Sunday, May 20, 2007

Catching up with old friends

Sunday was a beautiful day, and a great afternoon to visit the Dubuque Soccer Complex, where son Greg played his first Adult League game of the season. It was a clean, laid-back contest; the players on both teams did not seem too "up" or "down" about the proceedings, which turned out to be pretty one-sided.

It was one of those virtually perfect days (in terms of weather and flow of the game) that had me reflecting on my decision to retire from soccer officiating. After 5-6 summers as a volunteer referee in the American Youth Soccer Organization, I began calling club, high school and eventually college games starting in the mid-1990s. I kept a pretty full schedule. After 7-8 years of that, including some administrative tasks, I throttled back for 2-3 seasons. Then I decided against working games in 2007.

I don't particularly regret that decision -- at least not enough to rush out and recertify -- but I came close to it when seeing that two of the guys with whom I worked so many games were officiating Greg's contest.

If Tom Weidemann (left), Merlin Leick and I worked one game together, we worked a hundred during those years. We came to know each other's style as a referee. We came to know about jobs and families (we all have kids who have become referees). Over the years, we offered each other critique, advice and (especially after a difficult game) encouragement.

None of us ever claimed to get all the calls right. But I know that Tom and Merlin are dedicated men who try -- each and every game -- to call the game to the best of their abilities and with the respect due players, coaches and fans.

They are the kind of guys who make that retirement decision a little tougher.

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