Giving Back To The Grassroots

On Friday, Mar. 7, news broke around 11 a.m. that the Professional Referee Organization (PRO) had locked out the Professional Soccer Referee Association (PSRA). This left 75 or so professional referees not working on MLS’ opening day. North Texas has two assistant referees working in the MLS, Jonathan Johnson and Adam Garner. Jonathan has worked in the MLS for the past two seasons, and Adam since 2003. In January, Adam was also appointed onto the FIFA panel as an assistant referee. Both have a wealth of knowledge and experience.

With the lockout leading to a sudden free Saturday, what are these two referees to do? Instead of sleeping in, doing some chores around the house or spending time with their families, they came out to Greater Lewisville Area Soccer Association (GLASA) to work some recreational soccer games and mentor GLASA’s young referees.

On Wednesday, Adam was in Atlanta working an international friendly televised on ESPN2 between the national teams of Mexico and Nigeria. Four days later, he was working a fierce Under-12 girls game between the GLASA Thunder and the GLASA Strikers!

After mingling with the GLASA referees as they arrived for their check-in, Jonathan and Adam gave a quick pre-match discussion about the importance of a pregame and why teamwork is important. They discussed why it’s just as important at the youth and recreational level as it is at the professional level. They also posed for some pictures, and gave everyone a North Texas pin.

Rob Kucenski, GLASA’s Director of Referees, noted, “You don’t often hear about professional football players going to their local Pop Warner fields and helping the young players get better. Adam and Jonathan, while in the highest level of their careers, are actively working with youth referees and helping them to improve.”

Both worked a U12 match. The match Jonathan worked was between the GLASA Shooting Stars and The Colony Kicks. He noted before the match, “I was worried there was a potential conflict of interest as I played for the Kicks when I was nine years old.”

It’s this kind of good humor and enjoyment of the youth game that keeps these high-level referees grounded. There were no controversial offside decisions; no television replays; no dissent … just young kids having fun playing soccer, and lots of smiles.

When not working their games, Jonathan and Adam walked around the eight fields of GLASA’s Bob Wiseman Soccer Complex and observed the referee crews. North Texas’ State Referee Committee Chairman Fred Hiler was also there to assist and to show how proud he was of these high-level referees giving back to the grass roots.

During halftime, after games or in the referee room over bagels, they spoke with most of the officials. They gave lots of encouraging words, helped build confidence and had tips and pointers for the referees. The GLASA young referees warmed right up to them. Many were asking questions about their games or talking about their experiences. Each GLASA referee there should have picked up some extra thing to put in their toolkit and grow as a referee.

Both Adam and Jonathan noted how energetic the GLASA referees are, how much potential they had and how dedicated the mentors are. Adam added, “The future of North Texas is being well crafted and developed at GLASA, and is a model for the development of young soccer referees. Jonathan and I are very impressed by the organization as a whole and greatly enjoyed our time at the fields today. We appreciate the opportunity to spend time with these young referees and work side by side with them! We look forward to future opportunities to expand on the excellent work being done by everyone in GLASA.”

Greater Lewisville Area Soccer Association is very thankful to have the benefit of the knowledge and dedication shared by Adam and Jonathan, as well as the support of Fred Hiler and North Texas.

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