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Referees Face a Tough Road

Parents and spectators should realize that new officials seen on the fields are in training.  Whether they are working their first game or have been around for a few seasons, these officials still have a lot to learn when it comes to making split-second decisions dealing with the activities of players on the field and the different personalities of coaches and spectators along the sidelines.

Most people will understand that players need, even before their first match, much-repeated coaching, lots of practice, positive feedback, and a nurturing environment in order to stay interested in the activity, improve and grow.

Where, but during actual games, do new officials have the opportunity to practice what they were taught in the classroom and learn to deal with real game experiences?

Unfortunately, new officials are seldom provided those valuable learning opportunities until they are assigned to an actual game.  Beyond the initial basic instruction provided in a classroom situation, the new officials must rely mostly on their on-the-job experiences and any feedback they receive from fellow officials and assessors in order to mature and grow.

Players are generally forgiven for making mistakes, even the most costly ones. Yet, officials are often openly and ruthlessly belittled, degraded, and embarrassed for even the most insignificant decision, be it for a call or a non-call made.

Should those same critics not be treating the referees who make mistakes the same way they treat the players?  Players have scheduled practices led by coaches, yet mistakes are made on game days.  Referees, like players, will make mistakes which, like the players’ mistakes, should be looked at as a learning experience and a fact of life.

In the early years of their avocation, many officials have been known to stop refereeing before being given a chance to mature and learn.  Repeated criticism, complaints, put-downs, negative comments, and in some cases, threats are the leading causes of an official’s decision to quit.

The next time you are at a game, think of the referees’ numerous duties and responsibilities. Before being too quick to criticize, question, or embarrass, what would you say if it was your player or your child in that position?

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)