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Fundamental Soccer Blog

You Have to Look the Part

Although we cannot always “judge a book by its cover,” we can pick out some information about the professionalism and commitment of an official.

Imagine, for example, if an official forgot his shoes and only had his white tennis shoes, work boots, or dress shoes to wear while officiating a match.  What would the players, coaches, and spectators think as they watched this official running up and down the field?  It would not matter how quickly he got into position or how crisp his signals and mechanics were; all everyone would think was, “Look at that dumb referee who forgot his shoes!”  One look and his credibility would be out the window.

One of the truest statements ever made is, “You only get one chance to make a good impression.”  Like it or not, officiating is a visual activity. While ideally, it should be judged solely on its merit, good officiating involves more than a good knowledge of the Laws and good communication through good mechanics.

The choices you make before stepping onto the field will dictate how well you will receive and how far your career may eventually advance. If you do not look and act professionally, you will not be treated in a professional manner.

You want to look as good as you can, which goes beyond properly dressed.  Your posture, gestures, facial expressions, language, and tone of voice must convey that you take your job seriously and are ready to officiate the match.

Players, coaches, and spectators already have an arsenal of ways to let you know how they feel about you.  Why give them more ammunition before the game even starts?

So, Dress for success.  Make sure the uniform is clean and pressed, and shoes clean.  Proper grooming is very important, hair washed and combed, clean shave.

Stay in Shape.  Any official must be able to keep up with the game (the players and the plays).  Officials are athletes and, like the players, must stay in shape between assignments.

Be Prepared.  Check your bag and supplies, maybe more than once, before your assignments and ensure everything is in proper working order.

People’s Body Language often says more about them than their verbal communication.   Watch how you walk, stand, look at people, run during the game, and make your signals.

Hands-on hips, not making eye contact, arms crossed in front of the body, rolling eyes, leaning to see the play, and squatting down on the field do not send good messages.

Show confidence by showing that you are approachable, talk with players, smile when it is appropriate, listen carefully, make sharp signals, and keep your hands to your side.

You do not want to show excitement or disinterest.  Make the correct signals without adding extra moves, not found in the Law book, that may draw more attention to you.

Though professionalism should not change from level to level, the approach to the game should.  Gender and age of players will change the demeanor of a game considerably and demand that the officials Adapt and adjust to the situation.

Finally, your job as a professional is not done when the game is done.  People will still view you as an official on or off the field.  Like it or not, people do judge books by their cover, and officials are judged the same way.  Whether on the playing field, at the mall, at school, or wherever, there is always the likelihood that someone will be watching and judging.

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)