Referee Fitness

By: Greg Dugas, NISOA National Instructor and Assessor, Maine

Think of a time at the beginning of last season when you were involved in a match where the players’ fitness level outmatched your own. Were you somewhat disappointed? Did you feel a little inadequate? Sure you did! I’d like to share two ways to avoid that problem.

There are two ways to become as fit as the players. One is through track workouts, and the other is through weight training.

1. About Track Workouts.

There are two types of track workouts to consider. The first is “speed endurance”, which are workouts that include ladders and shuttles. The second is “sprint work”, which involves different types of pyramids. As you will see, that entails a lot of sprint and recovery work. Working towards shortening the recovery period is the main goal; increasing one’s speed and endurance comes from the ability to recover.

Below are sprint-and-recovery workouts that have been developed for soccer referees and backed by the NISOA Fitness Program. There are, of course, many others and we try to add them as we find new ones.

Examples of Sprint Workouts.

Example One.

5 x 30 with varying lengths of rest, 10 seconds to one minute with a distance of 700 to 800 yards.  Sprint 30 yards, jog back and do five repetitions with 10 to 15 seconds rest between each. Rest three to five minutes between sets.

Example Two.

A. Shuttle 3 x 30 yards with one-minute rest between sets of four. Rest three minutes.

B. Shuttle 3 x 50 yards with two minutes rest between sets of four. Rest four minutes.

C. Run/sprint 6 x 100 yards with a 110-yard jog or walk for recovery.

Example Three.

Shuttle 40 yards, 60 yards, 80 yards with three minutes recovery. Do five sets.

Example Four.

A. Sprint 20 yards, jog back with a 15 secod rest. Repeat 20 times.

B. Sprint 40 yards with a 20-second rest. Repeat 15 times. Rest four minutes.

C. Sprint 60 yards with a 30 second rest. Repeat 10 times.

Example Five.

Sprint 80 yards once.

Sprint 70 yards twice.

Sprint 60 yards once. Recover 30-60 seconds.

Sprint 50 yards twice.

Sprint 40 yards once. Work up to three sets.

Example Six.

Shuttle 20, 40, 60, 80, and 100 yard with sprint and jog; return and repeat four times.

Examples of Speed and Recovery.

Example One.

Run 120, 140, 160, 180, 200 yards; jog back to the start and go to the next level. Wait until your pulse drops back to 110 to 120, depending upon your age and condition. Three sets.

Example Two.

Run 6 x 200 yards with fine-to-six minute recovery.

Example Three.

Run 100, 150, 200, 150, 100 yards with the same distance jog; then recovery. Do three sets.

Example Four.

A. Shuttle 30, 50, 60 yards (= 280 yards). Rest three minutes. Repeat four times.

B. Remove the 60 yard distance and repeat at the 30 and 50 yards. Repeat four times.

C. Remove the 50 yard distance and run 30 yards fout times. Repeat four times.

Example Five.

Run 150, 200, 250, 300 yards with full recovery between each run. Do three sets.

Example Six.

Sprint 20m – jog 100 m, sprint 40m/80m, 60m/60m, 80m/40m, 100m/20m. The second set is a mirror image of the first by sprinting/jogging the following distances: 120/0, 100/20,80/40, 60/60, 40/80, 20/100.

Example Seven.

Run 200 yards.

Run 150 yards.

Run 120 yards. Recover fully.

Run 150 yards.

Run 200 yards.

Work up to three sets.

Example Eight.

6 x120 yards, three sets. Full recovery between sets.

200 yards in maximum effort. Recover four minutes.

Repeat four to eight times.

Other Guidelines.

Never do the same type of workout on back-to-back days.

Always do your running workout before your weight training.

All workouts can be done on a track or adapted to be done on a soccer field.

With the proper warm-up and cool-down, you can get anywhere from four to six miles per workout.

2. About Weight Training.

The second way to be as fit as the players would be through weight training. Start by working with a Certified Personal Trainer by having a Fitness Profile done. That helps the professional tell if you have any muscular issues that need to be corrected before you start a weight program.

Follow the professional’s instructions and work toward a workout that involves: Core Training, Stabilization Training, Strength Training, and Power Training. Working through these four categories takes three weeks each and will help to get you ready for being on our feet, twisting and turning while you run, for a full 90 minutes or more.


These recommendations are just a start for the person that wants to be in shape for the season. It takes 12 weeks to be prepared for the soccer season. So, the best time to start usually is Memorial Day (assuming a fall intercollegiate or interscholastic) soccer season, which is about 12 weeks from the start of the fall season.

We owe it to the players, teams, and schools to be in the best shape possible. They are the ones who receive an injustice if we are not prepared.