Perception vs. Reality

We write this article in the hope that you can see things from the administrative and professional side of the soccer business. Hopefully, by reading this article you will obtain a better understanding of how people perceive us as officials. We are a core group of hard-working professionals; as you read this article, it may make you aware of some of the problems we encounter which are of our own making.

Officiating is a profession, and once you begin getting paid to referee games, you are a paid professional. Unfortunately, a very small percentage of us destroy the professional image most of us attempt to portray as we approach our duties as officials by not being aware of how people view officials in general. A part of being a referee is having the correct uniform and making sure it is clean and in good condition for our games. We don't go to our day jobs out of uniform, or with unclean and tattered clothes, do we?

Perception: the organization, identification, and interpretation of sensory information in order to represent and understand the environment.

Reality: the state of things as they actually exist, rather than as they may appear or might be imagined.

During tournaments, teams come from across the city, state and even the region to represent themselves and their clubs. They expect to play against quality competition and receive quality officiating at all times.

Teams size up the referees from the moment the crew arrives at the field. If they are well-groomed and have matching uniforms, then the crew might get the benefit of the doubt in any controversial decisions that arise during the course of the game. However, if one member of the crew has shorts, another has on long pants, and all have different socks, that crew immediately loses credibility with everyone involved. Invest some of the money you earn as a professional in purchasing the correct uniform … it is a small price to pay for the rewards you will receive.

Ask yourself this:

  • Why should teams have to play in their proper uniforms and referees be excluded?
  • How can we enforce rules on uniforms to players if our crew is improperly attired?
  • Why would a player remove his/her jewelry when the referee asking for it to be removed has on earrings and a necklace?

Unfortunately, the way we appear at the fields is the way people will perceive that we will officiate their game(s). It is our responsibility to have the proper uniform, be on time to games, and arrive looking professional. The most common complaints heard regularly are the arrival of the officials not looking the part; shirt tails untucked, socks down, and, unfortunately, some of our language or jokes around the fields with minors around.

A quote we often use is: "Being on time for the game is NOT being on time. Arriving a half hour before the game is!"

Looking at the picture at right … which official do you want to be perceived as?

The reality is that we are all working hard in an effort to do our best. Let's look the part and act professionally and try to do ourselves the justice we deserve … after all, it is our "Beautiful Game".

Remember, your efforts on the field affect much more than just you. You, as the official, represent your paying public, who are your customers, your fellow referees, your assignor(s), tournaments/leagues and North Texas Soccer.

John O' Kane is a registered referee assignor, instructor, assessor and State referee in North Texas. Jesse McNeil is a State Referee and tournament director in North Texas.

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