For one of our smaller clubs within the Football Gold Coast landscape, Canungra Owls Soccer Club have taken referee development within their own hands and produced some great results! We spoke to club vice-president and referees co-ordinator Rachel Mathers on what they have specifically done to get the results they have had!
MM: What is the motive behind introducing a referee development program to assist club referees coming through?
RM: Irrespective of the age or level, it’s always frustrating to watch a game and either have a bad referee, or no referee turn up for a match. Being a small club, we were able to set an achievable goal to provide a qualified referee at every home game. We want clubs/teams to visit Canungra Owls and have an enjoyable experience.
MM: What support does the club give the up and coming referees to ensure that their development is always progressing?
RM; For the past couple of years we have been host to a Small Sided Referee and an Assistant Referee course. Held before the season starts, it’s open for anyone in our area. Once someone has completed one or both of these courses, they are placed on a roster and are introduced to refereeing on the smallest field (U6/7).
Before their first game, a club official ensures that both coaches are aware that a young/new referee are officiating the game and are reminded that his/her decisions are final. During half time and at the end of the game, a small amount of feedback is given to the referee, mainly concentrating on what they are doing really well; it’s really important to provide a positive first experience for these young referees, because nerves play a huge part. Providing feedback is ongoing and performed whenever possible.
After a referee has gained enough experience on the smallest field and the club is confident they are ready to referee a more competitive match, they are offered games on the U8/9 and U10/11 field respectively. At no point are our referees ever under pressure to officiate a game they don’t feel comfortable in. We’ve had kids complete both courses but decided they only want to be an AR, or have decided that refereeing isn’t for them which is 100% ok with us.
Whenever possible, feedback is always given to the referees after their games. We’re really fortunate that all of our referees are great kids and are open to constructive criticism. They know that they will always have the support of the club and in return, they understand that we’re there to help them develop.
We recommend our referees attend the courses at the beginning of the season for a refresher and when old enough, we encourage the kids to complete their level 4 course.
The club also rewards our referees by paying them the same rate as FGC (rather than the club rate). In return, we expect them to help out before and after the games with field set up and pack up.
Ensuring our team officials maintain the Code of Conduct, ensuring the correct rules and procedures are followed and having a Ground Official who enforces policies and procedures, has inadvertently helped our referees. We have noticed a marked improvement in spectator and player behaviour, which in turn gives the referee the ability to concentrate on the game.
We think it’s really important that the parents of the referee play an active role in their son/daughter’s progress. We don’t want any parent to stand on the sideline and tell him/her how to referee the game, but it’s great to have them there so we can discuss things with them in an informal capacity. We chat with them about how we think they are going, where improvements can be made and what they’re doing well etc. We’re quite lucky to be part of a small club where we all know each other and this is possible.
MM: What is the youngest age the club has introduced refereeing to and how did that process come about?
RM: We encourage all players from the age of U10s up to attend the two basic referee courses. A couple of years ago, one of our players (Amy Mathers) from the U9 team had to sit in on the course, because her older brother and dad were attending. Glenn Russell (the facilitator) said that she could participate and noted that she was paying attention and asking relevant questions throughout its entirety. At the end of the course, Glenn was confident she was able to officiate an U6/7 game…the rest, they say, is history!
Of course, it is always based on an individual’s ability, not necessarily just their age. Amy is our youngest referee (U10s) and has only recently refereed a game between our own two U8 teams – it was a great introduction for her and we are confident that next year, she will be allocated another game at that age group.
MM: Has the club seen positive results in its refereeing ranks throughout the years it has been working on referee development?
RM: Absolutely! We have received so many compliments from visiting teams about the standard of our referees. Of course, there will always be criticism; however we confront that negatively whenever it presents itself. If our Ground Official hears any negative comments about the refereeing, we happily remind coaches/managers/spectators that these referees are learning and that at this level, it’s a great environment for them to develop.
We know that by introducing referees to the small sided games at a young age, they are able to concentrate on the smaller aspects of refereeing (like blowing the whistle effectively and using their voice and hand signals correctly) before having to worry about controlling a competitive, points based game.
A big congratulations to everyone involved down at Canungra Owls Soccer Club for making this happen!