This is me this morning:
My ankle decided to not work for me early in the week. This is not unusual. Usually it will hurt like a bastard for half an hour and then I am good. This time it was different. Three days out of the injury despite the normal rest, ice, compression, elevation and not getting up more than I have to routine, I was still hurting. So I had it checked out.
The initial analysis is that my ankle is held together with duct tape and chicken wire. There is nothing too serious from the most recent injury , but there are a couple of bone chips floating around and worn smooth after years of not being detected in the ankle as well as visible damage from repeated sprains and other soft tissue injuries. I have a follow-up visit scheduled soon for more advanced diagnostics and planning. My inclination is to go with conservative treatment as I don’t want surgery unless it is a guarantee of 100% functionality.
I had been cutting back on my refereeing before this most recent injury.
When I was in Pittsburgh, refereeing was a key component of the family budget. We had two kids in day care for several years and then as my daughter got to school, her little brother was still in daycare. Refereeing made day care plausible. The fragmented buyer side and fairly well organized supply side of the referee market meant that I was taking home, after travel time, taxes and expenses, roughly what I was taking home from working a real job. I enjoyed it, I loved working with a great crew and I got to explore Western Pennsylvania and most of West Virginia.
When I came down to North Carolina, I noticed very early on that the buyer side was extremely concentrated and getting more so and the supply side was fragmented and disorganized. The game fees are lower, the number of games assigned at one field are less and the travel distance is far greater due to league organization. On net, after travel time and expenses, refereeing in North Carolina is a $12 an hour gig.
A few weeks ago on Saturday morning, my son, who started kindergarten this week, was watching television. He saw me dressed in ref shorts and a black t-shirt going out the side door.
“Daddy, are you going to soccer today?” He asked plaintively.
“Nope, just throwing out the trash and getting coffee”
“Can I come get coffee with you?”
“Get some pants on” He giggled. We spent fifteen minutes finding the most awesome pair of pants ever for him to wear.
I had already decided to make myself available on an extremely limited basis. If I thought my kids were going to be asleep or visiting the grandparents, I had openings on my schedule. I had taken a few games here and there just so I could stay on the field. But 2017’s game count was struggling to get to a score when usually I was turning down assignments to avoid being double and triple booked.
With a freshly jacked up ankle, the decision that I probably would have made next year just accelerated. I am hanging up my whistle and my flags. I’ll still re-certify but I don’t think I’m taking games again until I become perpetually embarrassing to both of my kids and they want me out of the house and away from being potentially seen by their friends.
I’ll miss the field, I’ll miss the camaradary and the dynamic mental challenge of riding a game to the edge and pulling the players back right before it devolves into mass chaos. I’ll miss that. But I’m okay with missing that if it means I can ask my 5 year old if he wants to get coffee with me on a Saturday morning.