August 27, 2002
Dear Youth Referees,
I first want to take the time to congratulate you on your ambition and desire to become a referee. Referring is unique; giving young adults the opportunity to show leadership and responsibility. There are many reasons that one becomes a ref, but no matter what the objective is, everyone is out on the field accomplishing the same task. Refereeing is a job, and even as young adults we should approach it as professionals and give it our best effort every time we are out on the field.
I began my journey as a ref three years ago, because of my love of soccer. I wanted to be involved in every part of the game possible. Soccer is a great game and the more aspects one knows about it the more they can appreciate all that is involved with it. From the start I fell in love with it and that drive still pushes me today to want to improve and become the best referee that I can be. It is my hope that I can help others improve and go as far as their desire will take them.
No matter what the situation is a positive first impression plays an important role in being successful. Coaches look at the small things, like seeing if the ref is early and fully equipped for the job. They are impressed and respect refs who bring confidence with them on the field. Too many times younger referees are timid and do not take their job seriously. The ref is the one out there in control so, take charge and do your job.
Before going out to the field make sure you are mentally and physically prepared. This means not only going over the laws of the game, but also making sure that you are in the best shape possible. It is your duty to referee every game to the best of your ability. Just like players practice before hand, refs need to come to the match prepared. Take time the night before to make sure you have all the equipment and knowledge needed. This means having your uniform and accessories as well as a quick and alert mind. Refs also need to make sure that they are fit for the game.
It is really important to arrive at the field at least 30 min. early to take time to warm up yourself and mind. Refs are constantly on the move and their minds are making split second decisions all the time. Have a pre-game talk with the fellow referees clarifying what each one’s duty is and how to handle certain situations. Also, take the effort to acknowledge the coaches; shake their hand and show them that you, too, are serious about this game.
When the time comes walk out on the field with confidence and authority. Players know when a ref is not experienced and will take advantage of it. During the games stand behind your decisions and try to be as consistent as you can. Keep constant eye contact with the other refs, even if it is just telling them that they are doing a great job. Do not forget that you too, are out there because you love the game, so relax and have fun. The more fun that you are having the more fun the players will have. If a player makes a comment about something respond in a joking way, but still keeping your professionalism. For example, if the players are pulling shirts, tell them that they can exchange jerseys after the game. This will gain their respect and keep the game flowing smoothly. Also, remember that coaches have to deal with the same players out there on the field, so you can relate to them. Both refs and coaches want the players to have a great game, so try to see that you are both on the same level, working for the good of the kids.
When the final second has ticked away and the whistle has blown, look back on the game and see what you did well and what you can do to improve. Every game will have new situations that will need different actions. The one benefit of soccer is that the players make the decision themselves, so no one knows exactly what is going to happen.
Because there are so many aspects to refereeing it never hurts to ask for help or assistant. Referees are a unique group and everyone is out there for each other. One of the best helps to me was to have peer-referees watch and make suggestion on my game. This was one benefit of going to referee camp. Every ref there wanted to become better and the group was there to make sure everyone was supported. We would throw situations out on the field and see how each other would respond; like telling coaches to put an extra player on the field and having the coaches become irate and out of hand. Even if it was hard at times trying to think fast, it really did help in the end.
Take every opportunity to become the best referee that you can. Take the field with confidence knowing that you are ready for the opportunity that is ahead of you. Do not hesitant to ask for help or assistant and never forget to bring your smile and love of the game to the field. It is the fun of the game that will help you through those hot games, which seem like they are taking centuries to finish.
Well, I hope this helps you to feel more confident and prepared for your career. Refereeing can be a life long journey that you can take with you the rest of your life, so sit back have fun and let the games begin with the sound of your whistle.
Editor’s Note: Jennifer earned the respect of the soccer community with her hard work and devotion to excellence in refereeing. She was PWSRA’s nominee for and was a finalist for VA-DC’s Young Female Referee of the Year in 2003. She played soccer at Forest Park High School in Woodbridge and the PWSI Rockets and played at Messiah College in Grantham, Pa. Her college team advanced to the NCAA Div. III Final Four all four years she has played, winning the national title once. Jennifer attended the Youth Referee Academy (now PRIDE Academy) in 2002. In May, 2005, Jennifer was selected as one of just 15 referees from Virginia to officiate the Region I ODP Championships in New Jersey in June and officiated State Cup semi-final and final matches at Hampton Roads. Jennifer is the Women's Soccer Coach at Anderson College in Anderson, Indiana.