The monthly “NISOA Referee Nuts and Bolts” column is written primarily for the college and high school soccer Referee. However, any soccer Referee who wishes to improve personal performance may also find this series helpful.

All articles address those BASIC techniques, procedures, practice alternatives, and skills that are sometimes forgotten or overlooked while going through the experiences of soccer refereeing. The short discussions and accompanying practical tips stress important advice for competent performance.  This month’s article will focus on professionalism.

A professional is defined as an individual who has a learned profession.  The person is considered an expert in the particular field.  As a high school or college referee one must be a professional.  A soccer referee must have studied the rules of the game and know them thoroughly and completely.  The referee must know the difference between the NCAA rules and the NFHS rules and not become confused during a critical situation.  Coaches must consider the referee as an expert in the field, not only in the rules but also mechanics, positioning, people management and all the other requirements for game control.

The individual’s conduct must aim for qualities that characterize or have the mark of a professional.  This means that the clients served (coaches, players, athletic directors, fans) expect to see a referee that they can respect and expect the best out of each and every time he/she officiates a game.

An interscholastic or intercollegiate referee must be a professional and exhibit professionalism in everything that he/she does.  Starting with the assignor, the referee must always be willing to accept assignments, respond quickly to postings of assignments, not turn back games for a better assignment, etc.  The referee should work closely with the assignor without becoming a “pest” to the assignor and frustrate the assignor because of the constant requests for the top games.  Being available and accepting any game are two signs of professionalism between a referee and assignor.

The timely arrival at games is an early indication of a professional.  For interscholastic games, the referee should arrive, at a minimum, fifteen minutes before the game.  This is a minimum amount.  Referees should try and arrive thirty minutes before the game so they can complete all necessary pre-game activities without rushing or creating stress on anyone, including the referee and partner(s).  For intercollegiate games the referee should arrive at least forty- five minutes before the game or the time indicated with the assignment.  Some conferences require the referee to be at a game a certain amount of time before kickoff.  This requirement must be met.  When a referee arrives late, there is undue stress on the other members of the referee team, the coaches, athletic directors and possibly the assignor.  A professional will always meet the commitments for arrival times.

A professional referee conducts a complete pregame discussion with the referee team.  This is a dialogue with interaction between all members of the crew.  The referee team enters the field together and fully prepared for the game.  The introductions with the coaches is kept to a minimum  and there are no “war stories” or other conversations to take time away from the coach and his/her preparation.  The field inspection is conducted as a team and any problems are dealt with immediately so that the game can start on time.  For interscholastic games, the referee must verify with the coach that all players are properly equipped.  Also, sportsmanship must be addressed with the players prior to the start of the game.  These are requirements and cannot be ignored.  A professional referee does this in a manner that helps build his/her respect from all involved in the game.

During the game the referee must act in a professional manner at all times.  Comments to players, coaches and bench personnel must always reflect professionalism.  Sarcastic comments or insults are not appropriate no matter how frustrated the referee might be.  During critical situations, the referee must remain calm and act in a professional manner.  This includes when cautions or ejections occur.  Proper mechanics, which include stopping the clock, must be utilized.  The player(s) must be isolated and told the reason for the caution or ejection.  The scorekeeper must be made aware of the exact reason for the card.  If the ejection is for fighting, that must be made perfectly clear to the scorekeeper and coaches.  Fighting carries a more sever penalty so the proper authorities must be clear about the situation.

Post game duties must be done in a professional manner.  The scorebook must be verified and signed.  All appropriate game reports must be prepared in a professional manner outlining the facts and submitted to the appropriate individuals within the established timeframes.  Failure to do this could lead to problems in future games and the eligibility of players.

In summary, referees at both the interscholastic and intercollegiate levels are professionals.  Each time a referee accepts an assignment, he/she must act in a professional manner from the time of acceptance until the final game report is submitted.