Making It To The Top Of The Game

Published on April 29, 2016


By: John Van de Vaarst – National Clinician

Ten questions were sent to two top NISOA officials and each responded and provided interesting information on various aspects of becoming a top official. This article will focus on each of the answers to the questions.

1. How many national finals and what level did you have the opportunity to officiate? Approximately how many other post season assignments?

Official 1 (1)

  • 5 Division I Men’s Semi-finals and 1 national final
  • 7 Division II Men’s Semi-finals and 2 national finals
  • 2 Division III Men’s Semi-finals
  • 1 NAIA Men’s final
  • approximately 80 post season assignments.

Official 2 (2)

  • 10 Division I Women’s semi finals and 3 national finals
  • 8 Division I Men’s semi finals and 2 national finals
  • 1 Men’s Division II national final
  • 1 NJCAA Men’s national final
  • approximately 35 post season assignments.

2. What 2 factors helped you reach the top level?

(1) Being a college player helped me to understand the game, the intensity and passion of players as well as the nature of the sport. Good instruction from some very capable NISOA National Clinicians was very helpful.

(2) The ability to read the game and have top level mentors to assist and coach me during my career.

3. What do you consider two or three key factors for officials to be successful?

(1) Fitness today is more important than ever before because the game is faster and the players more athletic. Also knowing the rules and being able to apply them in the right situations. It is also important to know when to get involved in the game and when to let the game flow.

(2) The ability to read the game and players so that the officials can be in proper position is very important. Also officials must be fit so that they can be in proper position, especially during critical times. It is also important to enjoy every match assigned and not let the game control the official.

4. What do you recall as the hardest decision you had to make?

(1) Disallowing a goal in a national semi-final. The score was 1-0 and the team in the lead appeared to score a second goal off a deflection just before the half ended. This would have meant that the team would have a 2-0 lead starting the second half. The opponents all reacted in the same way – “hand ball ref.” As the referee I went to the assistant and asked if there was a hand ball and received no response. At that point the decision was made that the attacking player handled the ball causing the redirection into the goal. The goal was disallowed. The players’ reaction to the situation helped make the decision. While in the locker a replay was shown and the call was correct. Observing the reaction of players can assist a referee with decision making.

(2) The hardest call was making a decision to award a penalty kick when the coaches, fans, and others did not see what actually occurred. As the referee, the foul was clearly observed and the decision had to be made in spite of the reaction from the opponents, coaches, and fans. The television replay verified the call. It is important to make a decision in spite of what players or coaches think about it.

5. If you had an opportunity to change one thing about your intercollegiate career what would it be?

(1) Working harder to be more fit for every game throughout the season.

(2) At this point nothing would be changed. The opportunity to have a great NISOA career and make many friends and memories is the most important.

6. What do you enjoy most about being a part of NISOA?

(1) Being able to officiate the many competitive matches was the most positive part. Meeting many other members of NISOA and developing lasting relationships and friendships is a great part of being involved with NISOA.

(2) The support received from other NISOA members and mentors as well as making lasting friendships is very important.

7. What would you recommend to newer officials trying to reach the highest level?

(1) Fitness is critical to officiating at the top level today. Also, being prepared mentally and physically for every game is important. No game is easy so treat each game with respect. It is imperative that college officials know the NCAA Rules and not misapply any during a game. Always remember it is about the game and the players not the officiating team.

(2) Always work hard to be successful. There are many mentors and top officials in NISOA that a newer official can learn from. Seek them out so that new skills can be learned.

8. How did NISOA help and/or impact your career?

(1) NISOA is the reason for reaching the highest levels. The instruction, the teaching materials, the whole organization helped along the way.

(2) NISOA leadership and top officials believed that there was potential in the younger officials. This provided confidence and support through the good and the bad. NISOA provided the guidance needed to advance to the top levels.

9. Did you utilize a mentor or other individuals to help you become a top official? If so how did these individuals help?

(1) Many mentors were used. Observing veteran officials and asking a lot of questions about game situations and decisions helped provide new skills and tools that proved to be very helpful.

(2) The mentor always provided feedback on situations and alternative methods of dealing with a particular foul or player. The mentor provided skills on how to delay a decision long enough to think through it and make the proper call.

10. How did you balance family and officiating so that “family first” was most important to you?

(1) An understanding partner is key to a successful career.

(2) Making sure that there was a family night where soccer or NISOA was not discussed was very valuable. Whenever possible the family traveled to games so that the game was part of a bigger event.

The above responses should be considered by all officials striving to reach the top levels of intercollegiate soccer. Both responders worked diligently to reach the highest levels of intercollegiate soccer. The information provided can be helpful to officials at all levels.

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