Reflections in Transition

November 7, 2005 - Looking back four years ago, the leadership of the MSRC set a course to advance the program offered to referees across the state. Much time and energy has been applied in pursuit of the goals and significant changes have taken place. It is healthy for an organization to review its progress from time to time, and this article does just that.

Stated Goals

In January of 2002 the new SRA presented a few high level goals for the organization and some thoughts -- all grounded in professionalism -- on how to get started to achieve them. How have we been doing?

Create a Complete Development Program

Coming into the 2000s, the MSRC had a very rich set of tools and programs available to develop referees involved in youth games. Such tools included:

All in all, the infrastructure on the youth side was very solid. The state had a perennially strong set of delegations appointed to out of state tournaments and had several individuals appointed to national events. Although we were quite proud of the accomplishments and the program on the youth side, what about the next steps of referee development?

Although youth games present terrific opportunities for new and growing referees, it is often in the adult amateur game that referees are exposed to situations that challenge them to grow as an official. Common feedback about the referee program four years ago: "it is too difficult to break in to the pool of referees being used in amateur games." Emerging referees were not seeing opportunities to build on their experiences in competitive youth games.

With the increased involvement of MSRC 2004 Assignor of the Year Paul Athanasiadis referees now have a growth path from youth to adult to professional. Paul's efficient approach to assigning youth, high school, and adult leagues is consistently focused on referee development even as league needs are being met. His efforts have provided a tremendous boost to the development of referees in the state. Less experienced referees are being assigned with more experienced referees to share in the growth process. An effective communicator, Paul has worked in concert with the assessment program to evaluate referees for upgrade.

Other steps have been taken to fill out the development program. In 2003 the MSRC launched a program of Continuous Education to educate and guide those referees focused on moving forward with their referee careers. This program has offered a series of advanced clinics and other opportunities for referees to share experiences and reflect on game situations. An effect of the "Continuous Education Group" is that the state has a wider pool of referees who are moving through steps of advancement to serve higher level games.

The in-service training offered at recertification clinics has continued to mature over the past several years. With the guidance of Ed Rae and the increasing involvement of Nigel Bright the program for 2006 has been built on the successes and lessons learned in the the last years. Participants will be involved in discussions about game situations that are appropriate to their game experience and will be challenged to help their comrades expand their own perspective.

Massachusetts was one of the few states that had embraced the entry level program of Grade 11 referees when US Soccer introduced it several years ago. In the last few years, we have adapted that offering to meet the changing requirements of US Soccer -- the emphasis on Grade 9 and the elimination of Grade 11. With over seventy-five courses (including grade 8) offered annually, the MSRC continues to train about 2000 referees each year. The entry-level program provides consistent instruction to give new referees a firm foundation on which to build their referee experience.

Is the referee development program complete? We have made terrific strides in the right direction. Other ideas are still in the works. The inaugural referee academy scheduled for August, 2005 was forced to cancel due to a late change in the availability of facilities. We hope that 2006 will include the successful launch of the academy. With this and other advanced clinics planned for the upcoming year, we look forward to continous improvement.

Become a Strong Service Organization

In four years the number of registered referees has increased by fifteen percent to nearly 5000 in 2005. Each of these referees expects and deserves a high level of service from the state organization. The MSRC has focused on technology and communications to increase the service for members. More fundamentally, however, the active individuals on referee committee have formed a strong team.

The MSRC has remarkable talent. In addition to Ed Rae whose accomplishments on the development side are documented above, the staff has strong leaders. Early on John Utter joined the committee, initially in 2002 as the first State Assignor Coordinator. His addition came at a critical time as US Soccer had introduced certification requirements for assignors involved in affiliated competitions. John worked with Mass Youth Soccer and MASS Soccer and their affiliated leagues and clubs to move Massachusetts into compliance with the ruling. Along the way, he helped improve the standards and consistency among assignors across the state. In 2003 John stepped up again as State Youth Referee Administrator and serves in that role successfully.

Andy Weiss returned to the MSRC in 2002 as State Director of Assessment taking over for the conscientious Ted Carlson. In his tenure Andy has documented and applied consistent standards across the board from youth to adult matches. Enlisting the services of Milan Robbins, Peter Robinson, and Nigel Bright, Andy has increased the number and quality of the assessments done to help educate and evaluate referees.

Filling the void as State Assignor Coordinator in 2004, Brian Treanor has added his own professional and thoughtful style to the committee. Brian has continued to advance the quality of assigning as he forwards a successful model of referee assigning and coordination already in place in the Middlesex Youth Soccer League.

The crew of Area Referee Administrators (ARA) and high-quality Treasurer Rob Akie have worked diligently to serve the referee community. Committee newcomers Russ Shirley, Glenn Brookman, Jeff Rousseau and Al Cordeiro have contributed mightily alongside veterans which include award winners Peter Johnson, Mike Camberlain, and David Harris, Jr. The consistent efforts put forth behind the scenes by these and the rest of the ARAs is remarkable.

As most know, the MSRC website has become a cornerstone of information about the referee community. Articles, features, tools, resources, and lists are just some of the elements that have helped keep messages consistent across the state. Periodic and timely e-mail communiques have also been helpful in sharing announcements and timely information. More uses of technology are on the way with the imminent introduction of a course administration tool with plans for assessment and more on its heels.

In order that an organization, particularly one of volunteers, continues and thrives it needs to pause regularly to recognize the people that make it go. With three outstanding MSRC Awards Nights including one in July the MSRC has taken a large step forward in this area. Further, the creation of the Honor Roll will help ensure that we do not forget those that have achieved and contributed in the years to come.

Forward Progress

I will be moving on from my current role in the coming weeks, freeing up time to pursue a myriad of interests. I will continue as SRA until the appointment of a replacement by the State Association presidents. It is with mixed emotions that I move on as I have enjoyed serving our passionate "frarority" of referees. I thank those involved in giving me the opportunity to participate.

Rich Frongillo