
Soon enough, the Saturday arrived and my watches were ready for the test. I wore both including my Heart Rate Monitor to analyse the info later. This was in fact one of the first few times I used it outside so it showed me my movement on the track including other valuable information.
The trip to the stadium was early in the morning but I was packed up and ready to go earlier the day before and had moved everything to storage. Just had my backpack and trolley bag to take to the track.
Unfortunately there wasn’t much time to get something to eat and put something in the stomach in the morning (including the convenience store we stopped at) but I did hydrate well. It was cold on the day but relatively better to what it could have been i.e. last week. I couldn’t really complain much considering this test was my last opportunity before disappearing for the summer.
There was a new fitness test chest label to add to my collection. I had fumbled for a long time trying to get it attached correctly prior to the run. Definitely not something you want physically interfering with the run nor mentally! I pinned the label onto the bib before the warm-up while waiting in the stands but to my shock, I had pinned it all wrong since the pins didn’t go through the holes as close as I had hoped so it was rather tight. Luckily I managed to go to a fellow ref to help me out of the mess since I had just put on the bib. I had it fixed soon enough after the warm-up before the sprints. I also made sure to scrunch it up a bit so that it was easier to run.
I had to admit that although youth was on my side, I was still nervous. I had been practicing at the Provincial standard but no amount of preparation can make you ready for the nerves on the day. I had run the test before but I hadn’t run the test before; I had done it before in practice but I hadn’t officially run it. Luckily there is adrenaline to counter-act the nerves as I was reminded.
I watched as the prior groups started their warm-up, sprints and interval phases from the stands and my mentor had come to see me before my flight out. He coached me through a few of the drills on good technique at different stages of the test.
Very interesting fact: the turf was warm that day because the heat from the sun was being absorbed by it so lying on the field was a great way to warm the muscles and keep warm. It was quite windy that day so even through my jersey and two layers of jackets, I could feel the cold. I felt rather silly for not bringing any cotton t-shirts as under-armour.
The warm-up arrived soon enough and a very familiar face was leading us through the routines. They had run the warm-up with us the last time I did the Cooper test the prior year. The warm-up was impeccably complete. Nobody, as far as I know, got injured during the test and it had a good and gradual build-up in getting the muscles warm especially on such a cold day. It was a 20 minute warm-up which felt slow at first but passed in no time.
Following the warm-up, I took off both my jackets and was warm enough to run in just my jersey. Besides, I bought that jersey almost solely for the fitness test. I really liked it when I saw it in the photo of the other blog post and got it when I saw it was available. The point is that I ran in it because it was warm enough to do so :P.
The sprinting portion arrived and we were briefed on the procedure. It was funny how it all seemed so foreign despite me being able to give that same speech and host my own fitness test for referees under the same conditions. It’s one thing to know it but a different thing to do it.
Soon after, we got in line and I was second from last in order of runners. We were all lined up behind the electronic gates and there was an audible beep sound as every referee ran through. I had seen each of the prior groups (I was in the third). The advice I was given was not to push the sprints very hard because passing it is quite capable with a brisk run (I didn’t dare to try a simple run). The line to kick-start the sprint was just ~1.5 metres away. I made sure to place my front foot on the line to give me more room to accelerate before hitting the gate. I was also coached to straighten my body rather than leaning forward so as to trip the laser as late as possible while gaining as much speed as possible.
The run was fairly straightforward for the 6x40m sprints. On the fourth, I took my foot off the gas and started slowing down a few metres before the gate involuntarily. The test supervisor, who I also knew, then exclaimed with concern and encouragement for me not to let off easily because it could cost me. I was mindful of it then on the remaining two runs and I wasn’t warned/notified of a failed run as I got through the second finishing gate which was a thumbs up.
On to the most difficult part of the test. I was feeling good after the sprints given that I never actually sprinted; just a run.
We had a few minutes before we started and I stopped my GPS watch (from the sprints) and configured it in preparation for the 35/45 interval. We were soon enough split off into our groups and directed to our starting points. My group had a size of four people including me and it looked like a very young group.
We squared up at the start line as the audio started playing over the loudspeakers with the familiar “The High Intensity test begins on the first whistle 30 seconds from now…”. The remaining audio tips played and I struggled to remember what the kick-off audio was. Was it “Ready” and then whistle or “Ready”, “Set” and whistle. I was soon to find out but it meant I would be one second late on starting my watch.
We were off soon and my Garmin was very useful in checking the pace of our run. The warning beeps were audible enough for everyone in my group to hear and we had a very fast pace. After several intervals, it was clear we had to be at the corner of the football pitch on the 10-second mark (single beep). The rest was intuitive enough to surmise as the 5-second mark was short enough to let us know whether we needed a quick acceleration. I chatted with one of my running partners all the way through and fatigue caught up by lap 7 when the talking reduced but never disappeared.
Spoiler alert: We all finished it comfortably. In fact, I think our pace was too fast since we were arriving at the gate before the marks. In addition our recovery walks were fast as well as we were constantly reminded to drop the pace by the test supervisors so that we hit the gate right on time instead of stalling and having to wait there.
The challenge on every interval was to get the start right. Since my watch was a second off, we were trying to walk through the gate right when the whistle went and at first I was a second too early, and then a second too late. There was only really one lap where we hit the sweet spot and had a great start. Everyone in the group knew it. A few referees from the previous run stayed back to cheer us on and give us the motivational drive to push through which was nice. One of them was a close friend who was nice enough to even pass us our drinks on the recovery portion which was helpful in the latter stages of the test.
A lot of hugging, handshakes and congratulations ensued after the test. The camaraderie of refereeing.
I was mentally worn out after the test but very pleased to have finished the milestone for the season. There were so many referees I hadn’t seen for a long time so I was busy catching up and chatting with them but there definitely wasn’t enough time to speak with all of them unfortunately. One of my colleagues from the local area gave me a ride to the nearest subway station and I was half-asleep on the subway ride home. It was a 2 hour trip having ridden public transit end-to-end for over 50km! I guess I got my token’s/money’s worth!
Before flying out, I was able to get my hands on the latest Refsworld shipment.
Got my hands on an elusive set of flag cases! The rest will be for sale in September when I return. The elastic pouch on the right has a lot of stuff packed into it. Looks can be deceiving! Also the esteemed Valkeen whistle in dead-centre.
This was the travel portion of it.
Orange juice or at least what I thought it was. There wasn’t a word of English on the bottle.
Just trying to survive the jet lag right now in the humid weather. Meanwhile making sure things are still happening, continuing with a bit of the job search and finally, scoping for refereeing opportunities locally.
Might have a match appointment soon. I’ve been doing some swimming to stay active and just about to hit an age milestone in the next few days. Time to get back to my notebook to re-assess long-term goals.
So! All-in-all, not much going on. Agree? 😉