Kurtis Nozack, Canada Soccer NextGen Referee. Photo credit: Canada Soccer

Kurtis Nozack: “The best part about being a referee is the challenges that it brings”

Edmonton referee Kurtis Nozack is one of the most recognized officials of the Canada Soccer NextGen list. In this interview, he told us about his beginnings, his goals, and his advice for younger referees.

Can you tell us a little bit of your background? How did you get involved in soccer?

– It started when I was 12 years old. I refereed one soccer game, got yelled too much, and then quit. Then, when I was in university, I had a peer who was a soccer referee, and I needed a part-time job, so I came back to refereeing at 21 years old.

How was your journey to becoming a Canada Soccer NextGen referee?

– It was a long journey! It meant 10 years of hard work. When I first started, I didn’t know that referees trained, or that they practiced. As I slowly got exposed to more and more people, I started learning the process, and went through the ranks: District, Regional, Provincial courses, and National competitions.

Kurtis and Canada Soccer Referee Assessor Stu Murray, after Kurtis’ first CPL game in 2021.

Do you have any role models in refereeing?

– Absolutely. Sheena Dickson, Dave Gantar, Joe Fletcher… all big names in Canada. One of my mentors, who I even call ‘Coach’, is Owen Procter, who is part of the Alberta Soccer Referee Development Team. He laid a foundation for me that has given me so much.

Sadly, referees have to deal with abuse constantly. How do you manage that? Is there an advice you could give to emerging referees?

– Unfortunately, that is part of our sport. What I would say to younger referees is that you need to have at least 2-3 people in your life: one is a confidant at home – it can be a parent, a spouse, a sibling-, someone who doesn’t know soccer, and who is just happy to listen to you. Then you need someone who knows soccer, who will listen to you and give you some feedback; and finally, you need a friend to meet you halfway. It can be hard, but with the help of your loved ones, it can be handled.

What do you think needs to be done in order to improve referee recruitment and retention?

– There need to be a few more incentives, whether is pay, or creating a collective on the referee’s side. Building an environment where people feel safe with support systems in place would be really important. Outside the field is the support group that gets you through.

Kurtis with fellow Alberta referees at the Canada Soccer National referees camp in 2022.
Front row: Mazen Hassanin, Harsimrit (Sim) Lakhyan, Kurtis Nozack. Back row: Michael Mund, Luke Garland, Sebastian Richters.

Let’s talk about your future dreams and expectations. Where would you like your career to take you?

– My immediate goal is to be a regular in the Canadian Premier League (CPL). Now, my dream goal is to be active in the Major League Soccer (MLS). That would be the cake, for sure.

Finally, what is the best and the worst part of being a soccer referee?

– The best part is the challenges that it brings, and the community that I have been able to create across Canada. The worst part is the sacrifices that we make.