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Question Number: 25584
Character, Attitude and Control 10/10/2011
RE: Rec Under 11
Cecelia of San Jose, CA USA asks...
What is a good age for a 13 year old ref to start center refereeing games? What if you have only ARed 5 games? Is it too early to start center reffing?
Answer provided by Referee Gary Voshol
This policy is set by each referee assignor, and there are many factors that go into it. For example in Michigan, state labor rules prohibit sports officials under 14 years of age from working unless there is an adult supervisor present. In most cases, that means younger refs can only work as AR's under the supervision of an adult center referee.
A general recommendation is that youth referees should center games no older than one age group lower than their age, and can be assistant referees on games at their age level.
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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh
It is not a good idea to start too young as many do not the necessary skills to manage some refereeing situations. A poor experience can put a young person off and I have seen this happen over the years.
The reason is that the difficulty in refereeing is not the game or the players but managing the sidelines with parents, coaches, spectators etc. That can prove difficult when one is very young.
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Answer provided by Referee Dennis Wickham
The problem rarely is the referee. It's the parents on the touchlines. The adults inability to control their emotions causes many teenagers to quit - particularly in the first two years.
As a result, I believe most teenagers should spend a year running the touchline and gaining experience. (It helps them realize that the parents and coaches are yelling at the referee jersey and not at the person. It really helps when they work with good referees (I remember running a line realizing that the parents were yelling the same things at a referee whose last match was an MLS match.) But, most teenagers need some time to learn that adults who yell are wrong and that it isn't personal - - even though it feels personal.)
Frankly, I wouldn't let my children center a match until 16. But, I've worked with some young women who started centering matches when they were 14 and were doing adult matches at age 16. At 22, they are now truly amazing referees.
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Answer provided by Referee Michelle Maloney
A great deal of that answer depends on your daughter's fortitude and people skills. 13 is not too early to be the referee, but it might be for your daughter with so little ref experience, but if she has playing experience, she's way ahead. You are a better judge, and I would accompany her to those first games, with her permission. When parents/coaches get a little hostile and your daughter seems concerned (this is important - because if she's okay, butt out) be next to them and ask (with a smile) what they think is wrong. Ask if they have referee training. When they answer, say that's my daughter and I'll ask her after the game why she made/did not make that call. Most of them will have the good graces to shut up at that point.
Make sure your daughter knows what to do if parents/coaches are interfering with her ability to call the game. First, assuming they are not threatening or ugly (in which case she should simply terminate the game), she should ask the coach to stop this behavior (from a safe distance of 10 feet or so), whether the coach's or his fans. If no good response, tell him/her that if the behavior continues, she will stop the game and seek help from the adult in charge of the fields. If there isn't one, or if the coach continues, she should tell the coach he has two minutes to leave the field, as he is dismissed. If he doesn't leave, blow the whistle and end the game. Report immediately to the assignor and to the league, with details. When adults get called on the carpet for this behavior they either stop or they cease to be able to attend the games. Many of the young referees I've witnessed have more courage than many of the older referees in this regard.
A number of 13 & 14 (and even the rare 12) year-olds have a level of maturity that allows them to let the slings and arrows from the coaches and parents/fans slide right off their backs and they make excellent referees - whether on the line or in the middle. But even grown ups (one does wonder sometimes at what age one becomes a grown up) often have trouble dealing with either ignorant (not stupid, just uninformed), emotional, occasionally stupid, or just plain mean attacks from the non-players as well.
I'm always amazed at what cruel, unthinking things parents and coaches will shout at the top of their lungs at another person's child - when if were their own child, they would be highly offended and reactionary. Sigh.
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