The Art of Assessment for the Assessor

By: Charles Vela, NISOA National Clinician, NISOA National Assessor

Referee assessment is as vital to Intercollegiate and Interscholastic Referee development as adequate entry-level training and game experience are to the new referee. There is an art to properly conducting an assessment, just as there is to properly refereeing a game. NISOA has developed a detailed process for conducting and recording a game assessment. It is therefore essential to know how to prepare to conduct an assessment in much the same way you would prepare to referee a college or high school game. It is much like learning to use the system of mechanics when refereeing a game. Each portion of the game is studied from the time the Assessor and Referee Team arrive at the field, to their post-game departures.

The elements of the assessment process are built around the four time phases of the game being observed by the Assessor: before the game, during the game, after the game, and after departure.

The NISOA Referee Game Assessment Form, the NISOA Assistant Referee Game Assessment Form, and the NISOA Alternate Official Assessment Form, are the guides for completing the game observation and assessment.

Before the game.

For the Assessor this first element deals with appearance and arrival at the game site. An Assessor should always present a professional appearance. The level of play may dictate formal attire, with blazer and tie. Slacks and a NISOA golf shirt are adequate for most games. You must know what time the Referee Team is expected to arrive for the game so that you can arrive a bit before.  It’s best to plan on arriving about 15 minutes before the Referee Team you are assessing. After they arrive, introduce yourself in a professional, friendly manner. Do not present an attitude of ego, self-importance, hostility, or lack of interest.

After introductions, go immediately to obtaining necessary information for your assessment. This includes names, grades, addresses, region (if known), and chapter. Speedy completion of this task allows the Referee Team to go about their pre game duties in an orderly and logical manner. Finally, establish the post-game meeting arrangements. After this is completed, select the best position to observe and assess the game. It is best to be away from players, coaches and spectators. Most Assessors pick a spot above the level of the field, if available.

The weather conditions are another important factor. Extreme heat or cold will tend to divert your attention from the performance of the Referee Team. If available, a sheltered vantage point is to be preferred. Sometimes it is advantageous to move around the field and use different viewpoints. Most school stadium managers will allow the Assessor to observe from a stadium press box. You choose the site that you feel provides the best conditions for your task.

During the game.

What would be elements of the second phase? During the game, you must concentrate on the game and the performance of the Referee Team at all times, including not only active play but all stoppages.  Avoid distractions that pull your attention away from the actions on the field. A sturdy clipboard and sufficient notepaper are required for recording game events. Some assessors prefer to speak into a tape recorder. If you choose to do this, be sure that your comments are not over-heard by others. The assessor has clear responsibilities to the Referee Team.

He/she must know: the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Soccer Rules for the intercollegiate game, and the NFHS Soccer Rules for the interscholastic game, the approved mechanics and signals for the system of control being used for that game, the NISOA assessment criteria and, above all, a true understanding of the art of refereeing. In order to be observant, impartial and objective, it is essential that you are able to define the level of experience of each member of the Referee Team  and the level of performance they should exhibit. It is also critical that you know if the assessment is for an upgrade, maintenance of grade, or is requested due to poor field performance.  The Assessor owes it to the Referee(s) and the validity of the assessment to be mentally fresh and alert. Great care should be exercised in scheduling more than one assessment per day. No more than two assessments should ever be scheduled for one day.

After the game.

What are the elements of the Post Game Period? After the game, take time to make notes and organize your presentation to the Referee Team during the post-game conference. Make sure you clearly identify the primary points that your critique will address.  Keep the number of points to be discussed limited to the most important. It is crucial that the referees be in a relaxed-enough condition to meet with you. Allow time to refresh and cool-down or warm-up, as the circumstances dictate.

If you are making your primary assessment of one member of the Referee Team, deal with the remaining members in a brief and courteous manner. This allows you to take as much time as required, and to meet separately with the primary subject if so desired.

The Assessor and the Referee Team can establish a common ground by identifying the Referee’s game plan and what level of control they desired from the game. It is logical then to analyze if this was reached. Most games will fall short of the desired results, to some degree. If this is the case, then the Assessor can suggest alternate approaches in the form of questions. “What do you think the players would do if you…?” “Have you ever considered….?” “Have you ever tried…?”

If the referee is a NISOA National Referee or a National Referee Candidate, he/she should know how to referee a school game. The challenge is to find a course of action that will help take their game to a higher level. Once you can agree on this, the Referee Team may even help plan a course of action to achieve this result. This will keep the session positive and provide a program for logical improvement.

After departure.

Finally, what are our responsibilities after we leave the field? After departure, the Assessor must complete the appropriate NISOA Assessment Forms. The personal information you gathered pre-game is entered in Section I. Section II is used to record your observations of the field, weather conditions and the historical teams/game information. Section III is a careful and very detailed record of the performance of the official. Arrival (on time) can be answered “yes” or “no”. There are boxes to indicate the level of appearance of the Referee Team and the care with which they performed the pre-game duties. You can observe their thoroughness or lack of it, from your game vantage point. You can even tell a lot from body language during the pre-game instructions. The Referee and AR’s often “act-out” questions or instructions. You must make an entry describing their performance in each box under “OBS” (observations), according to the codes provided. The definitions include, Always, Usually, Sometimes, Never, or X” if an action is not observed.

In Section IV, you will evaluate the performance from Excellent to Improvement Needed. You must also include brief comments to support your evaluation on page two. There are generally three categories or headings on page two. The first deals with positive factors which influenced the grading. Next, negative factors are stated. Finally, an action plan for improvement is presented.

Upon completion of the report, copies must be promptly mailed to the Referees, the NISOA Regional Area Coordinator, the NISOA Local Chapter Assessor Coordinator, and the NISOA Assessment Study Chair within seven days, but in no case, more than ten days! These results are confidential must not be sent by email, or shared with unauthorized persons.


This article began by comparing Assessor mechanics with Referee mechanics. We identified the four phases of the assessment process: before the game, during the game, after the game, and after departure.  Each phase was then broken down into individual elements. Under each we discussed concerns, tasks, and duties associated with each phase. Completion of the NISOA Referee Assessment Forms was briefly reviewed. Finally, discussed were the responsibilities associated with the dissemination of the completed assessment forms. If the Assessor practices these steps with the same intensity that a Referee applies game mechanics, we can truly make it the art of assessment.