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Growing the Game by Supporting Referees

Increasing development and mentoring opportunities at no cost to the referees

By: Greg Smith

The Maryland State Youth Soccer Association (MSYSA), the highest administrative authority for the amateur youth sport of soccer in Maryland and the District of Columbia, as recognized by the National Governing Body for the sport of soccer in the United States, U.S. Soccer, has partnered with the Maryland State Referee Committee (SRC) to continue growing the game by further supporting local referees through increased development and mentoring opportunities at no cost to the referees.


Referees are an important part of the soccer ecosystem and play a significant role in growing the game via their direct involvement on the field. Some of the ways referees improve and remain excited about their participation is through development and other feedback (i.e., mentoring) opportunities. Unfortunately, development costs are typically passed on to the referees, which in many cases, are teenagers (roughly 50% of all certified referees in Maryland and DC are teenagers). This creates an equity issue where it is possible for quality referees to not receive the necessary development opportunities due to their financial situation. Furthermore, as the current number of certified referee mentors is insufficient to provide greater game day support to first year referees, a significant number of referees do not return for a second year.


This is all about to change. Thanks in part to a generous Innovate to Grow Fund (ITG) Grant from U.S. Soccer, MSYSA and the Maryland SRC are implementing multiple, purposeful development opportunities at no cost to participating referees in concert with some of the MSYSA-sanctioned events each year. Each development opportunity will look to utilize a large meeting room conveniently located to the sanctioned event and one or more referee coaches will be brought in, one or more items will be given to the attending referees, food will be provided, and, where necessary, lodging may be provided. It is also anticipated that these sessions will be recorded and made available to the referee community at large.


Additionally, an educational program is being created to provide interested adults with the minimum knowledge necessary to serve as a Mentor for first year referees. Once the necessary training is completed, the Mentors will receive apparel which clearly distinguishes them as a Mentor so that the referees and all other attendees will know a Mentor is present. Mentors will have their contact information shared with the relevant assignors so that a Mentor can be assigned to the various matches where a first-year referee has been assigned. Mentors will be paid for their service.


It is anticipated that these initiatives will yield a significant, positive impact on the overall development of local referees as well as resulting in the retention of more first-year referees. Over time, these improvements will result in there being more referees of which more will be even more experienced and knowledgeable; all of which is positive for the growth of the game!


More detailed information will be published on in the coming weeks and anyone interested in serving as a Mentor is encouraged to participate!




Greg Smith serves as Executive Director of the Maryland State Youth Soccer Association where he directly oversees all aspects of the daily operations which ultimately includes partnering with more than 200 member clubs and leagues collectively serving more than 75,000 children each year. Greg also serves as Co-Vice Chair of U.S. Soccer’s Participant Safety Taskforce.

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