Train and Retain – Keeping the newest referees in the program

When your association offers continuing education opportunities for you to enhance your skills, do you show up?

According to North Texas, the median age of referees is 12, and the average experience on most games is 1.5 years. We bring in approximately 1,500 new referees each year and 45 percent of them do not recertify. These numbers tell us that we don’t have a lot of experienced referees on the fields.

There are a host of reasons why some referees don’t return, but the number-one reason is lack of continuous communication, followed in second place by fan behavior.

Being a referee is anything but a routine job. Sure, there are black and white areas of refereeing — you need a whistle, uniform and ball, and you show up 30 minutes prior to your game. But, once you blow the whistle, you are tested in all areas of the game for the duration of the match.

Ask yourself, are you well equipped to handle this match? Do you know the difference between IDFK and DFK restarts, when the ball is in play on the eight restarts of a match, how to properly apply advantage, what are acceptable and tolerable comments from the touchline that won’t affect your game in a negative manor? There is so much to managing a soccer match.

That is why it’s crucial that you plug into your associations’ continuing education opportunities.

Mansfield Soccer Referee Association teamed up this summer with the teams in the Mansfield league for a win-win situation. They invited all teams to take part in the MSA Summer Camp and had a tremendous turnout, with teams ranging from U5-U13 signing up.

Part of the summer camp itinerary included Wednesday-night scrimmages that were officiated with full crews. Referees were invited to come out each Wednesday in July to take part in training. While geared towards newer referees and those referees who hadn’t done any middles yet, all referees were welcomed.

Each week offered up a specific, relevant topic that would benefit any referee who showed up. The topics ranged from AR mechanics to “Ask, Tell, Dismiss” role-playing. The 90-minute session was divided into three parts: first, referees met with the volunteer mentors and instructors. The topic of the week was presented, followed by some role-playing. Then, the refs put into practice the “how-to” tips on a scrimmage match, rotating between the center and the AR. After the scrimmages, they all met for a Q&A session, focusing on what they learned.

These training sessions were led by MLS, National and State Referees. MSRA provided a safe, fun and encouraging learning environment for all who participated. The referees benefited greatly from the personal instruction, mentoring and praise that they received. They are better prepared for the upcoming season.

Get plugged in to your local association. One of the number-one characteristics you should have as a referee, no matter your game count, is to be teachable. We learn from each game and from those who have gone before us.

A giant thank you to all of you who volunteer to set up training opportunities, who give back your time to teach, mentor, encourage and make the referee program fun.

Have a great season!

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