And the Refs Who Do Care

By Randy Vogt

Recently, I wrote about the refs who don’t care. They are the refs who do as little as humanly possible to survive on the soccer field that day.

But I’m a positive person so I would also like to write about the many refs who do care. While I can cite a few odious examples of the refs who don’t care, I know many more refs who care. Like the refs who don’t care, you can also find them at your local soccer field. The refs who care are also training by running in 30-degree weather or attending advanced referee clinics in other states. If you are up early enough on weekends, you might see them on the roads as they are traveling far for a game or off to a ref clinic.

Many of these refs have been spotted as having a future and they dream of refereeing MLS, the NWSL and international games. I respect them but I particularly respect the youth refs who are too old to advance to these levels but do all they can to be the best official they can be.

The refs who care contact their colleagues days before the game to touch base. They are at the field at least 30 minutes before kickoff for their first game of the day, arriving in a clean uniform and clean shoes plus they properly check the field and teams before the game. The refs who care spend hundreds of dollars every year for referee uniforms and equipment.

The refs who care are 20 yards within the ball for nearly the entire match, particularly when the ball is in the hot areas: the penalty areas and in front of the team benches. As assistant referee, these officials run with every ball down to the goal line.

They receive the choice assignments. A team made their first State Cup semifinal ever and as the experienced crew, a Who’s Who of local officiating, was checking their passes before the game, the coach remarked to his players, “This is what happens when you get to the State Cup semifinals. We get refs who are experienced and worked all the levels of the game instead of three guys off the street.”

The refs who care regularly read the rulebook and could give you a pretty good explanation of the subtleties of the offside rule.

For every defensive penal foul inside the penalty area, they whistle a penalty kick, no matter if it’s the 5th minute or the 85th minute, no matter what they score is. The refs who care send off players for ejectionable fouls, no matter if it’s the 5th minute or the 85th minute, no matter what the score is. Yes, they make mistakes but they always try their best to avoid them.

The refs who care officiate every game as if it’s their most important assignment of the day, no matter if it’s Division 1 or Division 6 North. They are very happy to be an assistant referee as well as fourth official in addition to being in the middle.

Are the refs who care universally popular? No, they are not as this coach might be annoyed that his or her team lost the game on a penalty kick that the ref who care whistled. Or that player might be annoyed that he or she was sent off for violent conduct when that player deliberately kicked an opponent off-the-ball. After all, the ref who did not care the previous week did not whistle any penalty kicks or give out any cards. Geez, that ref hardly did anything!

The problem is not with the ref who cares but with the ref who did not care the previous week who didn’t enforce the rules so the team was surprised in having a ref who actually did.

(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 his book 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

10 comments about "And the Refs Who Do Care".
  1. Tyler Dennis, June 8, 2017 at 6:51 p.m.

    I would add the following:

    The refs that care realize they are as important to the technical development as the coaches. If they don't call the fouls and let the game turn into a rugby match, our technical players get run out of the game (not chosen for teams because they can't "compete").

    The refs that care set the tone early, so the players understand the limits and play accordingly. They don't just let things go because they believe in this abstract "flow" that seems to not worry refs the world over.

  2. AJ Beamer, June 8, 2017 at 9:35 p.m.

    Great write up. Refereeing is a lonely gig. The effort put forth is NEVER worth the abuse, questioning, ridicule and did I mention abuse?
    Refreshing to see some of the efforts recognized. There are plenty of referees to watch and who inspire, I'd like to think this is enough to motivate, but we know different.
    Well done buddy!

  3. Mark Calcat, June 8, 2017 at 11:32 p.m.

    I loved my years as a referee. I have had medical helicopters land on my field to pick up a player feigning an injury to his neck. (Yes, I had carded him and yes, there was no injury.) I have had SWAT show up to break up fights on both touchlines. It was a multicultural moment. I have had a high school playoff delayed by a court order. I worked with referees from over a dozen countries from across the globe. And for all this, I was paid! Overall, I found the non-adult players mostly respectful and the coaches and parents clueless. I did the games for the players and it was one of the great chapters of my long life.

  4. MA Soccer, June 9, 2017 at 7:33 a.m.

    How about a 3rd article about refs that kind of care. Or maybe a 10 part series. I don't get these articles

  5. R2 Dad replied, June 9, 2017 at 11:15 a.m.

    Maybe you're not tuned in to fact that referees are required to play the game, so we should want our match officials to be as competent and professional as possible. I would like to see a similar pair of articles for coaches, and maybe the relevance would be more obvious: Coaches who care, & Coaches who don't care. Perhaps parents can then identify which type of coach they have!

  6. Nick Daverese, June 9, 2017 at 11:44 a.m.

    Official sites on the net get much more play then player and coaching sites. So a lot of people are interested in it for some reason.

  7. Gus Keri, June 10, 2017 at 8:26 a.m.

    It's funny, Randy, how you mentioned 5th and 85th minutes. Shouldn't you have said 1st and 90th minutes. I am guessing the times before 5th and after 85th minutes do not counts.

  8. Nick Daverese, June 11, 2017 at 8:07 a.m.

    You know when an official did a good job when the losing team manager after the match goes on the field to congratulate the officials on a game well done.

  9. Kate Phillips , June 24, 2017 at 8:38 a.m.

    I walked away from being a ref because I cared. I stopped after noticing that by the second half of every game, my brain was mush, and I couldn't even remember my own name, much less which team kicked the ball out of bounds. My last game ever (as a USSF ref; I ended up having ref again as the head of my church's Upward Soccer program a few years later (and yep, the same thing happened) involved a collision which should have resulted in a yellow card for one player, but I was so scatter-brained at that time (and it was only in the first half), I didn't see who hit who, and I think I just awarded an IFK To the teamed whose player was fouled. But I knew that day that I was done, that I had grown to despise the game that I dearly loved, all because I couldn't pay attention for more than one half. I later found out (20 years later, when my now-ex made me get tested) that I had ADD, which I had had since I was a kid, but didn't know it (they didn't know what it was back in the day (and my parents were too proud to admit that their kids might have problems, so they wouldn't have gotten me tested anyway)), so I was just "lazy," and "didn't apply myself," when in truth, I was fighting like hell just to keep up, and overcome a mind that goes 1000mph 24/7). I enjoyed being outside, interacting with the players and fellow officials, and really being immersed in the soccer community again (didn't happen that much as a player back then). But I'd rather not officiate at all than not have my head in the game, and risk making a bad call that affected the outcome of a game, or worse, got somebody hurt.

    I salute those refs who do care, and take all of the crap associated with officiating, and make the game better by their presence.

    Sorry for the long post.

  10. Kate Phillips replied, June 24, 2017 at 8:40 a.m.

    Actually, it was only 14 years later (I can't count, either :-P)

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