Have you considered becoming a soccer referee?

Officiating comes with a lot of great benefits: good money, a way to stay fit, flexible work hours, and an opportunity to remain involved in the game. But have you considered the less obvious perks that come with earning a referee badge? For many referees in the province, the reason they launched their refereeing journey in the first place is often not the same reason they’ve chosen to stick with it.

The Unexpected Benefits

Sim Lakhyan

For Sim Lakhyan, a Regional level official from Calgary, officiating was a way to participate in the sport she loves, “Soccer has always been a large part of my life, many of my family members are involved in the sport in some way or another, and like many, I started out as a player. I decided initially to referee because it was a job where I could pick my hours and the pay was competitive, but also because I got to remain in the sport and be active, contributing to the sport.”

The Soccer Family

What she wasn’t planning for was the family she gained as she immersed herself in her new role.

Often referred to as “the third team”, referees tend to band together much in the same way their player counterparts do. Lakhyan explained, “The most unexpected benefit [for me] was the third team. When I started, I didn’t realize that the referee crew was another team out there in addition to the players. Through…the referee community, I have found a second family, my referee family.”

Mental and Physical Health

Michael Mund

For Michael Mund, a Provincial level referee with aspirations to reach the National level or higher, officiating provided him with both professional and physical benefits. Initially, Michael spent a weekend earning his referee certification as a way to gain some insight into referees’ rationale for making certain decisions. He was a player, and like so many others, didn’t always understand the justification for certain calls.

“My understanding of Soccer changed in the course of a weekend,” explained Mund after completing the course. “I decided to purchase a referee jersey and try a few games and quickly found a new passion.” Before long, Michael found himself having to choose between his two roles in the game. Ultimately, he opted to pursue his development as a referee. As a result, Mund has seen his physical fitness surpass the level it was at while playing, “Physically, I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been…The demands and fitness level requirements of being an official encourage healthier lifestyle choices…than [I] may have otherwise made. It can be hard to keep oneself active and fit, but when there is a goal to work towards, it helps reinforce one’s commitment to their training plan.”

Along with his physical health, he’s seen a positive impact in other facets of life as well, “Professionally, there is a mutually beneficial relationship between work and refereeing. Both develop and require skills in time management, professional communication, conflict resolution, adapting to change, and working with individuals of varying personalities.” And most unexpected of all? “The disappearance of my fear of public speaking,” explained Mund. “I used to hate speaking in public…However, since becoming a referee, that fear has gone completely.”

Referee Education

Alberta Soccer facilitates 80+ referee certification courses each year – ranging from Mini Courses (referee games for U9 or younger) to Entry Level (referee U11 or older soccer). The courses equip individuals with the skills they need to successfully officiate games. Find a list of available courses in the province here.

There are also opportunities within districts and the Provincial body to take part in additional training and mentorship, which goes a long way toward increasing confidence and on-field abilities. One example is the Create Your Advantage program, an all-female refresher course and development session for existing referees. These are offered in the Spring and Fall before the start of each season. For more information about Create Your Advantage, click here.

Many districts and communities also offer region-specific mentorship programs for officials in their community. Reach out to your community for these resources.

“It is key to have a support group. I would recommend individuals to seek out educational opportunities within the referee community, there are so many instructors willing to teach,” said Lakhyan. “I started with local organizations, from which I have learned and gained so much, these are also the groups from which I found my referee family.”

For more information about all referee-related topics, take the time to look around the Alberta Soccer website’s referee section. And if you have any further questions, please feel free to reach out to the Alberta Soccer Referee Development Coordinator, David O’Neill.

Watch Alberta Soccer’s video on officiating soccer in the province: