Since knee surgery a few years ago, I don't referee soccer games much anymore, although I keep up with the law changes and read various forums related to the game. Once exception is for the AYSO VIP program, which provides a great outlet for special needs kids and their families.
My sister started the VIP program in the local AYSO region about 10 years ago, and it has become a booming success. From the initial group of 8 kids, the program has grown to 39 kids, from age 4 up to 20+, with a large group of volunteers. While the program is based on Temple City and has a large number of kids from that city, it also welcomes kids from neighboring communities.
This morning, I drove out to Chino for the annual Section 1 VIP Tournament. I refereed a 9:00am game with my friend Toni Madison, who used to do high school games with me. Normally referees are hard-cases about the letter of the laws, but for VIP everyone focuses solely on the kids, and we worked with the coaches to make sure we met their needs.
The teams had compatible personalities, and everyone wound up having a great time. It was 8 players to 5, but that actually worked out well because the total skill level was about equal, and the final score (which we don't keep officially) was about even, with four or five goals scored by each team.
When I did this tournament last year, we held an all-hands shootout at the end of the match, and it was very well received. This year, we did the same, with one of the "buddies" acting as the sole goal keeper. (In VIP, a buddy is a teenager without special needs who helps out kids that need personal attention or assistance on the field.) Our goal keeper had just the right attitude, and worked really hard to let everyone score without making it look too easy.
After my game I went up to my sister's team's field, and watched the first half of that game. She had brought the older group of about 8 kids from her big program, and they were getting well beaten by the other team, but everyone was still having a great time.
I left at half-time to come home to check on a leaky toilet -- the same one I spent all day (literally) working on yesterday. There's few things worse around the house then a persistently leaky toilet - right?