January 14, 2021-I have been the Public Relations Director of the Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA) for the past decade but I was a referee long before that. Taking the whistle when I was 16 years old in 1978, I have officiated over 11,000 games in six different decades. Here are my Top 10 Great Things About Being a Soccer Referee:
1. Refereeing looks good on a resume, particularly if you just graduated from college. When I graduated from Parsons School of Design in 1984, I thought that I was going to set the advertising world on fire (which never actually worked out exactly that way). But first, I needed to obtain my first job and had a problem filling up one page on a resume with such little experience. So I added refereeing, and that I had officiated professional games, to the bottom. Turns out there was an entry-level opening at Manhattan ad agency Sudler & Hennessey, I sent my resume, the boss showed it to a State Referee there who told him, “Hire Randy. Refereeing at such a young age shows maturity.”
2. You learn to remain calm at all times, even if everybody else is negative and upset. Being calm is a very good personality trait to have.
3. You start speaking in foreign languages. The more foreign language words you can speak on the field, the less dissent you will receive in that tongue as players and coaches will be unsure what you understand and what you don’t.
4. You earn some money on the side. Although for nearly every ref in the United States, refereeing is our avocation and the extra money from officiating is nice, although a few top refs have been able to make it their vocation.
5. You learn that it’s not about you but about them (the players). And this is a wonderful attitude to have. Referring just above to #4, those who make it about the other person and not themselves will always find work, even much more so than the people who are solely focused on making a living.
Michael Blackton photo of Randy refereeing the South Shore Bulldogs
6. You learn to manage people. Another thing that is so helpful for that weekend referee earning a living from Monday to Friday as he or she can transfer the items learned in managing players, coaches and even officiating colleagues to the corporate world.
7. You are your own boss and go directly to the customer. There are no intermediaries whatsoever, you sink or swim based on how you do, and you also decide when you can ref in working with assignors.
8. You get (or stay) fit. I have to do a great deal of cardiovascular training, particularly now at 58 years old, to continue to be able to stay up with much younger players in running up and down a soccer field. And all that training has resulted in excellent physicals with my Primary Care Physician, who has said a few times that “you’re going to live to 100.”
9. You expand yourself by leaving your comfort zone. Where there is a risk, there is often a reward. In every game officiated, refs leave their comfort zone as they could be confronted by angry or unhappy players, coaches and spectators. Yet this does not happen in the majority of games. There is much reward and satisfaction in sticking to it and working with players and coaches in producing a fair and controlled game.
10. You meet the greatest people. So many are my friends, including my closest friends, are players, coaches and fellow referees. Seemingly every few weeks, I am warmly stopped on the street by somebody who remembers that I refereed their game when they played way back when, often calling me by my name, and it feels great to be remembered and know that I have made a positive difference in a person’s life.
Why don’t you consider becoming a ref in 2021? Eastern New York is looking for new Grassroots Referees and the certification class consists of both online and classroom learning. Classes are not taking place right now because of the virus but applicants must complete online training first anyway before the classroom sessions. For more information, please contact State Youth Referee Administrator (SYRA) Lee Suckle at firstname.lastname@example.org
With approximately 100,000 youth soccer players––both boys and girls––and more than 25,000 volunteers, the non-profit Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA) stretches from Montauk Point, Long Island to the Canadian border. Members are affiliated with nine leagues throughout the association, which covers the entire state of New York east of Route 81. ENYYSA exists to promote and enhance the game of soccer for children and teenagers between the ages of 5 and 19 years old, and to encourage the healthy development of youth players, coaches, referees and administrators. All levels of soccer are offered––from intramural, travel team and premier players as well as Children With Special Needs. No child who wants to play soccer is turned away. ENYYSA is a proud member of the United States Soccer Federation and United States Youth Soccer. For more information, please log on to https://www.enysoccer.com/, which receives nearly 300,000 hits annually from the growing soccer community.