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Navigating the Referee Assigning Process: A Guide for New Referees and Parents

"There is a referee shortage." This phrase has been echoed throughout the world of sports, and it's not just an empty statement. The shortage of referees is a real issue, and it impacts the smooth running of games across various sports. As a new referee or a parent of a budding referee, it's crucial to understand the challenges and intricacies of the referee assigning process. To shed light on this topic, we've spoken with some experienced assignors across the state. Let's dive into what you need to know.

Becoming a Qualified Referee

Before diving into the assigning process, let's talk about the first step: becoming a qualified referee. New referees typically start their journey by taking a New Referee Course, which equips them with the skills and knowledge necessary to officiate recreational games and/or club games. This training is often provided through US Soccer, but it's essential to check with your local state association for additional requirements and details. To be considered for games in organizations like BPYSL (Buckeye Premier Youth Soccer League), referees must be registered on the OSSRC (Ohio South State Referee Committee) site, confirming they've met all the necessary requirements.

Referee Courses and Assigning

Some recreational leagues offer their own referee courses. While these courses can be a good starting point, they typically limit referees to officiating within that specific program. It's important to weigh the benefits of league-specific training against the desire for a broader range of refereeing opportunities. We spoke with Joel Hughes who is an assignor for BPYSL and assigns games in areas of Cincinnati and Columbus. Hughes explained that he uses “an online system for officials to see the entire season and choose games that fit their schedule.”

We also talked with Ken McMahon who assigns for US Club Soccer Leagues throughout Columbus and many parts of the southern part of Ohio. He also assigns for at least 23 tournaments throughout the year and he shared with us his philosophy on assigning new referees. “We typically assign new referees (as) ARs with more experienced Centers who provide us with feedback. Ideally, referees will do 10-25 referees as an AR. In some cases, some adults who show promise and confidence may be assigned U-08/U-09 games. Eventually referees move to U-11/U-12. We do NOT assign referees with less than 25+ games to tournament games as tournaments create a very hostile environment for all referees”

Starting as an Assistant Referee (AR)

In many cases, new referees begin their journey as Assistant Referees (ARs). ARs work alongside more experienced Center Referees (CRs) who provide valuable feedback and guidance. This mentorship is a crucial part of the learning process. Ideally, new referees should aim to officiate 10 to 25 games as ARs to gain confidence and experience.

Gradually Progressing to Center Referee

After gaining some experience as ARs, referees can move up to officiate as Center Referees. This progression often starts with U-08/U-09 games and gradually moves up to U-11/U-12 games. It's important to note that assigning referees with less than 25+ games to tournament games is usually discouraged. Tournaments can create a hostile environment, particularly for newer referees, and it's crucial to protect their development and confidence.

The Importance of Recreational Games

New referees are strongly encouraged to officiate recreational games. These matches provide a valuable learning environment with typically lower stakes and less pressure compared to club or tournament games. It's essential for referees to build a solid foundation and develop their skills before taking on more challenging assignments.

League and Resource Recommendations

For new referees, it's essential to find the right balance between recreational and club games. Some recreational leagues are known for their commitment to developing and protecting referees. Based on feedback, leagues like DSL (Dublin Soccer League), GSA (Gahanna Soccer Association), OYAA (Olentangy Youth Athletic Association), and CESA (Columbus East Soccer Association) have shown a strong dedication to referee development. Hughes suggests using the OSSRC “Referees in Cincinnati, Dayton and Columbus can use the website especially if they would prefer competitive leagues, and/or reach out to the various leagues in the area they are interested in. The local recreational programs will most likely have different training requirements and even offer training at different times of the year for the younger aspiring officials.”

McMahon suggests “New referees should attempt to get a balance of recreational games and club games when possible.” He adds that new referees should “Never (do) solo games until they have 20+ games with a partner.”

How to get assigned games:

  1. Complete your courses and requirements. This is not just your referee courses. In order to be assigned games that require a referee license you will have to be registered and recognized in the OSSRC. This means you will have to have completed your SafeSport training and Concussion training and have a current certificate uploaded in the system.

  2. Find an assignor who you would like to work with. You can find assignors everywhere from your local recreational league all the way up through the highest levels of league and tournament play. To get started we suggest finding 1 or 2 local to you recreational leagues and get in their assigning system. Oftentimes, recreational leagues require licensed referees for their middle school and high school games and pay those referees at a higher rate.

  3. Set yourself up for success by choosing games at a level and with the support that can help you have success at the beginning. Don’t request for tournaments if it is your first week of refereeing and don’t take games as a center referee if you don’t have experience as an AR.

  4. Cast a wide net. When setting your availability or requesting games you will have better success being assigned games if your availability is broad. If you have more times and days available and you choose a broader area chances are you will find a day/time that you will begin to be assigned referee assignments.

  5. Find an experienced mentor. This is my biggest piece of advice. Kids that do well in refereeing are the kids who referee with a parent to get started or who have found an experienced mentor. They have a better experience, they are assigned more games and they are more successful.

Becoming a referee is a rewarding journey, but it comes with its own set of challenges, including the shortage of referees. New referees and their parents should be aware of the referee assigning process, the importance of gaining experience, and the need to choose the right leagues and resources for development. By following these steps, you can embark on a successful career in officiating and contribute to the world of sports in a meaningful way. Remember, referees play a vital role in ensuring fair and enjoyable games for everyone involved.

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