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When Should a Ref Retire?
by Randy Vogt, July 15th, 2013 9:38PM
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TAGS:  referees, youth boys, youth girls

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By Randy Vogt

I can hear the snickers already from fans who would like to answer the headline above by saying, "The ref we had at our last game should have retired a long time ago!"

Pope Benedict had it right regarding retirement. He thought that he was not physically up to the job anymore so he became the first Pope in nearly 600 years to retire. Referees who are no longer fit should do the same, particularly as there are other ways they could give back to the game.

Referees could become assignors, those very influential people who give referees their schedules every week. Unfortunately, it’s not a smooth workload as active weeks, they can work 50-plus hours, and then have little or nothing to do the next week. The best assignors get to know all referees, the level of games they can officiate and what is most important to them.

Referees could also become assessors, who watch soccer games, grade each official and give advice on how each can improve. The best assessors find at least one positive item to say about the performance and build off of that while correcting mistakes. Assessing is a bit more like refereeing than assigning as they are at soccer games whereas the assignor is often working in an office.

Refs could also become instructors and teach referees on how they could reach their potential. The instruction is based on Powerpoint presentations they have specifically prepared for the group.

There are certification classes through U.S. Soccer to become assignors, assessors and clinicians. Experienced refs could certainly consider utilizing their decades of experience by continuing to give back to the game by becoming one of the above.

As for me, I’ve never been anything except a referee as I simply love to officiate and becoming an assignor, assessor or instructor would take me away from officiating some days. I started refereeing intramural games when I was 16 years old and graduated to the travel team Long Island Junior Soccer League two years later. It was then on to amateur, professional and college games in the next decade, but I’ve always enjoyed refereeing youth soccer the most as I get to act a bit like Willy Wonka while officiating many youth games.

Recently having turned 51 years old, I am still fit but certainly do not have the speed that I once did. I envision myself, after officiating at a rather high level during the past three decades, starting to slow down. Certainly, the muscle strains and sprains are becoming more common. As Wonka said toward the end of the movie, “I can’t go on forever.”

I refereed college games throughout the 1990s and have been assigned more as an assistant referee of late with approximately half my college games assigned this year as an AR, which is perfectly fine. Let others younger and with potential work the middle and advance if they do well.

God-willing, in a decade or so, if I’m still able to run up and down a soccer field reasonably well, maybe I could referee intramural games again and complete the cycle I started back in 1978.

(Randy Vogt has officiated over 8,000 games during the past three decades, from professional matches in front of thousands to 6-year-olds being cheered on by very enthusiastic parents. In "Preventive Officiating," he shares his wisdom gleaned from thousands of games and hundreds of clinics to help referees not only survive but thrive on the soccer field. You can visit the book’s website at www.preventiveofficiating.com/)


2 comments
  1. James Zerkle
    commented on: July 16, 2013 at 1:22 p.m.
    I think another important contribution we veterans can make is working the younger youth games. We can mentor the younger referees on our crew. More importantly, we can demonstrate to the coaches and spectators, parents, how a game should be conducted and what sideline conduct is acceptable and what is not acceptable. Anyone who has observed youth sports knows that the younger the players, the more fanatic and emotional the spectators. It is really asking too much of young (teenage) officials to deal with a nearly hysterical crowd in a competitive game, e.g. a tournament, without at least one veteran referee.
  1. R2 Dad
    commented on: July 16, 2013 at 3:35 p.m.
    Agree with James. The sport really needs experienced referees at the youngest ages. Unfortunately most experienced refs don't want to do these matches, because they're not very challenging. But it's so important to the local communities to provide: 1)a safe environment for the players--dangerous play occurs at all levels, especially if gone unchecked 2)mentoring youth referees on decision-making skills, their pre-game,as well as a post-game review on how to improve--everyone makes mistakes 3)clarification to coaches on what is expected of them, ask/tell/remove, etc.--most of these coaches are new to the sport. 4) direction to the fans. From LOTG to parents coaching their kids on the sidelines to player/coach ejections, most of the youth fans don't know (yet) how the whole system works. Adults are much better equipped to address these issues than kids. I would like to see experienced referees like Randy continue to referee, but as he says notch it back a little at a time. There is a huge need for refs at the U9/U10 competitive level (because there are so many teams) and I would like to see our most experienced refs (aged 60+) doing those matches because they are such an important asset. Hopefully pride won't get in the way, because refereeing is just another form of community service.

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