By Keith Quisenberry – Director of Referees
While you watch little Johnny or Suzie play soccer for NASC, have you ever wondered, “where do they get these refs?” I’m sure many of you have said “What the heck was that call for?” The referees assigned to games by NASC are local parents and kids, just like you, who decided to take a US Soccer Federation (USSF) training course to become a certified referee. This course consists of an on-line training portion consisting of 18 video presentations on the Laws of the Game (LOTG) and some at home reading. Following completion of the on-line portion, each referee candidate must attend 8 hours of classroom training and pass a final exam. Once they have jumped through all these hoops without tripping, they get their USSF Referee badge to wear proudly on their referee uniform jersey.
Once one is a certified USSF referee, a new ref may take their badge to any soccer club that will assign them games. Those choosing to work games for NASC usually get their first experience with the under-8 games. New referees are mentored by more experienced referees during their early matches to help them gain confidence and correct any errors. As they gain match experience and feel more comfortable, new referees are assigned higher level games to further hone their skill s and advance their understanding of the beautiful game. Each fall, every referee must “re-certify” by reviewing the LOTG, attending a 2-3 hour USSF/PAWest training session, and again passing an exam on the LOTG.
So besides taking the course, what does it take to be a referee. Well, in Pennsylvania, you must be older than 14 by the 31st of March in the year you take the course. Why? Because PA Labor Law prohibits anyone under the age of 14 from being paid for “work”. Currently, (as of Jan. 2014) legislation has passed the PA State House and is awaiting consideration in the PA State Senate to create an exemption for “youth sports officials.” Passage of this exemption will allow youth as young as 12 to serve as referees. But for now, you must be 14.
Of course, many, but not enough, of our referees are adults. Some played soccer as a child. Many, like myself, got involved with soccer through our children and progressed on from coaching to becoming a referee. If you enjoy soccer, like being outdoors, are reasonably fit, and are willing to learn, you too can be a soccer referee. Being a ref will help you stay fit and should be a fun and enjoyable way to spend a weekend afternoon.
For teenagers, especially current or former soccer players, being a referee is a great part-time job. No one gets rich as a referee, but for a teenager to make $10-$30 or more per game, this is tough to beat. Not only do they make money, but they gain self-confidence and experience dealing with players and coaches who aren’t always happy with every call they make.
Interested? New referee certification courses are taught at various sites in western PA each winter. To find a class near you and to register, see the pawest-referee.org website.
So next time you question the referees call at the local soccer field, remember that she or he took a detailed course in the Laws of the Game and that the best words in the Laws are “in the opinion of the referee.”