Why do you continue to referee?

Discussion in 'Referee' started by Dayton Ref, Nov 8, 2019.

  1. Dayton Ref

    Dayton Ref Member+

    May 3, 2012
    Houston, TX
    Chicago Fire
    This summer I had two different referees pose the question, "Why do you referee?" One was directed at me and the other was generically to a group of refs and I didn't have an answer. It was especially concerning to me because my goal for years was a state badge and I had reached that goal and was getting tired of dealing with some of the nonsense on the field so why did I continue to referee?

    After some extended reflection I've boiled it down to this.

    Long Version:
    I grew up playing AYSO where everyone was a volunteer so when it looked like I would get cut come tryouts my sophomore year in high school, I took the referee class during the summer to stay involved and give back to sport and club that I'd been playing since I was 5. I figured I'd give back better if I knew more and was a better referee so I read a book on reffing on my way to the class.
    That mentality continued many years later after college when I picked up the whistle again, this time for competitive instead of rec soccer. In my first season, I got an assessment on a line because it was advised for new refs to make sure they were executing what they learned in class. (I think the assessor was surprised because most didn't do that) Out of respect for the game, I became a student; getting more feedback, joining this board, and generally trying to be better. Now, I'm trying to make others better; everyone gets feedback after games, I've volunteered for U12s to work with new referees, and put out feelers to start a referee academy like I participated in Ohio-South.
    I do this and continue to referee because

    Short Version:
    I love the game.
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  2. socal lurker

    socal lurker Member+

    May 30, 2009
    As a kid, I reffed in a Police Athletics League that paid--great gig as a pre-teen/teen. As an adult I only do AYSO--so I'm not it in it for the money! I see it as a way to give back and to support what I think is a great organization, not only by reffing, but also by training and mentoring others who are giving back as well. And it beats most forms of exercise and is fun (not every minute, but in general, particularly the team work with a good crew).
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  3. threeputzzz

    threeputzzz Member+

    May 27, 2009
    As a coach I wanted to see improvement in the quality of the product. Yelling doesn't work. Doing it yourself does - maybe.

    Beats straight up running to burn calories. This is really my main reason these days.

    Match fees cover the cost of post game beverages in a good year. In a bad one they cover most of the cost of physical therapy sessions.

    Gives me an excuse to be outside in the warmer months of the year here in Minnesota.

    Gives me an excuse to not do those outdoor projects at home in those warmer months.
  4. SoccerRefNova

    SoccerRefNova Member

    DC United
    Mar 27, 2018
    For the money. I started when I was a kid because getting paid to have a coach scream at you was better than paying a coach to scream at you. They say you don't last if you're a check-chaser, but out of the all the kids I came up with, I'm the only one still going.

    No matter how hard the game was, no matter how bad I might've done, I'm still getting paid. It's that thought that keeps me on the field.
  5. RefIADad

    RefIADad Member+

    Sporting KC
    United States
    Aug 18, 2017
    Why do I referee?
    • It gives me the opportunity to work toward a goal (like passing the fitness tests). I also don't really like just going out for an "out and back" run, so officiating soccer allows me to run while focusing on something else.
    • I enjoy the game and want to give back to the community.
    • My son is a competitive player, so I am able to recoup some of the travel expenses by officiating.
    • I'm setting a good example for both of my sons - who have expressed interest in officiating (oldest basketball, youngest soccer).
    • I can work with younger officials to show how they can project a strong presence toward adults while remaining respectful and professional.
    dadman repped this.
  6. Rufusabc

    Rufusabc Member+

    May 27, 2004
    I have written extensively this year about the brutal HS season I just finished. And, for the very first time I am taking weekends off from the travel circuit. Age hasn’t caught up to me yet, but the abuse and lack of respect certainly plays a large part in it. I am down to 3 higher level tournaments a year because of the sidelines.
    jayhonk repped this.
  7. voiceoflg

    voiceoflg Member

    Dec 8, 2005
    I started doing it just to help lose weight and the rec league my daughter played in needed U6 and U8 referees. That was the only reason I started.

    The former president of my association kept pushing me to do higher and higher level games. I absolutely had no interest nor desire to do so. But she said I would like it and get good at it. Dang it, she was apparently right. Since then I have done state rec cup championship games in two states, centered U12 SCCL and NPL games, and ran lines for SCCL, USYS NL and ECNL games. I think I am done chasing higher level games. I know I won't get DA or higher and I know I'll never be a Regional Referee. But I am very happy with the games I get, and with the assignors I still use. As long as it is still fun, I'll keep doing it.
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  8. Pelican86

    Pelican86 Member

    United States
    Jun 13, 2019
    I took the class a few years ago and the instructor asked us why we were taking it. I said "To give back to the game." Cheesy, but true. I'd ref a couple games a weekend for free--the pay is to put up with the abuse. (And to put up with the cold on a weeknight in the middle of January during HS season, or to do the 5th game of the day or the 12th game of the weekend during a club tournament.)

    Since I started in my late 20s, I know I'm probably never getting very high up. I'd have liked to have gotten up to a 7 and then a 6 while I'm still young enough to pass the fitness test, but USSF had to go screw that up. And I don't have a huge desire to travel and suck up to different assignors. So I guess my best measuring stick for progress is working my way up in HS. Last year (my first year reffing HS) I had two ARs and a 4O in the playoffs, all in the 1st and 2nd rounds of the playoffs. Hopefully I can move deeper into the playoffs this year.

    I enjoy the camaraderie among the referee community. Teaching is my day job, so I enjoy the chance to work with younger refs and help them.

    And I like the fact that I've gotten to the point where I get enough games and make enough money to pay for a nice vacation each summer.
    dadman repped this.
  9. uws22

    uws22 Member

    Sep 8, 2012
    Celtic FC
    It's my favorite way to be involved in the game I love and with a schedule that I can customize to be as flexible as I want, unlike when I was coaching or playing.
    Also, I'm a stay-at-home dad so this is my my contribution to our family finances- between refereeing, assigning, assessing, and instructing, I can make nearly as much as I did my first year as a high school teacher.
    The biggest reason is it's the majority of my adult social interactions (see SAHD portion). In the last two years I've refereed or assessed in 10 different states. Nearly all of these trips involve a core group of 5-6 other referees from my region who also love the camaraderie of these events. We book ourselves out a full year in advance and try to find fun/warm locations/events like Las Vegas, Disney, etc for the slow parts of the year. We're going to Memphis twice next month just because it's an easy drive, we have no local leagues playing, it's teams we don't usually see, a fun location for our down time, and the assignor treats us really well.
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  10. akindc

    akindc Member+

    Jun 22, 2006
    Washington, DC
    This is going to sound like the most obnoxious, egotistical post in the world, but I'll say it anyway.
    I ref now, because they desperately need good refs in my area.
    I started for the money, then because I enjoyed it, then I stopped when I had kids and they started playing.
    As a soccer dad watching from the sidelines, I couldn't believe how many horrible refs there are, especially at the younger age groups...refs that clearly were only there for the money, and didn't care at all about being a ref.
    So I started reffing again this year, because I believe they need every good ref they can get.
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  11. Gary V

    Gary V Member+

    Feb 4, 2003
    SE Mich.
    No, not really. It's sounding like you saw a problem, and instead of just complaining, you became part of the solution.

    Egotistical would be to say you resumed reffing because nobody else in the league was any good, that you were the best.
  12. ptref

    ptref Member

    Manchester United
    United States
    Aug 5, 2015
    Bowling Green, KY
    Manchester United FC
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    I first registered as a referee when I was 14 years old. At the time, it was a way to help the league where my siblings played, and I was able to make a few bucks. Over time, I was able to do more, and make more money.

    Now, almost 30 years later, I continue to referee for many reasons. While money is still on the list, it's not the top reason. Instead, it is the opportunities and experiences that I enjoy the most. I have been able to travel to numerous states, and meet so many people, in my time a s a referee. Because of this, I have friends all over the place. And we may not see each other very often, but when we do, it is great to catch up and share stories about our experiences.

    Also, I have 2 younger brothers that also became soccer referees. Some of the best times we ever had together were when we worked games together. And now, even though we have moved away from each other and don't ref together, we still call each other to share stories or get advise. One of my brothers is now our local high school assignor, and the other is now the SRA of Hawaii. Needless to say, we have some pretty long conversations when we talk soccer.

    Now that I am on the more experienced side (aka, getting older) I have been able to transition into a mentoring role. Being able to share with young referees and give back, the same way others before me gave back, has been very rewarding.

    I don't travel as much as I did in previous years, but when I do, it is always fun. I hope to keep doing this for several more years. Who knows, maybe I will get to meet some of my fellow posters in person some day.
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  13. Ickshter

    Ickshter Member

    Manchester City
    Mar 14, 2014
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Why do I reff? Hmm, because I have a huge ego problem and want to make the game all about me. I really enjoy missing calls and messing with kids minds and love it when I don't call obvious fouls just to anger them. I usually like to throw in some opposite CK and GK decisions as well as TI's to the other team, usually right in front of the benches to really get their dander up. I usually just pick a team before I start the match and favor that team with every decision I make. I will pick about 2-3 players randomly and just blow my whistle when I feel they need to respect my athoratee! ;)

    It's not because I love the sport that I played as a kid, I had 3 boys that also enjoyed the game, I tried coaching all 3, but found that I didn't have 30+hrs a day to keep that pace up, so as my oldest was about to enter HS and at the time the HS didn't have a soccer program I was volunteered by my son's friends who played to help go to the school board and get the sport added. I told the board that I would even help by signing up to officiate in the conference. My first real (paid) refereeing assignment was a boys HSV match. (Although I did do many youth games when my kids teams went to matches and there was no officials at the match. AYSO isn't as big in all parts of the country.) My youngest has now started his first year in College, I was reffing him when he was 5. I will continue as long as these legs hold out. I enjoy the running with a purpose and love watching the sport I love from a position most others will never see.
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  14. jayhonk

    jayhonk Member+

    Oct 9, 2007
    I had a game last month that really left a bad taste in my mouth. It was USSF, so I quit signing up for those games for a couple of weeks and just did the HS games I already had assigned. At the time, I concluded that HS games were more benign than USSF and they pay better, so lets do those...

    During my hiatus, I ran across this article in Referee magazine "Why I love Officiating" Frankly, it did not help my 'recovery' only time did, and getting slowly back on the horse. But, I link it because it gives 24 different and interesting answers to this question.
    dadman repped this.
  15. Law5

    Law5 Member+

    Mar 24, 2005
    Beaverton OR
    This is my 29th year officiating soccer. I have also played, coached and been a league and club administrator, including both the youth and adult state association boards. I kind of dropped the playing and coaching as I realized that I'm a much better referee.

    Earlier this year, I was doing a women's adult game. After some less than stellar play by her team, one of the players turned to me and said, "I'll bet you just do this for the entertainment value." Guilty as charged. I get to see the game close up and see some absolutely amazing play, from time to time. And besides the quality of play or lack thereof ("I could play better than they are playing.") it's a chance to observe human behavior, for better or worse, all of the funny, joyful, goofy, crazy, mean, selfish, stupid things that can and will happen in a game.

    I also enjoy:

    the challenge of managing the wide variety of players, with different skill levels, backgrounds and attitudes.

    the adrenalin rush of a finishing a very tough, high profile match, maybe with a lot of spectators, with minimal discipline necessary and minimal complaining by the participants.

    working with players, coaches and other referees whom I have worked with for years.

    The incentive of knowing that I have to work out in order to stay in shape to referee. I don't want to look like what I would look like if I didn't.

    I think it has made me a better person. More understanding, more patient, more forgiving and more ready to step forward when duty calls, to take care of things that shouldn't be happening.

    And, with that, out running players who are 20 years or more younger.
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  16. RefIADad

    RefIADad Member+

    Sporting KC
    United States
    Aug 18, 2017
    Honestly, it sounds a lot like how I started. The first time I officiated back in the early 2000s, I moved from Europe and was just looking for something to do a couple of times a week so I could get out of my apartment. Two weeks after I started doing games, I was put on a pretty intense small-school boys rivalry game. I rode to the game with a veteran crew member, and he didn't say a word to me until the drive home.

    Until I stepped away in 2007 to start a family, I was doing college and a lot of Midwest Regional League and other higher-level games. I still do some upper-level games, but I spend more time refereeing when my U12 son is playing at the same complex now. I do it now because it's fun and I want to show my kids that being a referee is a good thing to be. I'm looking forward to the day soon when I get to referee with my youngest, and maybe I'll convince my oldest to take up soccer if he starts doing basketball and enjoys it.
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  17. Bubba Atlanta

    Bubba Atlanta Member+

    Mar 2, 2012
    Yep, Atlanta
    Atlanta United FC

    And because I just like it. And maybe that's why I do.
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  18. gaolin

    gaolin Member

    Apr 21, 2019
    If you're doing it for the money ,why not learn a trade like computer programming or something else and earn even more money? Why both doing something you don't like?

    Do you want to be one of those people at the deathbed where they wish they spent more time doing X, Y, and Z?

    For me, the money is good but it's not the the reason I love officiating. I already have a good job that pays me well. As many others pointed from the different skills of managing players to the love of the game to many other scenarios.

    For example, I could not fathom doing, say, tennis refereeing when I absolutely do not like tennis.

    Just an interesting viewpoint.
  19. threeputzzz

    threeputzzz Member+

    May 27, 2009
    I'd like to think this is true for me as well, but I think I was basically empathetic before I started. Doing this for several years has taught me how to go from nice guy to hard ass much faster.
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  20. Bubba Atlanta

    Bubba Atlanta Member+

    Mar 2, 2012
    Yep, Atlanta
    Atlanta United FC
    That's part of being a better person.
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  21. Gary V

    Gary V Member+

    Feb 4, 2003
    SE Mich.
    I stopped reffing 5 years ago when I stepped in a rut from the tractor that mowed the field and suffered a hairline fracture to my ankle on the 2nd game of the season. (In the first half. Like a typical guy I said to myself, "That's gonna hurt in the morning. But I can finish the game.") And since my knee was in the starting stages of arthritis, I never came back.

    But long before that, I had decided that I wasn't going to let any jerks drive me away from what I liked doing. There were those games, those coaches. But there were far more games that were satisfying. Hopefully as satisfying to the players and spectators as to me.
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  22. MJ91

    MJ91 Member

    Jan 14, 2019
    United States
    Prior to my oldest kid trying the sport ~13 years go, I had ZERO interest in this "foreign game". Besides coaching rec & travel, I had started coach-Ref'ing when needed, became the defacto Club line at select matches, got USSF certified five years ago in my mid-40's, and now also do HS.

    I originally certified because there was (is) a local referee shortage and quite frankly I thought I could do better than some of what I was seeing - critics are a dime a dozen, so I tried to be part of the solution.

    While I want to get better at the levels I do, I have other priorities in life and honestly don't think about "moving up the ranks". I'm not sure I could develop the necessary skills anyway. I do take pride in being a part of this often thankless profession that is required for The Game to be played... While my foul identification and selection might suck at times, I strive to be "professional" in doing things properly with full attention and effort whether it's HSBV or U-littles.

    - It's a never-ending and sometimes humbling challenge that has become my personal hobby/habit/fixation.
    - There is a need (someone's got to do it!) and it supports The Game my kids enjoy(ed) playing and one that I enjoy coaching.
    - Finally have something that effectively motivates me to maintain some fitness! 90* HSBV dual on turf will do that...
    - Opportunities to mentor newbies/youth referees - it's like coaching players, very cool helping them to "get it".
    - It's great training for maintaining focus with quick decision-making under pressure, keeping one's cool, ignoring idiots, calmly dealing with idiots, dealing with unhappy masses, and being a facilitator while avoiding the center of attention.
    - The camaraderie & friendships I've developed in this often thankless service have been great. They've helped me improve, enjoy what we do, and keep coming back after some matches that spiraled down the toilet.
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  23. Geko

    Geko Member

    Sacremento Geckos
    United States
    May 25, 2016
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    There's plenty of people who started just for the money or because they thought the refs in their area were bad. It's not more or less noble than any other reason. It's your reason.

    I started for money and then I wanted to do it well. I realized I could get more challenging games, so I wanted to keep getting better. There's a pretty big ladder to climb, so until my legs don't work anymore, I'll just keep challenging myself. It's been fun already meeting different people, and managing 22 people, especially when it's a tough game, is a fun challenge.
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  24. Spencedawgmillionaire

    Mar 2, 2017
    Saint Louis Athletica
    I got into it, initially, because I was tired of dealing with refs that were completely checked out or seemingly clueless. The problem with this is that, while I put every effort I can into every match I work, it doesn't help my teams. That why i do so much mentoring of new refs.

    I work as much as I do because the wife in in her second go-round in nursing school (long story) and I work in public radio, where I do ok, but money's really tight, so I need as much of it as I can get while the getting's good. Unfortunately, it's starting to wear me down a bit, had a couple of injuries, so had to shut it down last week.

    Even if I won the lottery, I'd work as much as I felt was healthy for me. I tell my wife all the time, and this is the absolute truth; If my body would allow it, and if there was a schedule that would allow it, I'd referee from 8"30AM to 5"30PM every single day of the week. I love it, I love being involved with young people, showing them how to manage games, themselves etc... I want to be a tool of change in the world, and I want to do everything I can possible to change the way people interact during matches.

    I struggle with mild anxiety and have a self-esteem issue, always have. You wouldn't know it if you met me, I appear gregarious and outgoing, but it's all smoke and mirrors in an effort to control people's perceptions of me. Refereeing has been a godsend in this regard. I no longer respond with emotionally-charged defensiveness, I'm more mindful with my actions and am far more at peace with my mistakes. I owe it all to the exercise, focus and abuse that soccer provides. I feel more confident as a person and feel really good about how hard I work. Accepting that no matter how hard I work at it, I'll never be perfect really applies to regular life.

    I also think that I'm a very good referee. I get compliments all the time, kids recognize me and say "hi" outside of soccer and my assignor tells me people let him know that I'm the bees knees on the reg. Finding something you love and working ahrd to be top notch and getting that feedback works absolute wonders for the self esteem.

    My favorite thing to say is "I love it, because it's the one place in the world where I take all this abuse, yet remain in charge."
  25. SoccerRefNova

    SoccerRefNova Member

    DC United
    Mar 27, 2018
    Cause I'm good at it. I work college and down, and walking away from that money is crazy so long as I'm still healthy. The only thing I'll miss about soccer when I drop it, are the decent friends I've made.

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