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Advice for New Referees

Below is advice every referee should know before walking out onto the field.

What You Need to Have:

  • An approved USSF referee uniform. The gold shirt is the primary jersey color for referees so it should be the one jersey you purchase right away. If you are only getting one jersey, then buy the short sleeved one. You can add the long sleeve jersey later. Once you have more game experience, you should add one of the alternate color jerseys. You do not need to buy all the different colored jerseys right away. However, if you advance as a referee, then you will need to add the alternate colors over the next few years.
  • Solid black referee shorts or black shorts with the USSF Referee logo on the leg.
  • Black socks with three white stripes at the top or the USSF referee logo on the top. Socks should always be pulled up to your knees and not bunched down around your ankles.
  • Your current year USSF badge on the left shirt pocket of your jersey.
  • You will need your 16 digit USSF identification number for games and tournaments. You will find this number on the ID card you receive in the mail after you have taken the course and registered. You will get a new card each year, but the number will always be the same. If you need your ID number before you receive your card, please contact your area referee administrator or your SRA. If they don't have it, you may contact U.S. Soccer.
  • referee bag that should contain the following:
    • A watch with stopwatch functions – two watches are preferred, one for starting and stopping and one for keeping a running time in case you forget to start the first one.
    • Pens/pencils
    • Notebook
    • Red and yellow cards.
    • Tossing coins.
    • Whistles – always have an extra in your bag.
    • Flags for the Assistant Referees or Club Linesmen (if you are working alone).
    • Cold weather gear when the time of year makes it necessary.
    • Street shoes and dry socks.
    • A large plastic trash bag (to put your ref bag inside in case of rain).
    • Sunscreen
    • Snacks (energy bars are great!) if you are going to be doing more than one game.
    • Rubber bands or baggies to hold and separate player/coach cards for each team.
    • Water – don't forget to bring water

Before you Leave for the Game: 

  • Bring your cell phone and have a list of telephone numbers for emergency contact and contact numbers for the Director of Referees for the Club.
  • You should arrive at the field at least 30 minutes prior to the game.
  • If you don't drive, make sure you have made arrangements ahead of time for someone to take you home.

Pre-Game Inspection:

  • Nets should be securely fastened to the goal posts and netting pulled back so as not to interfere with the goalkeeper.
  • Goal posts must be securely anchored to the ground. Sandbags on the frame towards the rear are acceptable.
  • Corner flags are in place and are not dangerous to players (at least 5 ft high).
  • Entire field is properly lined.
  • If anything is needed, the home team is responsible for fixing field problems.
  • Any issues with the field should be noted on the game report.
  • Check in the Players:
    • Home team players/coaches should be checked first but it's not a requirement. You should start with the team that appears to be most ready for inspection.
    • Make sure that all jewelry, earrings, watches, etc. are removed. Medical ID must be taped to the player's chest or taped to the wrist with the info showing. (Earrings must be removed. Covering them with tape does not make them legal.)
    • All players must wear shin guards and socks must be pulled over shin guards.             

Dealing with Problem Coaches: 

  • Set the ground rules – be proactive
  • Show them where the team and the coaches will be seated. Make sure they understand that they must stay in that area.
  • If there is more than one coach, ask which coach will be giving instruction to the players and who will be asking for subs.
  • Don't let the coaches intimidate you.
  • Be confident in your knowledge of the Laws of the Game and Rules of Competition.
  • Remain calm. If someone is hollering at you, don't yell back at them. Speak respectfully and quietly, so the coach must quiet down to hear you.
  • Do not take someone yelling at you personally. It happens to all referees, even the most experienced.
  • However, once the coach steps over the boundaries of the game and begins to make his comments personal or abusive, you must deal with it. Slowly and calmly walk over to the coach. In a polite and respectful way, inform the coach that this type of conduct is unsporting and continuing with this type conduct will result in his or her removal from the game. If the behavior continues – respectfully and professionally ask the coach to leave. If the coach refuses to leave, give the coach a warning that if he or she does not leave, you will end the game. If the coach does not leave in a reasonable amount of time (approximately 30 – 60 seconds), end the game. Be sure to file a very detailed report with the league so there is a good understanding of why the game was ended early.

Dealing with Problem Players: 

  • Make your presence known from the moment you walk on the field - that way players know you are in charge. Stand tall, look people in the eye and smile confidently. Have your pre-game questions down - introduce yourself even if you have worked games with the same coaches before, solicit copies of the rosters, get the game ball from the home team and check it out, check in players. (Do not tell players how you are going to call the game and what you are going to call and not call. This can cause you major problems in the game.) Doing these game management things confidently will carry over into the game.
  • Remember to blow the whistle with confidence, even if you are not feeling so confident, and use decisive signals with straight arms.
  • If you have a difficult player dissenting or doing something else to disrupt the game, at a stoppage of play, issue a caution to them and let the player know that kind of behavior is unacceptable. If the player still insists on being difficult, use a well delivered warning to let them know that you have just about reached the limit of what you are going to take. It is often helpful to let the coach know this particular player is wearing out their welcome and the team may soon be playing short. Give the coach a short period of time (approximately 30 – 60 seconds) to correct the situation. If the bad behavior continues, issue a second caution and then a send off (red card). Remember that the proper procedure for this is to display the second yellow card and then the red.
  • Remain calm when talking to players, but be firm in your voice and your decisions. Do not yell at players and never use foul or abusive language no matter what they are saying to you. Speak softly so the players must quiet down to hear you.
  • Listen to what players are saying. Allow them to vent for a few seconds before calling it dissent. You might find out about fouls you are missing, or there may be something else going on that can be easily corrected. This tactic also lets the players know you are willing to listen up to a certain point. This type of exchange should not go on often in a game and should not last for more than a few seconds. If it goes on longer, you must deal with it. The more experience you have as a referee, the easier it is to set boundaries and to know when and where to set them.
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