Laurie Darvill instructs participants at Alberta Soccer’s Create your Advantage Referee Refresher Course
Calgary, Alberta, Canada

(April 19, 2018) This past weekend, female referees had the opportunity to attend the first ever female focused refresher course in either Calgary or Leduc. The program, which was held to coincide with the Women in Soccer Conference attracted 50 participants in total and the enthusiasm surrounding this new offering from both instructors and participants was palpable.

The Create Your Advantage Pilot Program is the second of two projects that were selected as part of the Alberta Women in Sport Leadership Impact Program, a 2.5-year initiative being offered by the Coaching Association of Canada and Alberta Sport Connection – and it was offered this past weekend at no cost. This program is part of a larger project being funded by the Status of Women Ministry, and intended to advance gender equality and leadership diversity in sport organizations in Alberta.

Female leaders including Laurie Darvill, Melissa Sargent, Jaimelia Turner and Anne McAlduff instructed the mandatory refresher course for half of the full day program. The objective of the program is to offer the material for women and girls in an environment where they may feel more empowered to ask questions and therefore gain insight from the more experienced female leaders.

Laurie Darvill of Calgary has over 21 years of experience as a referee and over the years has valued the opportunity to contribute to the development of new and young referees. She felt that this female focused course was needed, “Referee education opportunities are predominantly attended by male officials and can be intimidating for female attendees.  With a female only environment, we were able to create a safe space to share and ask questions, specifically about some of the unique challenges faced by female referees.”

Alberta Soccer, through its Referee Development Committee is constantly looking for opportunities to attract and keep referees in the program. This is an even greater challenge when it comes to females who make up just 26% of all referees in the province. “Hearing some of the challenges female officials face and how resilient we are or need to be was telling. It is clear that we need to build a network of support within the referee community to share, learn and grow from,” said Darvill.

The value of this course was evident based on attendee and instructor feedback and will be offered again next year as part of the Women in Sport Leadership Impact Program. The end goal? Offering supportive development opportunities so that female referees, even at the highest level of our game are commonplace. In a position that is at times viewed as thankless, Darvill has offered her advice to her counterparts, “Try not to take things personally. Players, coaches and spectators can be challenging for a referee regardless of gender. Demonstrate your competence, create credibility and female referees will be seen as “the referee” only.”

The full photo albums from the Create your Advantage program are available on our Flickr Page