Drills | EMSA Spruce Grove


Ultimately, any tool has but one function in its use, to assist in the performance of a task or tasks. Try these drills for yourself; see which ones work for you and which you will need to modify to suit your style.

Entering the Field: Carrying the ball

All the match officials should enter the field together neatly dressed and well presented. Wherever possible the match ball should be carried in the palm of the hand to give the impression of superiority and control. Those of us with smaller hands often find it easier to carry the ball nestled between our palm and the outside of the upper thigh. Maintain control of the ball during all the preliminary duties.

  • This is a useful habit to practice. Referees use either one of the techniques, for carrying the ball out to the field.
  • Control of the ball during preliminaries usually means giving the ball to the senior AR or placing it on the ground with your foot on it.

Tossing the Coin: Maintain your body height

Indicate to each team which side of the coin they have selected by pointing first to the coin then to the respective captain. Maintain your body height at the toss of the coin by standing upright and tossing the coin in the air and catching it BEFORE it hits the ground. The recent law change now mandates who has choice of ends so there is one less job for you to do there.

  • Several techniques used by Edmonton refs, including the suggested procedure.
  • Another option is to give the home team the coin to flip, and they will generally pick it up for you

The Kick off: Controlling the ball

After having tossed the coin, the teams can make their way to their respective ends of the field of play. Resist the urge to put the ball on the ground at this point. Remember, whoever controls the ball controls the game and if the ball is on the ground it is sure to be kicked or touched without your permission reducing your perceived authority. Unobtrusively count the players by slowly looking around the field of play in an ordered methodical manner. Do not count each player with your finger.

Do not ask the goalkeepers if they are ready to start, you’re in control, not them. Likewise discretely acknowledge your Assistant Referees without drawing obvious attention to the fact. A small nod should be all that is required at this point as they should already be maintaining eye contact with you.

When everything is ready, you should now relinquish the ball for the kick off by gently tossing it to the players assembled at halfway. A firm blast on the whistle is all that is now required to get the game underway after ensuring that all players are correctly positioned.

  • At the higher levels this is usually done.
  • The younger referees should resist the temptation to give away the ball too early (it will get kicked around).
  • Some discussion over the checking on the goalkeepers, as there was a note at one of the indoor sessions that the keepers should be asked.
  • Remember to blow the whistle to start play – there are too many of us that use a verbal signal.

The Substitution: Keeping an eye on the changes

After having recognized that one of the teams wishes to make a substitution either by seeing it directly or seeing the mirrored substitution signal from either of your Assistants, it is only a matter of accomplishing the act in an effective fashion.

Assuming the ball has gone out of play for a throw-in, for example, you should blow your whistle firmly to focus attention back to you for an instant. When the players, and indeed the spectators as well, look to you, indicate to the thrower that you want him to wait a moment by extending your arm and using the standard stop signal.

Follow this by indicating to the substitute on the touchline waiting to come on after having stopped time on your watch. You can now signal for the substitute to enter the field of play once his replacement has left, restart your watch and recommence the game.

The entire process was under your control from beginning to end. This method can easily be adapted for use at goal kicks, corners and free-kicks, etc.

  • At the higher levels, the referees and assistants have been working to ensure the proper procedures are followed.
  • At the youth level, the substitution procedures have become really sloppy and need to be worked on in technical sessions or one on one with all referees.
  • The problem is the unlimited substitution rule, and the tendency of the coaches to try and use substitutions to control the flow of the game.
  • Referees should clearly identify the substitution procedures to the coaches before the game, and stick to them throughout.
  • Some refs have tried explaining to coaches that they want to see a player(s) standing at the centre flag if a substitution is desired.
  • Their commitment to the coaches is that they will look at the centre flag at each stoppage: no body(ies) at centre, no substitution and they ignore yells.

A difficulty locally has been a player requesting to be substituted: who’s in charge, the coach or the player?

The Ceremonial Free-Kick: Policing the wall

Having given the free kick and assuming of course that the attacking side does not wish to take the kick quickly, you should have the ball placed to your satisfaction.

It is not necessary (or even desirable) to require that the ball be placed on the exact blade of grass on which the offence occurred, the close vicinity is fine. Dogged instance on ball position at this point wastes time and causes friction with players and spectators and achieves very little practical advantage.

Show the kicker the whistle by pointing to it and saying, “wait for the whistle” or words to that effect. Establish your control by showing that you will determine the sequence of events that are about to take place.

Position the wall by taking them with you as you go making sure you do not turn your back on the ball at this stage. Avoid using your whistle here because if the wall does not move you will have reduced the effectiveness of this tool for future uses.

Establish a position at about a forty five-degree angle to the wall maintaining eye contact with your assistant referee. Statistics suggest that very few ceremonial free kicks go directly into goal, so put the odds in your favour as much as you can by being close to where the players are and where any trouble may develop. If you feel it necessary you can send your assistant to the goal line. As the kick is taken you should move quickly around the end of the wall to maintain your view of the assistant referee and the ball. If necessary, you have still remained close enough to deal effectively with any encroachment by the wall.

  • Don’t pace off the 10 yards, instead move to the spot where you want the wall to start and get the key player in the wall to move there.
  • Give clear instructions to the wall to “Stay put” and not creep forward.
  • Use the voice to instill the control of the wall, and then move off to your position to control the free kick.

The Public Warning: Step two in the disciplinary process

The effective disciplining of players can often either cause or prevent a disaster for a referee. Essentially the public warning should be used not just as a process that may lead to action against a player’s misconduct, but hopefully as a tool which should prevent that player receiving a caution. Effectively used it should leave the player in no doubt as to the consequences of his continued indiscretions and serve to focus the responsibility for those consequences back onto the player.

  • Single the player concerned out by taking him with you as you go and establish a working distance by using the stop signal to hold him there.
  • Avoid making the situation a personal conflict between you and the player by focusing on the player’s responsibility.
  • Words such as “any more of that and you will be cautioned” reinforce on the player that he is the one getting himself into trouble.
  • Demonstrative gestures by the referee with the open hand are often successful in conveying this meaning to the bench and the player.
  • Remember not to get too close to the player as this will be seen as an invasion of his personal space and may escalate a potentially heated situation.
  • Remain calm but let your facial expression indicate your level of disapproval of the behaviour.
  • After delivering the warning leave the location quickly, reducing the temptation for the player to dissent. If you are not there he can’t argue with you. If he is silly enough to follow you at this point you have no option but to caution.
  • Discussion focused on the sequencing of the warning, i.e. the first warning should be the harder, not a soft, “don’t do that again” type.
  • The player must be left in no doubt that any further similar action on his part is going to lead to a card.
  • The second incident MUST be followed up with the card: without it the public warning has lost all effectiveness as a player control tool.
  • There was some doubt that the threat to card the next time an incident occurs should be used, rather something like “that’s the last we will see of that today”, should leave the player with absolutely no doubt that you will not tolerate similar fouls or infractions.
  • One thought, which has always caused me some concern, is the matter of dissent. The good book states that “dissent by word or action… shall be cautioned”. Ignorance is not recognized as an excuse in a court of law. Why do we allow it on the field of play? Out of misguided sense of fairness and courtesy I have almost always allowed a player one comment and this has sometimes proven to be disastrous. What part of “no” do most players not understand?

Carding Procedure

When cautioning or sending off a player, the player should be informed of what they are receiving, their details taken, and then shown the respective card. If the player starts to walk away after being spoken to, but before their details are taken and they are shown the card, their attention should be regained, using voice or whistle. If they player has his back to you when you show the card, its effect is decreased. Of course if the player refuses to stay in the correct place until all procedures are complete, it should be noted on the misconduct report and the disciplinary committee will take this additional factor into consideration.

  • There was some discussion over the validity of explaining the card – does this give the player an opening to start arguing with you?
  • Some local refs will explain the card (particularly at the younger age level), whereas refs in the more senior leagues tend not to do it, as the players know what the card was for.

Practice Preventative Refereeing

Fitness, positioning and experience in anticipating play combine to give the referee the opportunity to prevent some offences. In other cases preventative refereeing allows a referee to react quickly to an offence to prevent the situation from getting worse. Preventative refereeing is the hallmark of top officials.


  • Adapted from an article by Steve Fenech, an Australian level 2 Referee Inspector.
  • Also acknowledgments to Gary Power, Australian National Director of Referees.
  • Original articles downloaded from AUS.REF, the Australian Referee website.

Additional material drawn from refresher course material provided by Doug Bewick, ASA Instructor / Assessor.
Details from the technical session have been added to reflect the discussion between the members of the Edmonton Society of ASRA on the topics.