Referees are Integral
to the Game
By Ric Listella, President
Referees in Oregon are trained by the Oregon Referee Committee, registered by the US Soccer Federation, and serve Oregon Youth Soccer as independent contractors.
Recruitment and retention of referees remains an ongoing challenge for the Oregon Referee Committee and Oregon Youth Soccer. In fact, usually more than half of all first-year referees quit during their first year as a referee. They quit for a variety of reasons; however, the most prominent reason is the treatment they receive from the sidelines – from parents and coaches – and to a lesser degree, from players on the field.
Most first-year referees are adolescents; about a year ago, the State Director of Referee Training observed he had trained only three adults in the prior year as a first-year referee. Unfortunately, many adolescents are ill equipped to manage and deal with difficult behavior of some of the adults and coaches during the game. How can we reasonably expect to improve the development, training (and ultimately, the quality) of our referees, when over half of them quit within the first year?
While the responsibility for referee training and development resides with the Oregon Referee Committee, in recent years, OYSA has taken a more active role to improve referee training, development and retention. Oregon Youth Soccer is virtually the only state in the U.S.A. that has developed a cooperative relationship with the State Referee Committee to improve opportunities for referee development and training. We assist in the coordination of new referee training, have developed a referee mentorship program, established a referee academy and support referee assessor programs.
OYSA provides assistance to the Oregon Referee Committee by advertising referee training opportunities, coordinating with local clubs to host referee trainings, and identifying areas of the state without adequate referee coverage and working with the clubs in the area to hold referee training classes.
The Oregon Referee Committee works diligently to train, develop and provide assistance to Oregon's referees. Referees are well-intended individuals, dedicated to what they do and capable of handling the game. Occasionally, they may miss a call – that's understandable; they are human just like you and me. We need to foster an environment where our referees are able to learn from their experiences in a positive light instead of from negative sideline or player behavior.
Each of us has an opportunity to improve the referee situation in Oregon; each of us has an opportunity to improve the retention of Oregon's first-year referees. We need to support our referees on and off the field. We need to recognize that there will be great calls, difficult calls and calls with which you do not agree. Just remember, the referee has the training and the authority to make the call, and please try not to criticize the referee on the field. Oregon Youth Soccer has a referee feedback form that a coach can complete to provide us feedback on referees. Using that form is the proper way to relay information to the Association.
We all need to accept responsibility to improve the conditions under which our referees must work. We must foster a positive environment for our referees; otherwise, the quality of our referees will likely decline, which in turn will seriously erode the quality of our games.
Finally, I encourage all parents and coaches to talk with your players about referee abuse. In recent months, we have seen an increase in the incidences of referee abuse. In fact, I personally witnessed an incident in this year's President's Cup. In this case, a player disagreed with a call, picked up the ball and approached the referee, the referee backed up, and the player tossed the ball into the referee's face.
The consequences for referee abuse can be substantial and lengthy. I encourage all adults to set an example for our players by treating referees with respect, recognizing referees have critical roles in the game, and appreciating that referees make mistakes, just like the rest of us.
Oregon Youth Soccer has appointed a special committee to review the recent incidents of referee abuse and to address the recent trend. As your President, it would be my expectation the Association adopts a Zero Tolerance policy towards referee abuse.