How Soccer Refs Prepare For Games.

Randy Vogt

You have been assigned three games this Saturday and two on Sunday.

The referee who physically trains for these games and watches officials during other soccer matches will most likely be a good deal more successful than the person who does not think about these assignments all week until putting on a referee uniform that weekend.

Many new referees are surprised at the commitment needed to become a successful official. As I like to say, based on Galatians 6:7, “You reap what you sow.”


If you believe that refereeing one or two days per week will make you fit without physically training for it, you are sadly mistaken. Soccer is played at its own pace—some games are fast, others are slow-moving. With relatively unskilled players, there is even some acceleration of play in spurts. Games will be played at a given pace whether the officials can keep up with play or not.
Those officials who do not move up or down the field are the first to complain about overly enthusiastic spectators and often quickly determine that refereeing is not for them. If you are properly prepared for the physical demands of soccer, you will enjoy it much more.
If you have led a sedentary lifestyle, please get the approval of your doctor before becoming a soccer referee and taking on all the physical training that goes with it. The fartlet training method works best for me, as it mimics a soccer game.
Rather than just jogging, you jog, sprint, jog…with an all-out sprint at the end. If you are currently out of shape, start slowly after getting your doctor’s approval and gradually work up to a mile.
As officials need to run backwards and sidestep during the course of a match, try to incorporate both of these moves in your training.
Also, Rocky Balboa and Kenyan marathon runners are on to something—running up and down steps or hills helps endurance. In the Rocky movies, Rocky concluded his runs through the streets of Philadelphia with a sprint up the steps of the south entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Kenyan marathoners run up and down the hills of their country.
Jogging and sprinting up and down some hills or steps will make running on a flat soccer field easier.

Game Day

Take the attitude that you are being given the privilege to officiate your games that day. After all, you will meet new people, have the opportunity to make a positive difference in other people’s lives, get exercise and, hopefully, have fun, all while earning a little money.
The game is not about you; it is about the players. Rarely does anybody come to a soccer game to watch the officials; they are there to watch the players. A soccer game could possibly be played without officials but cannot be played without players. Your actions should not make you feel important, but should get the players to behave and express themselves fairly.
Refereeing is also not about the money. The best refs bring out the best in everyone, including themselves. With officiating, you can help others while you and they are having fun. If you can earn some money on the side, great!

Arriving at the Field

The referee and assistant referees should come to the field at least 30 minutes before kick-off to have the time to properly inspect the field and teams plus to stretch and warm up. Let’s talk about the do’s and don’ts of your arrival. After all, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.
Officials should be well-groomed with a clean uniform. Arrive at the field with a smile on your face. Perhaps you don’t feel like smiling—maybe you don’t feel well or did not get a good night’s sleep. Smile anyway. It could even put you in a better mood.
Attitudes are contagious. If you’re having a very good time, you would be surprised how many other people you are affecting with your positive attitude. Those song lyrics often come true, “When you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you.” Why look unhappy, especially since frowning uses six times more energy than smiling?
Never bring your problems to the soccer field as it will greatly affect your refereeing and other people’s perception of you.
A major complaint about some referees is that “they are mean.” Conversely, I have heard compliments about officials such as “He had a nice smile” or “She had a great demeanor.”
Shake the coaches’ hands firmly while introducing yourself. Should a coach or player bring up a referee decision from a previous match (which you would not have seen), never criticize a referee or his or her calls.
If a coach is a friend of yours, that coach might converse with you for a couple of minutes. So be sure to spend roughly the same amount of time talking to the opposing coach. Otherwise, that opposing coach could think that you will favor the other team. A referee is the ultimate neutral, and what you do for one team, you do for the other.

The Best View of All the Action

What helps keep me young and enthusiastic about officiating is knowing that even after more than 8,000 games, I routinely see something happen on the field that I have never seen before. Such as:
• Players in the Boys-Under-8 age group chasing a butterfly instead of the ball.
• During a corner kick in a Girls Under-10 game, an attacking player was making a run to the far post. Just after the ball was kicked, the goalkeeper turned her back to the ball and all the players in front of the goal to watch this other player. The ball landed in front of the goal with the keeper still concentrating on that player.
• A Girls Under-11 defender kicks the ball near her goal line and loses her shoe in the process. While the opposing team collects the ball, she decides to sit by the goal line on the ground and put on and tie her shoe. The opposing team comes down, crosses the ball and scores with the defender tying her shoe leaving everyone onside.
• A double rainbow over the field after rain in a Boys Under-14 game.

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