How/Why did you become a Referee?
When I was 13 years old, my soccer coach, Russell Gonzalez, introduced me to refereeing. He informed my team of the opportunity to become certified by attending Pat Ferre’s class. I decided it would be a great first job because of my interest in the game. I had no idea how much I would gain while being a referee, from gaining work experience to becoming a part of a community that values soccer as much as I do. Like any other new experience, it took me some time to get the hang of it. Still, I was lucky enough to have great mentors to lead fellow referees whom I could learn from along the way. Even through stressful situations, I continued refereeing because of my continuous support from people who wanted to help me learn and progress.
What do you enjoy the most about refereeing?
While refereeing, I learned that I love seeing younger players be introduced and develop a love for the game. A sense of community is created by everyone’s shared passion, and seeing young players experience that makes everything worthwhile. It made me appreciate watching the kids have fun without the worries of being “perfect” as they play; they enjoy soccer most simply, and it is such a beautiful thing to watch. As a soccer fan, I also enjoy watching the game and becoming a part of it as more than just a player or a spectator. Being in a role where I am making decisions impacting the game from a more administrative perspective has been an exciting and rewarding experience.
What do you like the least about refereeing?
While I do enjoy refereeing, like any other job, there can be some negative aspects that come with it. The biggest thing that I feel most referees can agree on is the treatment we get when players, coaches, or spectators disagree with the calls we make. I understand the games can get very intense and can be overwhelming from every perspective. However, the treatment referees receive during these times makes the process more difficult of trying to control and manage already heated situations. Many other referees I know and I have been criticized, threatened, and some even physically harassed. I understand emotions can be overwhelming in stressful situations. Still, I think it is essential for others to recognize that even if we, as referees, may not call a “perfect” game, interactions should still be respectful not to escalate the situation further.
What “words of wisdom/advice” would you like to share/give to:
I would advise experienced referees always to be open to learning new things. I feel like there are times when we get so used to refereeing a certain way that we can close ourselves off from learning a better, easier, or more effective way of doing it just because we are used to our way. Everyone has their style of refereeing. Learning from others by being open to correction and suggestions can help you continue to improve and evolve with the game.
To beginning referees, I would say that you should learn not to take things personally while refereeing and that you will not be able to please everybody. I remember being a new ref at 13 years old, getting yelled at by coaches, players, and parents I didn’t know, and becoming easily overwhelmed. Once you understand that the way they express themselves does not reflect you as a person but rather the circumstance of the game brings it out, it becomes easier not to let what people say get to you so profoundly. It is a skill that takes time to learn and master, but once you are truly able to keep your mind calm in stressful situations, it makes the process much easier to handle. Your best is all you can do, and when in doubt, ask questions to advisors. Learn from your mistakes and do better the next time, that is all you can do, but you can’t control how others will respond to you.
I have a lot of respect for coaches; I was lucky enough to have been taught by great ones and see how much goes into trying to do right for your players and the game. I understand things can get intense very quickly. Still, I would advise you to remember that referees are not perfect. You may disagree with the calls that are made, which is fine. Still, once it becomes an issue of continuous disrespect towards the referee, that is the point where the game begins to lose control. From a referee’s perspective, I would advise coaches to keep the bigger picture in mind and try to be thoughtful about how they approach situations where they disagree with the decisions made.
As a player, I completely understand the many emotions of interacting with a referee. As I mentioned before, a referee can’t please everybody at the same time. For players playing a direct part in a high-intensity game, it can be very easy to lose their sense of emotions and react without thought, especially when combined with the game’s physical demands. I would advise players to learn to consider different perspectives while in the game. When you get hurt during a game, it can be straightforward to impulsively get upset when you feel like the referee does not call in your favor, which I understand from a player’s perspective. However, although it is difficult, it is crucial to understand that just because you feel you were wronged, it may not have been the right circumstance for the call you wanted. It is perfectly reasonable to ask questions or to disagree with the calls. However, please do it respectfully so the game can continue without further tension.
My parents have been very involved in my soccer career my whole life, so I can understand when I see parents on the sideline who show tremendous emotion and interest when their child is on the field. I can also understand the frustration they may have when they feel their child has been mistreated, and their first reaction is to be on defense. Understandably, this can quickly turn into anger; the problem is when this anger is communicated disrespectfully and threateningly. I have seen parents yell obscenities, harass referees throughout the game, or even step on the field to talk to their child or the referee. These actions will make the game that much more challenging to control. They will likely not end in resolution because of the aggressive manner. Suppose a parent has a question or concern. In that case, it is reasonable for them to ask the coach to speak to the referee to communicate rationally and resolve the issue. Still, I ask them to remember that, as I have continuously stated, the referee is not perfect. Mistakes may be made, and there will likely be calls that they disagree with, but choosing to resolve the issues reasonably is the most important thing.
If you had a magic wand, what major change(s) would you make in youth soccer?
If I had the power to change some things about youth soccer, my first decision would be to make more resources accessible for all youth players. There is an evident disparity in access to good quality fields, training facilities, equipment, etc., that some youth players may not have because of financial means. Players who can have personal coaches, travel throughout the country for tournaments and have access to high-end training facilities often have more opportunities than players who do not have those things. Although it seems impossible in our world today, I wish I could make it so that financial circumstances did not have as much of a role in youth soccer as it does, especially for those players who have the dreams of continuing to higher levels.