The Referee Tool Box

What’s in your tool box? Besides the tangible tools we need for each game, knowing the how-to’s of refereeing is our No. 1 tool.

Each of us attended an entry-level clinic that gave us a basic understanding of the Laws of the Game. It’s on the field where we apply what we have learned and it’s on the field where we will make mistakes. It’s what we do after the game, when we’ve made mistakes, which determines our success in the referee program. Do we solicit advice, ask questions from a higher-level referee? Or do we shrug our shoulders, collect our pay and go home?

Every aspect of refereeing is taught over the course of your referee career. From mechanics to positioning and everything in between — whistle tone variation, what your body language is saying, effective use of cards, player management — it’s a true on-the-job learning experience.

No matter how long you stay in the referee program, will you ever see every possible scenario that a game can present? No. Because of this fact and the fact that the game evolves all the time (plus element of managing attitudes), you must invest in gaining more knowledge in all areas of refereeing.

The number-one characteristic that assignors, instructors and mentors look for in all referees is teachability. Can he/she improve? If the answer is yes, this is a fun, challenging and rewarding way to spend your weekends.

How do you better prepare for the next game? Look around you. Find the seasoned, respected, higher-level refs and ask, “Can you help me?” In the 19 years that I’ve been doing this, I have never met anyone who said, “No.” Anyone that I’ve asked for help, whether it was for my personal benefit or for a group of referees, said, “Sure.”

Ask your assignor to team you up with a more experienced referee. Ask a higher-level referee to observe you on a game for a while. Watch others on the level of games you are working. See how they manage players, get 10 yards on free kicks, and watch their running pattern or where they position themselves on set plays.

Besides on-the-job training, where do you go for more knowledge? One website that is invaluable to your success that you should be referencing during the season is You will find info on EVERY law of the game, from injury management, to why you would add time, to how to determine handling. You can refresh your memory with mechanics, offside and restarts. Click on Laws & Memos and start learning. If you have been officiating for at least three years or doing games at the U14 level and up, you need to be referencing “Advice to Referees.” If you plan on entering the upgrade program, this is a MUST read. I recommend you read it from cover to cover. and then go over Laws 12 & 14 prior to the start of the season as a refresher.

Another site is; click on referees, resource center – downloads/online training. Maybe you are a visual learner. This site has dozens of helpful videos. You can view in slow motion and over and over what an ugly tackle looks like, what a send-off offense for serious foul play looks like. Every class I teach for NTX, I’m always asked, “What do I do with the fan that makes my game miserable?” This site has the “Ask, Tell, Dismiss” video, which is very helpful. It reminds you to go to the coach for help with misbehaving fans, since we have NO authority over fans and spectators.

Another great way to add to your toolbox is local training opportunities. When your local area invites you to training, make plans to attend. Typically the training is geared around a few target areas. This is always a safe environment to practice, ask questions and maybe do some role-playing. Every association that I visit has a solid referee program led by people whose goal is to better equip you for the game. Remember, the players are investing many hours into perfecting their skills; as referees, we should be doing the same.

Knowledge is our No. 1 tool in our toolbox. Expand it, build on it. The referee program is an ongoing continual education with every game we do. Learn from each game and remain teachable until the very end of your career. No matter how good you are, there will always be someone around to help make you better.

Have a great season.

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