Variety is the Spice of Refereeing

By Randy Vogt

People ask me how I can referee just about every weekend of the year.

“Don’t you get bored?” is what I am often asked. The answer is no because I officiate a diverse set of games every year plus I live in New York, where we are blessed to have four distinct seasons. I realize that some people prefer a more temperate climate year-round but having an actual winter along with spring, summer and fall makes the offerings on the soccer schedule quite diverse.

Twenty-five years ago, I briefly lived in Orlando. Unlike most Floridians, I missed cold weather and even shoveling snow (maybe I’m really a luger at heart?) plus, from a referee standpoint, officiating indoor soccer.

So in New York in the winter because games cannot be played outside on icy, open fields, we have indoor soccer. Until the turn of the millennium, I refereed many indoor tournaments on January and February weekends. Recently, I have been refereeing futsal on weekends. Either way, it’s a game with fewer players, no offside rule and increased quickness in play.

The difference in refereeing outdoors is I am not standing in the middle of the field with two assistant referees but I’m standing on the touchline with a referee partner on the other side. Because of the hardness of the indoor surface, it hurts when players fall down so I have to allow less contact than outdoor soccer. Plus when the ball goes in the air, I must follow it, rather than continue to look at the players, as the ball could hit the ceiling of the gym, resulting in an indirect kick.

We start outdoor soccer in March in New York. I’ve realized over the years that I have become somewhat used to cold weather through the nearly four decades that I have been officiating, more so than the average person. Although I have become more acclimated to cold weather, even rainy weather, I don’t think that I will ever get used to the combination of cold and wet weather. The spring season concludes in late June as school lets out.

Summer is a time for summer tournaments where teams from out-of-state come to the local area plus the time for summer leagues, which are generally more informal than the leagues run in the spring and fall. I was refereeing a high school summer league when I was going to dismiss the coach if he did not calm down.

The opposing coach questioned him, “You are going to get yourself thrown out of a summer league?”

The coach calmed down. I’m not sure if it was my verbal warning, the opposing coach’s comments or a combination of the two that did the trick. I found out later that he had been a problem the week before but the ref had done nothing about it.

In the fall, there is college and high school soccer in New York as well as the usual offerings in youth and amateur soccer leagues. There’s a higher standard in college soccer, even higher in most cases than in amateur games. Particularly with Division 1 college soccer, I have a locker room to change in and often have security. Although I have been blessed in that the only spectators to my knowledge who have wanted to get near me are former players or coaches who asked security to approach me to ask me if I remembered them.

For those living in areas where there are not the weather extremes that we have in New York, I encourage you to still try and find some variety in your schedule so you don’t get bored. For example, finding a five-a-side league to referee one season could be a very nice change of pace.

(Randy Vogt has officiated over 9,000 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

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