We received this great story about an ECYSA ref’s first season, wanted to share it to our existing referees and any prospective refs thinking of picking up a whistle.
As with most European kids, soccer played a great part in my childhood – from going to games, playing in parking lots, in my local club, school and anywhere else there was a soccer ball lying around. Fast forward to today: I am 54 years now (ouch!) and have come off some 8 years of coaching one of the ECYSA town teams and the quite significant time that that consumes.
My son has moved on to high school now, so the decision to stay involved seemed really easy: Why not try my hand at refereeing? As coaches, soccer fans, and parents, we’re all thinking… man, how difficult can refereeing be? As the old trope has it, in soccer everything is complicated by the presence of the other team. For refereeing, when throwing parents and coaches in the mix, the complexity is increased exponentially. “He’s CLEARLY offside!” “Why is my little Tommy getting a yellow card? He hardly touched the guy!” “He was clearly faking!” You know what I’m talking about. It’s easy to get carried away in the heat of the battle. So, to me at least, the challenge was obvious. It’s easy to have opinions about plays and referee decisions on the touchline and in the technical area; it is quite another seeing soccer through a referee’s lens.
Well, here I am having one season of ECYSA refereeing under my belt – and my greatest regret is that I didn’t do this 10 years ago! It’s fair to say that it has been a complete eye-opener.
It has been an incredibly rewarding experience. It is challenging – but as you gain experience, you start noticing interesting things that just never occurred to you as a player, coach or spectator in the stands. We help make the game fun but try to be noticed as little as possible. We are there to make sure that the players have an equal chance at playing and to ensure that the players are safe.
A natural question is this: Putting my opinions in the technical area to the side, do I really know the rules well enough to referee? As we all know, the ref is always wrong (even when he’s right). Trust me, you will be provided with tremendous preparation and support from both Mass Ref and ECYSA before you step on the pitch the first time. These come in the form of workshops, advice from more seasoned refs, and from your assignor. You do not go in unprepared. Both Mass Ref and the ECYSA put a ton of effort into their referee programs and they are very professionally run. This includes everything from how to interpret the rules, how to position yourself on the field, procedures for checking the field and players, to good advice on what to bring in your bag on game day.
Do you have the time? Well, it is of course up to you – but the ECYSA online system allows for a great deal of flexibility in setting your own times. You let them know when you’re available and assign games based on that.
And did I mention the exercise component? It turns out that I runs about 2.5 miles per G6/G8 game – if you choose to do, say, five games on a Saturday – that’s significant but effortless exercise. And I am by no means in great shape. It might sound like a lot, but I guarantee that it is the easiest way to exercise. You are constantly trying to position yourself, you are thinking ahead, and dealing with and being alert to potential issues on the field while trying to enforce the rules. You simply have no time to think of it as exercise. And that gym membership that you never use? Think of this as paid exercise with a social purpose. I dislike talking about the money that referees are paid. After all, you should probably not be doing this for the money. But for free exercise, a lot of fun and a great challenge, I earned no less than $1,400 for two months of refereeing.
And if you are up for some fun that will really give you a better outlook on life and soccer – you will be given the opportunity to volunteer at the Special Olympics. An unforgettable and rewarding experience and an contribution of your time that is truly appreciated. And it was doubly rewarding to see the camaraderie among your fellow refs exchanging experiences over a couple of beers afterward.
Downsides? Sure, there are downsides. You might have obstreperous coaches or parents. But it is far, far outweighed by all the positives. I highly recommend it and can’t wait for the next season to start.
Interested in becoming a ref for BYSA? Please reach out to our Referee Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.