By: Jim Reuther, NISOA National Clinician, Ohio

The NISOA Referee, has an important a position as the sole judge of matters of fact in so far as the result of a game is concerned, and must be expected to adopt and practice a set of ethical values to insure that a fair result takes place in every game. Without that the integrity of every game played becomes less than assured. This article will review the standards that NISOA sets for its members in its “NISOA Code of Ethics.”

Item: “That I will conduct myself professionally”

Comment: This excerpt is to be found in the NISOA Code of Ethics, and leads off the Code as its number one item.  The concept of NISOA Referee Ethics is that the ethical Referee  governs all actions and motives with the aim of advancing the game and its participants in a quest for excellence in every aspect of the game.

Item: Ethics and professionalism go hand-in-hand.

Comment: Ethics and professionalism are not only tied in together, but are also tied in very closely to the concepts of “Sportsmanship” and the “Spirit of the Game” which are  long-standing  traditions in soccer.

Item: “Doing nothing to compromise the integrity of the profession”

Comment: The aim and essence of professional ethics can be described as: “doing nothing that will compromise the integrity of the profession.” Soccer refereeing is a profession in every sense of the term. The successful referee requires dedication, knowledge, skill, considerable physical fitness, highly honed discretionary judgment, people management skills for teams and players under competitive stress, and the desire to attain personal excellence in this chosen profession. To accomplish this aim requires a career-long pursuit of that level of competence, and the acceptance of the responsibility to adopt and maintain a personal ethical code.

Item: “Knowledge of the rules and how they shall be interpreted”

Comment: Of course, knowing the rules thoroughly is the basis for competence. Since the Referee is the sole rules authority on the field during the game, decisions based on rules must be absolutely correct. Each decision must be applied fairly, objectively, and without any consideration of factors that are not relevant to the decision being made.

Item: “Strive to achieve maximum teamwork”

Comment: The NSOA Referee must be a people manager. Part of people management skills pertains to the oversight and management of the Referee Team, no matter what system of field mechanics is used. It’s important to realize that those on the Referee Team are all trained, certified, skilled, and contributing members of the team responsible for the success of each game officiated.

Item: “Never knowingly permit or promote criticism,” also “not embarrass or discredit”

Comment: The matter of respect and concern for others in the game is important for every Referee to consider.  Whether it is for your NISOA Referee Team members, your colleagues in NISOA, for the school coaches, players, and administrators, or any others connected with the school game, negative criticism by you is always out of order.  Voicing any negative criticism about others diminishes not only them, but the one who makes the negative criticism. Make sure to avoid making any such remarks at any time or place. Discourage others from doing so.

Item: “Courteous and considerate”

Comment: Being civil, respectful, and correct in your dealing and communications with all others in the game is a necessary characteristic for the successful Intercollegiate Referee. Even in some of the potential tense interchanges you might expect from time to time in competitive games and situations involving participant misconduct that you must address, maintaining a calm but firm manner will be more successful than any heated or confrontational approach. You can be both firm and authoritative when speaking at a calm level that demonstrates that you are in control of yourself and the situation than if you sounded either agitated or louder than normal. Your ability to maintain your composure is more likely to encourage others in tense, argumentative , or confrontational situations.

Item: “A privilege to be a member of NISOA”

Comment: NISOA is the only national group whose sole purpose is to train, certify and develop the skills, competence, and abilities of Intercollegiate Soccer Referees, and also train and develop the skills, competence, and abilities of, Interscholastic Referees. It offers you the possibility of meaningfully extending your activities well beyond your active refereeing into such refereeing-related fields as: training, assessing, administration, writing, mentoring, conducting research, volunteering, and becoming involved in a variety of college and high school soccer-related organizations and activities.

Item: “Qualified, certified, and registered members”

Comment: Becoming and actually being qualified to officiate Intercollegiate and Interscholastic soccer is largely your individual responsibility. As any other profession, it entails study, practice, and performance over the length of your Intercollegiate Referee career. The matter of certification by NISOA as competent to referee the college game comes as a result of your individual accomplishment in meeting the initial criteria for that recognition. After the initial certification, qualifying for the more competitive soccer competitions becomes a matter of your applying for and meeting the criteria for more competitive game levels at the Section, Region, or National levels.  Remaining currently registered in NISOA throughout your career is part of your responsibility to remain fully qualified to be active in the college game as a NISOA member, and to qualify for other soccer activities and programs in which you become interested.  NISOA offers the opportunity for you to participate as fully as your personal effort, development, and desire lead you.

Item: “Professionalism: The high standards for treating others and yourself”

Comment: As you treat and show regard for others in the game, so you can expect to be regarded and treated yourself.  The extent to which you seriously pursue your own development as a competent soccer Referee, the extent to which you pursue a variety of activities which help you to continually increase your abilities, and the acceptance of the concept that the term “professionalism” means more than doing only the minimum to keep constantly improving, all will help you to realize a fulfilling avocation in school-related soccer.