Not Just Fun in the Sun

-by Matt Ames and Joel Daoust

It was more than just a vacation or a long holiday. From December 27-30, eleven of Massachusetts referees had the honor of officiating some of the finest soccer in the country at the Tampa Bay Sun Bowl in Florida. Youth teams from all over the country, some regional and national champions, competed over the four-day weekend.

The costs of the tournament went a little like this. Each referee spent approximately $200 for plane tickets, $65 for Car Rentals (2 vehicles plus gas for each), and all food and entertainment expenses. The tournament itself paid for our hotel rooms and will be giving us a $200 stipend for travel expenses due to where we are coming from in the U.S. Also, the tournament paid $40 for each CR assignment and $20 for each AR assignment. The Massachusetts delegation was comprised of referees from every corner of the state: Derek Ambrozaitis, Paul Ciaramitaro, Matt Ames, Joel Daoust, Russ Wolf, Scott McGrail, Frank D’Andrea, Dave DelBuono, Greg Filippetti, Josh Brothers, and Shem Stygar.

Each day began with a continental breakfast in the hotel lobby. After this the Massachusetts delegation headed out for 9:00AM games. Some days we had 4 games, some days 3, 2, or 1. At the end of each day, we all went back to the hotel, showered, then headed out to dinner.

Everything done during the tournament was done as a group, all 11 of us. We all went to dinner at the same time and the same restaurant. If anyone had a late game, or an early game, the rest of us were there to support them.

Dinner as a delegation is one of the best parts of any tournament experience. After a long day of officiating, we shared our stories of the day, talked about calls we had made and situations we were in. We ate breadsticks, salad, pasta, steak…anything to give us energy for the next day’s games. After dinner we headed back to the hotel and went to bed for the night.

The games were some of the best we have ever worked. The Massachusetts delegation was awarded all U17 matches throughout the Round-Robin portion of the tournament. This was a big step for Massachusetts for two reasons. One being the fact that last year the Massachusetts Delegation did all U15 matches, and the previous year U14. Two, U17s are said to be some of the most difficult matches at this tournament because many college coaches are looking at these players. Put this along with the fact that boys at this age play at a certain level that demands us as the referees to step up. Some of the games that Massachusetts referees worked included U17 Quarter-Final matches for Derek Ambrozaitis, Josh Brothers, and Frank D’Andrea. A Semi-Final U17 match for Paul Ciaramitaro. Finals assignments included the 4th official on the U15 Final for Scott McGrail, AR positions for Derek Ambrozaitis and Russ Wolf and 4th official for Frank D’Andrea on a U18 Final, and the 4th official on the U19 Final for Joel Daoust.

After watching 3 of Massachusetts’ referees one day, Wheaton College of Illinois Men’s Head Soccer Coach, Joe Bean, was quoted as saying, “The 3 of you did a great job, Massachusetts trains their referees very well.” Coming from a man with his background and accomplishments as a coach in collegiate soccer, we all took this as a very big compliment. Also, Jack Holland, a National Emeritus Referee from Florida, who oversaw the fields at one of the complexes, repeatedly commended the on-field performances of the Massachusetts referees, and informed us that he had received several compliments--from parents, coaches and players--regarding the quality of officiating from the Massachusetts crew. These are just some of the things we heard during the 4 day tournament. To make a long story short, our performances did not go unnoticed.

We also made some friends while we were down at the Sun Bowl. Some of us got to work with a U.S. National referee from New York, some others got to work with a FIFA AR/National referee from Canada, and others got to work with State referees from Alberta, Canada (who are currently in their National Pool). Along with making friends with these fellow referees, we also gained valuable experience and knowledge from them.

Overall the trip was fantastic from beginning to end. We all became much better friends on this trip and all look forward to working with each other this coming Spring, Summer, Fall, and next December at Tampa once again.