Ref Watch: A fun part of reffing -- meeting the players

Last year while checking in a U-14 team, one boy's name, Briegel Morales Pérez, piqued my curiosity. So I spoke to him after the game. He had moved to California from Guatemala, and his father had indeed named him after Hans-Peter Briegel, Germany's left back at the 1982 and 1986 World Cup.

One of the reasons I enjoy the pre-game check-in process stems from the vast variety of names one comes across, how teams from certain cities reflect their demographics, and in some cases, my quest to learn the proper pronunciation. "Sorry if I mispronounce your name," I say. "Please correct me if I get it wrong."

Last weekend, one boy's surname was 16 letters long, with nine consonants and seven vowels. The 17-year-old politely corrected my attempt to get it right.

Of course, the check-in process is mainly about player eligibility and ensuring safety — no jewelry, shinguards in place. But it's also a chance to interact with the players and coaches in hopes of preventing potential strife during the game. I usually try to concisely explain the handball rule, because every non-call tends to yield protests even though "Not every touch of a player’s hand/arm with the ball is an offense."

Also, as Randy Vogt once wrote in this space, "Player-pass check provides a chance to make a good first impression." One of the ways I interpret that is to lessen the adversarial referee-player relationship — to be friendly and perhaps even crack some smiles. If I notice a birthday or one within a few days of the game, I'll offer a "Happy Birthday."

During one check-in, after I said, "Once I call your name, tell me and show me your number, and then you can move on," the all-Latino team's coach told me that not all his players understood English well.

I gave my Spanish a try and said: "Me gustaría saber tus números." Apparently that's not the usual way to phrase it, but I was pleased at having succeeded in prompting some pre-game laughter from the boys.

I've tried different approaches in pregame talks, such as asking them if they've read the rulebook or if any of them referee. I've told them I don't react well to getting yelled at but will explain calls and don't mind being queried politely by the captain when there’s a stop in play.

If you have advice on the pre-game procedure — including what refs might say regarding rules or behavior — please use our COMMENT section (blue icon below) to share.

* * * * * * * * * *
Referee recruitment 

U.S. Soccer has launched a digital-only entry-level referee license course that takes less than five hours for a cost that "can be paid off in your very first game."

The registration fee is $40 (plus $30 background check fee if 18 or older). Its requirements are: Digital Referee Online Training (approx. 2.5 hours); Digital Referee Quiz (approx. 20-30 min); Introduction to Safe and Healthy Playing Environments (approx. 20 minutes); SafeSport Training (required if 18 years of age or older); NCSI Background Screening (required if 18 years of age or older). Check HERE if the course is available in your state.

* * * * * * * * * *

Ref Coverage around the Web

1. Players, coaches, parents: turn down the volume, or shut up By Ian Plenderleith (Soccer America)

2. Video: Assistant ref stop attack -- with a foul tackle (Soccer America)

3. Elite schools grapple with referee shortage and pay disparity amidst soaring tuition costs By Sue Pascoe (Westside Current)

4. Referees Threatening to Boycott Local High School Soccer Season Over Wages By Diego Sandoval (Noozhawk)

5. Barcelona president Joan Laporta under investigation in refereeing case (Reuters)

6. Referee Dan McFarlane rising up in Scottish soccer and is out, gay and proud By Jon Holmes (OutSports)

7. PRO's Inside Video Review With Greg Barkey  MLS | NWSL | MLS (Spanish)

5 comments about "Ref Watch: A fun part of reffing -- meeting the players".
  1. Patrick Duffy, October 23, 2023 at 1:20 p.m.

    I rarely do youth games anymore, but I do have to check in adult amateur players.  We don't line them up.  They just bring me their player card and I check them off on the roster.  One day, I'm doing a game with a team that is largely from Bosnia, good guys but they take the game very seriously.  The last player to check in is their goalkeeper, who has a name like Jose Gomez.  I said, "Hummm.  Must be from the southern part of Bosnia."  The guys cracked up laughing and they relaxed, a bit, during the game.

  2. humble 1 replied, October 24, 2023 at 11:38 a.m.


  3. Beau Dure, October 23, 2023 at 5:08 p.m.

    I often run through the equipment check as follows ... 

    "Tap your shin guards ... 

    "Show me your feet so I can see if you have nasty spikes on them ...

    "Anyone wearing neck chains? ...

    "Ear studs? ...

    "Watches? ...

    "Wedding rings?" 

    That gets a decent laugh half the time.

  4. R2 Dad, October 23, 2023 at 11:25 p.m.

    The running joke on check-ins for GUX teams is that there is always a wiseguy who has taped her earrings with flesh-colored bandaids to pull one over on us poor dumb referees. They know they shouldn't, but rebellion starts early. As long as I could humor the kids it was all good. 

  5. Martin Kay, October 24, 2023 at 10:29 a.m.

    I always enjoyed check ins, and was pretty good at pronouncing names, but I was stumped by some 20-letter Hawaiian names. The kids laughed and told me the much easier nickname

Next story loading loading..

Discover Our Publications