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XI Questions: Dave Jaworski

02/15/2010, 8:19pm CST

NISOA national referee

Age: 45.

Hometown: Flossmoor, Ill. (Homewood-Flossmoor High School).

Playing career: University of Wisconsin, Madison 56ers.

Officiating career: USSF Grade 5 and NISOA national referee.

I. Do you watch games differently as a referee rather than as a player?

I still watch or attend games to be entertained by the athletes and their skill. At the same time, I most certainly look forward to seeing who has been assigned to officiate the match. Throughtout the contest, I do pay attention to specific calls, the referees' approach to the game and how certain situations are dealt with. There is an abundance of education that can be learned by fairly evaluating how other referees officiate.

II. You played at UW from 1982 to '86 – quite well, too, with 14 goals and 16 assists in your career, which included stints as team captain in 1985 and '86. Give us a scouting report of yourself as a player. And why didn't you play in 1983?

Regarding those goals, even a blind squirrel finds a few acorns every now and then. Regarding those assists, I was very fortunate to have played with some very talented players. Seriously, I would say a combination of good passing, good tackling, anticipation, physical endurance, mental toughness and an understanding of team tactics all compensated for my lack of natural technical ability. Throughout my playing career, I simply found ways to compete at a high level. As for 1983, it was very difficult to crack a lineup that had Duerst, Grosse, Kulby, LaPorte, etc., on the team. Combine that with a poor attitude, and 1983 became my year where I did not use up any collegiate eligibility.

III. Jim Launder was your coach at UW. Surely, you've officiated matches with him on the sidelines over the years. Ever have to give your former coach a talking-to or book him?

There has never been a need to caution or have a "heart-to-heart" conversation with Coach Launder when I referee. If Jim has something to say, he states his opinion and moves on. I listen to the "advice" being provided, acknowledge what is being communicated and either file it away for reference or completely ignore it. It all depends on the game situation.

IV. When and why did you decide to become a referee?

It was a collision of two worlds. For me, soccer became an addiction at an early age. In the last few years of my playing career, I was looking for a way to continue feeding my internal soccer endorphins. At the same time, I had on-and-off again conversations about joing the referee ranks with Dave Harris. Well, about 11-12 years ago on a late Sunday afternoon over a beer after another game, I was a bit critical of a decision or two earlier that day. Paraphrasing the response from Dave Harris, "if you think refereeing is so easy, why don't you pick up a whistle and finally prove it?" The rest is history. My only regret in soccer is not making the transition from playing to officiating a few years earlier. I wish more players would follow the referee track once their playing days have concluded. Speaking generally, I believe both the technical ability of players, the speed of the game and coaching have really improved over the past two decades, but officiating still lags behind in its development.

V. What level do you enjoy officiating the most and why?

It is no different than a player: The highest level my ability takes me. That is not meant to disparage any level of game competition. All games have provided the refereeing foundation and education to succeed at the higher levels. Personally, I enjoy the mental, physical and emotional challenge in trying to make a positive contribution to the game through refereeing. There is a difference in the goals of a player and a referee – players are attempting to win, referees are attempting to survive.

VI. Is there one decision during your officiating career that you wish you could have back?

There are too many to count. The day I referee a perfect game is the day I retire from officiating. I am still refereeing.

VII. Do you still play, and did you have any run-ins with officials?

The boots have been officially hung up. The body just simply no longer responds or recovers as it did decades ago. And, there is not enough time in the day to referee and play. As a player, I had several "conversations" with officials. Now that I am part of the officiating team, it is difficult to criticize fellow colleagues. Being a referee is not easy.

VIII. What's the wildest thing you've seen as a referee – any players or coaches who just completely lost it?

The most recent incident was a college game this past season, SMU at Tulsa men. The game was being played in a monsoon with 20-25 mph winds. A player from SMU scored the game-winning goal from approximately 85 yards. It was the ESPN SportsCenter "Play of the Day". (Video below) The only other incident that immediately comes to mind was an NPSL game a few seasons ago at Breese Stevens Field. Water bottles were flying from the bench, both Detroit Arsenal coaches were ejected. Not pretty.

IX. Should video technology be used for professional and international matches?

An expected question in light of the Thierry Henry incident several months ago. (Video below) In 2010, the big four "American" sports all incorporate some form of video technology. I am not quite sure why the "world's" sport lags behind (maybe it has something to do with the dinosaurs running FIFA). If implemented, the challenge is in its execution. Refering back to the Henry incident, it seems pretty obvious the hand ball directly contributed to a goal, but are you going to render the same decision if the exact same play occurs at midfield which leads to a goal? To me, it seems the most obvious place to start would be goals (did it cross the goal line?) and "off-the-ball" violence. But, you need to make a commitment to start. One final comment on the Henry incident before we throw the referee crew under the bus. A lot of focus has been placed on the non-call, but Roy Keane offered a brilliant observation: With a 1-0 lead, 20 minutes left in the game and a World Cup bid on the line, why was the ball allowed to bounce in our own 6-yard box? A horrible defensive mistake from any coach I have encountered. Seems like there should be more accountability placed on others, not just the referee crew.

X. What's the toughest part about being a referee? How many games do you typically work in a week, month or year?

The obvious response is being away from your family or the travel. The not-so-obvious answer is when a player suffers a serious injury in a game you officiate or knowing friendships established over many years can be adversely affected based on your referee decisions. Sometimes those incidents stay with you a lot longer than anyone may realize. But, such is the life of a referee. From April through November, I referee three or four games a week, of varying levels. I lose track of all the games because you simply perform a post-game evaluation, try to understand what went right and wrong and then begin focusing on the next assignment.

XI. What's your dream officiating team, and who's in what role?

Difficult question to cultivate a specific response. The best referee crews have synergy, an understanding of each others' style, team comraderie, courage and the ability to perform under pressure. Disjointed referee crews are easily identified by coaches, players and spectators and can create issues at times during games. I would be the center official, of course.

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