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Keeping officials, especially new ones, is a common problem in every organization.  Without some help and solutions, an organization may be losing many officials who may have the potential to become quality officials.

Here are a few ideas to help improve and retain officials.

MENTOR PROGRAM:  When accepted and supported by an organization, this program has proven successful.  The key to its success is ensuring the mentor is a seasoned official, a dedicated member who supports the program and really wants to be a mentor.

Continuity is a very important part of mentoring.  If several people are telling different ways to do things, it tends to confuse and frustrate the officials, which can never be good.

Keeping with the same mentor as much as possible, especially in the beginning, helps build continuity in training.

Another big advantage to having a mentor is that there is a seasoned official present who knows how to deal with coaches and fans.  That is an invaluable aid in keeping coaches and fans off the official’s back.  Too often, officials with little or no experience are assigned to matches where they are subject to criticism or verbal abuse, and there is no help for dealing with coaches and fans.

Eventually, working with different mentors or partners will broaden the officials’ horizons and benefit their education and improvement.

GAME ASSIGNMENTS:  Assigning new and struggling individuals with better, more experienced officials will help with their training and development.  It is important to choose seasoned officials who have shown that they can work well with others and will provide a positive experience for the less experienced ones.  Although they may not be assigned with the same experienced official each game, working with better officials always benefits the new and struggling officials who are looking to move up.

CRITIQUING is another way to help officials.   One must be careful not to over-assess a new or struggling official.  The critique, whether verbal or written, should include those things done well or best and give positive feedback in all evaluations.  For those areas that need improvement, some people need things sugar-coated, but the critique must still be factual and honest.  If many areas need attention, discuss the 2 or 3 most important ones and give the individuals time to work on them before re-evaluating them.

ENCOURAGE:  Words of encouragement are never wasted.  Seasoned senior officials and all members of an organization should offer friendly advice and encouraging words to new and struggling officials. 

Every organization has and continues to deal with the problem of recruiting, training, and keeping officials from season to season.  The above hopefully provide some ideas that may help in solving a recurring problem that plagues all sports organizations at all levels of competition.

Pat Ferre

US YOUTH SOCCER (2021 Volunteer of the Year) USSF Referee Grade 15 Emeritus USSF Referee Instructor USSF Referee Assessor USSF Referee Assignor District-7 Youth Referee Administrator (DYRA)