New soccer referees get ‘on the field’ trainingRefereeing can be a nerve-wracking experience at times for even a seasoned referee. Combine that with out-of-control parents and the fact that some of the new referees are as young as 12 years old, and it could be a recipe for disaster, or at least tears. Enter the referee mentor.
By: Jamie Lund, Pine Journal
As youth soccer teams take to the fields again in their brightly colored uniforms, they are joined by another group wearing stripes.
Each year yields a fresh crop of young, new referees, eagerly gripping their flags and whistles. Out of the 200 or so referees signed up this year with Arrowhead Youth Soccer Association (AYSA), about 50 of them are first-year refs, estimates Dave DeWitt, longtime organizer of the program.
Refereeing can be a nerve-wracking experience at times for even a seasoned referee. Combine that with out-of-control parents and the fact that some of the new referees are as young as 12 years old, and it could be a recipe for disaster, or at least tears.
Enter the referee mentor.
Wayne Wold has been a soccer coach since his oldest daughter started playing nine years ago. Later he ventured into the refereeing side of soccer, as did both of his daughters. He is also currently a board member of AYSA, and a coach mentor as well as a referee mentor.
Wold believes mentoring really does help the young referees.
“For most kids, this is their first job and it can be intimidating,” Wold said. “This is an excellent way to do it.”
Last Tuesday, Aug. 6, Wold stood between two young refs on the field facing the Esko U-8 team as he illustrated the finer points of communicating with youngsters. Wold pointed to his ears and said to the Esko U-8 team: “I have my earrings out, how about you guys?” (Wold does not wear earrings, but he was making the point that no jewelry is allowed during games, not even for newly pierced ears.)
Ryan Conway was one of the two referees mentored by Wold last week. He loves playing soccer and just wanted to make some money this year. (It’s not a bad job. Think flexible evening and weekend hours with the pay $10-$33 a game, depending which level and whether it is a center or line referee.)
Conway was joined by 12-year-old Elise Pickar, also a first-timer who said she took the referee classes because she thought it would be interesting and fun to help others learn the game. DeWitt said girls make up between 40 and 45 percent of the referees this season.
Wold demonstrated how to line up the players, what to look for in soccer cleats and shin guards, and how to observe as they did the coin toss.
Both of the new referees were glad to have Wold there as a mentor.
“I was nervous the first few games,” said Conway.
Refereeing teaches kids real life skills, such as responsibility, organization and diplomacy.
“We are in charge and we have to go with what we think,” Pickar said. “The refs are there to keep the game safe.”
All referees take a training class before the season starts, whether they have refereed before or not. For the newbies, a two-hour on-field class is also scheduled before the start of the season as well as having the mentor at a game.
DeWitt has advice for the parents of a child interested in refereeing: “Know and judge the maturity level of your kid,” he said.
AYSA’s soccer referee mentoring program has been in existence for many years. The last few years there has been a push to make sure all of the new refs have mentoring at their first game or two to help give them confidence to make calls.
Of course, that doesn’t always happen due to the sport’s growing popularity. When there is a shortage of referees, it is more difficult to do as all of the referees are needed to work at the games for the roughly 5,000 kids who sign up each year to play in the AYSA recreational season.
Still, AYSA has a better retention rate of referees than many other organizations in Minnesota and DeWitt wants to keep it that way. DeWitt understands that many young referees are just trying it out. While it works for some — as with all jobs — it does not work for all.
“We do not want to lose them because of adults behaving badly,” DeWitt said.
Although one or two coaches get kicked out every season, the biggest problem is that the majority of parents and, unfortunately, many coaches do not understand all of the rules.
Even something that would seem as obvious as a hand ball depends on a few variables, such as which team is in control of the ball at the time of the hand ball. While the parents and/or coaches are yelling and calling them names because they think the ref missed an obvious penalty, in actuality the referee is making a correct call for that particular situation.
Fouls are something else many parents and coaches don’t take into consideration. A foul can depend on the angle from which the viewer sees it. While it may look like a penalty from the sideline, the referee is seeing it from the field and has a different view, so it may not be a foul.
“We expect adults to be in control of themselves,” says DeWitt.
The older the kids get, the more physical the teams play because they get faster, stronger and bigger.
“Everybody makes mistakes,” Wold said, “but I don’t let it get to me; I try to learn from it.”
The AYSA now has short videos on its website available for coaches and parents alike who want to improve their knowledge of the game. If a parent feels they have a good understanding of the game, more refs are always needed.
Any adults or young people interested in refereeing can contact Dave DeWitt at email@example.com.
“The first job is to remember to have fun, it’s just a game,” Wold said.