Workshop Review

By Andy Weiss, SRA

I am writing this on a laptop computer, while on a flight back from San Jose, Calif., the site of this year’s USYS Workshop, held Ma. 5-7. Without a doubt, the most noteworthy item on the weekend’s agenda was a vote taken on a proposal to have USYS take over the development of referees grade-7, -8, and -9.

This proposal was borne from frustration felt by many states to what they perceive as an unresponsive National referee office. The proposal was narrowly defeated, by the slimmest of margins. It would seem that many states are not receiving as much bang for their buck as they would like.

One benefit to attending these workshops is that it gives us a chance to share ideas with other states, and see how we stack up. I am pleased to report that in many ways, our program in Massachusetts continues to lead the way. We provide more service at a very low cost to our referees.

Knowledgeable instructors teach our courses in first-class facilities. We have embraced the grade-9 program, made possible since our leagues have also embraced small-sided soccer. Our newest initiative, to develop an on-line educational tool, is already generating interest among the other states.

We have a working statewide mentor program, and an ongoing Referee Academy. Both are programs that all states will need to have if they want to see their referees advance to the next level. We recently instituted service awards to honor those officials who have been a part of our organization for more than five years, and we have begun a concerted effort to raise awareness and recruit more adults to the task of refereeing. Both should pay dividends in years to come, as people gain more experience.

We can always do more. Running our own summer camp for referees has been an idea in planning for two years, but has not happened yet due to the complexity of trying to organize that event with a largely volunteer staff. Filed training as part of the entry-level courses would be another goal, but facilities are not always available in the cold-weather seasons.

Manpower is always an issue. Ideas are plentiful; finding committed people to carry them out is not always easy. Our strength is our organization and our referees; the people in our program. If you believe you have a contribution to make or an idea whose time has come, please let us know!

Mentoring Referees

By Levon Akoghlanian, Mentor Program Director

Mentor, son of Alcumus and friend of Ulysses, first appeared in Homer's Odyssey. Mentor was charged with the care of Ulysses' son, Telemachos. What developed was a father-like, teacher-like, coach-like, senior-junior relationship.

People who are great names in their field often talk about their mentors with admiration and appreciation, not for the skills and knowledge alone, but for the support, role modeling and guidance received.

To take on the role of mentor is a lofty and humbling task. Few people can fulfill all aspects of the mentoring role, which includes measurable variables, not the least of which is a bond between the mentor and his protégé.

In refereeing, mentoring is all about development. The mentor will be addressing issues of technique, positioning, the subtlety of rules, game management and even career advancement. More importantly, the mentor will be helping the mentee develop as a person.

Mentoring is more about providing support than about assessing. A good mentor will serve, rather than evaluate. Mentors know when they have succeeded because the mentee seeks them out for their wisdom and direction. Each relationship is unique; some might be just a one-time event, while others become a deeper connection that may last years.

If you are considering becoming a mentor in Massachusetts, it is first important to understand the role. A mentor supports the personal and professional development of the referee. While providing this support, you build within her/him a sense of positive self-esteem and utilization of strengths. Without being a teacher, you will teach. The pace of learning will vary for each person being mentored. You are a conduit for learning.

You will help with the same variables as the assessor, such as professional dress and demeanor, proper signals and mechanics, game management and all the skills necessary for the referee to fulfill his/her role. But you are also there to support the referee when the occasional bad game occurs, or something happens on the field that they have never encountered.

The mentor is more a coach than an assessor. As a mentor, you can help your charge learn that an assessment is a learning opportunity. Your role is to guide the referee's improvement. A mentor is not a teacher, coach or assessor but utilizes aspects of all of these roles.

If you would like to consider becoming a mentor to another referee, please contact me at