Updated: Sep 29, 2021
When we moved to Columbus from Cincinnati just over 6 years ago one of the first things that struck me was the tone and excessive dissent of parents on the sideline. I recall walking down the narrow path between U9 games on a Saturday morning as a mom passed out suckers to the parents on her team holding them up and chearily offering "shut up stick?" clearly this mom knew what was about to go down.
Fast forward to the spring of 2019. I had graduated from a volunteer soccer mom to a professional one and had been working with a training academy as an administrator and two clubs as a defacto director. I was scheduling fields and games for 8 teams at the time and my inbox had become innundated with emails from my referee assignors that there were fears of a referee shortage and we might not be able to cover all games. Games would either need to be played without referees, coach referees or canceled.
We all know how it went from here. COVID came. We all sat impatiently waiting for the soccer to come back and when it did, the referees didn't come with it. There are so many reasons behind the shortage in referees but in the end there are two reasons at the core. Referee abuse and disrespect.
In the Fall of 2020 half of all games I had scheduled for my teams were under assigned within 48 hours of kick-off. This is when I decided to dust off my whistle (or actually just buy a new whistle) and get recertified as a referee. In the spring of this year, I only took on 5 games for which I was assigned. I was an AR on 13 additional games for which I just happened to be on site watching my kids or their friends play when there was an underassigned game for which I stepped in.
This summer my 14 year old was also certified as a referee (you can be certified in the year of your 14th birth day) and we began to referee together. We have had an amazing experience (so far) together. In our first event, he had back to back games for Pride SC - as a single center referee. Jeff Krigbaum was amazing in respecting his calls and giving helpful advice in between games. The parents were kind and the kids were respectful. In our second event he was an AR in 4 games where we worked with an incredible, experienced and very technical referee who helped us both learn how to be better.
In my first game as a center, I had a major blow up with a local coach. In hindsight, I could have handled the situation better. I wasn't ready to center and U14 boys on the Sunday of a tournament weekend isn't the place to start. But when there are NO referees, assignors are going to have to push newer referees out of their comfort zone.
Being a referee and officiating with my son has been a great way to enjoy this beautiful game with him in a new way. I think it will be a while before I let him referee without me. I don't trust the adults on the sideline, like I should. But, if we are going to grow soccer and improve soccer in Ohio we are going to have to be kind to our referees.