John Utter Guides Successful State Cup

Many referees look forward to working at the annual Massachusetts State Cup. An invitation is a noteworthy milestone in one's referee career. The high level of competition provides an opportunity to display and extend one's officiating skills. Perhaps more significant than the competition, though, is the atmosphere for officials at State Cup. In recent years, this atmosphere is largely a result of the efforts of John Utter.

Utter has been the primary assignor for the Round Robin and final rounds of the State Cup for the last several years. His signature strength is that of building on-field referee crews that foster development of all in the crew. The connections made in each single game combine to create camaraderie that extends to the entire State Cup delegation.

Through the many challenges presented in the 2003 tournament, Utter maintained his focus on careful, developmental assignments. With an eye on interpersonal relationships and varied skill levels, he waded into the competition with referees new to the tournament, pushed many intermediate referees forward, and extended the experience of more veteran officials. He managed to adapt to two "sites" and multiple tournaments within one venue at the the University of Massachusetts in Amherst on the first two weekends, field changes to adapt to water conditions, game swaps and adds, and ultimately the decision to have semi-finals and finals at several venues across the state. The assignments for the final rounds were difficult as the pool of officials was small, yet Utter came through with some terrific combinations of referees that served the tournament and served the referees.

Beyond the game assignments, Utter has pushed the envelope to create a rewarding experience off the field for officials. His vision of increased education resulted in bringing in top clinicians -- FIFA ARs Craig Lowry and Rob Fereday in 2002 and FIFA Referee Brian Hall in 2003 -- to the State Cup meeting. Utter's philosophy of alternating games (work a game, rest a game) allows for camaraderie to build in "the tent" while serving the tournament with hydrated, rested officials throughout the long days of competition.

When State Cup referees are asked about what they liked most about the tournament, the typical answer is something like "being with other referees". Top referees enjoying themselves at a top youth competition is a winning combination. Massachusetts is fortunate to have John Utter guiding the match.