Commentary

The Accidental Ref asks: How and why did you start?

I was 15 years old when one of my soccer coaches, Gordon Barr (son of U.S. Soccer Hall of Famer George Barr), called me up and wanted to know if I would like to become an intramural ref in the soccer club I was playing for, the Syosset Soccer Club on Long Island. I declined as I thought who would want to become a ref as that person is yelled at and booed.


Randy reffing at TV Summers in 1978.

That summer, just after my 16th birthday, I volunteered as a coach for an intramural summer league, SYAC (Syosset Youth Athletic Council) Soccer. I coached a team, along with Mike Ritz, that wore yellow shirts, so we named them the Goal Rush. Our squad finished with a 1-4-1 record that summer.

It turns out that this was a relatively informal league and the coaches had to ref one half. I took over the ref duties for our team and quickly discovered that I was a much better ref than I was a coach.

Although I coached one more summer in SYAC Soccer (with the squad finishing 4-2-1) before the league folded a couple of years later, I was having fun as the ref and was pretty good at it too. So, I phoned Gordon and became an intramural ref in the Syosset Soccer Club.

My first games with the club were at the TV Summers School in the fall of 1978 with 10- and 11-year-old girls who played 11 vs. 11 back then. The field was a converted football field, 120 yards by 55 yards, with a soccer goal and a football goalposts on top. I refereed at TV Summers until June 1, 1980 and the school was demolished shortly thereafter so new homes could be built.

It's very interesting to me that the first league that I officiated in, SYAC Soccer, folded shortly thereafter and the main field I refereed at in my early days, TV Summers, was soon demolished. Yet I still keep on whistlin' four decades later.

My story is not unique, however, as I have heard all sorts of stories on how people become refs and many are accidental refs such as myself.

The story is usually how the ref did not show up and that person volunteered. Sometimes, it's the start of a lengthy officiating career. Sometimes, the novice ref is overwhelmed and decides officiating is not for him or her. But a lesson is learned and that person never complains about the officiating in the future.

So my questions for Soccer Americans who have become refs, how and why did you start?

(Randy Vogt, the author of "Preventive Officiating," has officiated more than 10,000 games. Go HERE for the archive of Vogt's referee Soccer America referee articles.

3 comments about "The Accidental Ref asks: How and why did you start?".
  1. Lance Eber, February 1, 2018 at 12:21 p.m.

    I was 13 years old and a player and heard that referees were paid to ref. That's all that I need to hear!  I've been licensed ever since...1983 - current... including 3 years on Guam (while my dad was in the Air Force).

  2. Mike Woitalla, February 1, 2018 at 1:03 p.m.

    My dad suggested he take me and a teammate, when I was about 12, to get referee licenses. I was into anything to do with soccer, and the prospect of getting paid to ref games sounded great. Me and my buddy ARed lots of games with my dad in the middle. And I reffed in the middle quite a bit, earning money during my teenage years in Honolulu.

  3. Ben Myers, February 1, 2018 at 2:32 p.m.

    I was 53 when I decided that I would be a better coach if I knew the LOTG better.  My sons, ages 12 and 14, took the same course.  I did hundreds of matches at all youth levels until my knees told me I could no longer run hard.  My oldest son dropped away from officiating for a while, took the course again a few years ago and now does around 200 matches a year, between club and school soccer, in TX.  My youngest does not currently live in an area with a lot of soccer, but, while living in Japan, got his Japanese badge and did a few matches there, too.

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