I’m Sweetie, the College Soccer Referee

Officiating soccer at the club, high school and college level, is something I’ve done for the past almost 10 years (when I’m not pregnant, chasing my kids around, or writing).

I don’t really like being yelled at, so I might be in the wrong profession… but being yelled at is a definite motivator to do a good job and (hopefully) be yelled at less.

That being said… I’ve become pretty aware of my strengths and weaknesses as a referee.

Things that make me a good soccer referee…

1. I know the game. I’ve played the game at a high level for most of my life. (Most people don’t know I was headed to Drake University to play Division I soccer. I decided to attend Loras College — a little closer to home — and raise my son instead. When he was 2 and a half, I was offered a full scholarship to play Division II soccer for Salem International University. I turned it down. I was still raising my son.)

2. I can run for pretty much forever. (Except when I’m pregnant… I can run to the bathroom when I’m pregnant.) I’ll probably end up with knee replacements at a young age, but I love to run. I’ve been told by referee assessors that I run too much. (Maybe this should go under weaknesses?) I particularly love doing all the sprints required of a line referee (I know… I’m a little bit this side of crazy).

3. I am the mother of boys. I have a “mom voice” and I’m not afraid to use it. Enough said.

Things that challenge me as a soccer referee…

1. I am five foot two and a half. Most of the players at the high school and college level are taller than me. My vision is easily blocked by a player running in front of me. Good thing I run a lot and can change my vantage point!

2. I have a baby voice (when I’m not using my Mom voice). When I answer my phone, and the person on the other end has never met me, they usually ask if they can speak to my mother. This is not a once or twice thing. It happens at least monthly. Combine that baby voice, with my height and my long blonde hair… I don’t sound or look the part of the stereotypical authority figure. I’ve had to learn how to use my cards and my whistle to direct players (my impressive stature and voice haven’t been so great at getting the job done).

3. I’m a female in a profession where the majority are males. Sometimes I’m yelled at more because I’m female. Sometimes I think I’m yelled at less because I’m female — depending on who’s doing the yelling. There are things I have to adjust for (like my voice, as depicted above). There are things that work for male referees that don’t work for me — and vice versa. It’s not a bad thing… just a thing where I have to be aware of the differences so I learn what works best for me… Like when I introduce myself and the coach replies, “Hello, Sweetie.”  Okay… I’m “Sweetie” today. We’ll roll with that. He’s probably one of the coaches who’ll yell at me less 😉

I’ve heard and seen a lot, so it’s difficult for a coach, player, or spectator to surprise me with a new complaint. But a couple weeks ago I heard one I’ve never heard before. I was officiating club games at a tournament all day. During a game where I was the assistant referee (running the line), a coach started going ballistic about me. Can I just say — before we go any further — that this coach ended up losing the game eleven to one? 

In the first five minutes of the game, coach decided the mismatch between teams was due to my misunderstanding of Law 11 (Offside). Then he started screaming at the other line referee that I was on my phone and not even paying attention to the game. Huh??? I was bewildered. I didn’t even have a phone on me… and if I did, I certainly wouldn’t do something so idiotic as to pull it out and use it during a game. (Did I mention I don’t like being yelled at? Such an action would put a giant target on my back.) Another goal was scored. I took my referee book out of my pocket to write down the goal, and the number of the player who scored it.

“Look! She’s on her phone again!” screamed the coach. “She’s on her phone after every goal!!!” The coach was so convinced of my wrong doing, that he called the field marshall over, who watched me for a few minutes, and then informed the coach I was writing down the score in my referee book — NOT on my phone.

Phew! At least the field marshall knew referees write down the goals since the club level coach didn’t 😉

I guess when you ref soccer, you’ve never seen and heard it all…



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