The teen ref scene: Editor Avery Trapp talks working as a soccer referee


If you are in the market for a job for the faint of heart, beware of youth soccer refereeing. While the hours might be flexible and the job description simple, there is nothing that will bruise your ego quite like five-year old soccer matches.

In just about every soccer game you watch on the television, you’ll see fans, players and coaches screaming at the referee.
This certainly does not stop as we go down the chain of the different levels of soccer.

Whether a referee is a 30 year old who has spent years playing and mediating soccer, or a seventh grader standing in the middle of a fist fight between two toddlers, there is no escaping the rage emanating from the sidelines.

One might think that parents watching their children playing the sport they love would bring about some form of tranquil joy.

This could not possibly be farther from the truth.

At 12 years old, what I thought would be a laid back summer job where I can work for a few hours on weekends turned into a small-scale questioning of my own purpose.

At the beginning of each game, parents started urging their children to kick the ball. Coaches attempted to stimulate some sort of passing or pattern among the chaos. It became clear that at this age, the only thing the players understood was which goal to kick at, and even that seemed complicated to a select few.

As the game progressed, what started as gentle encouragement from the parents turned into sharp comments towards me, as well as other parents.

As easy as it would be to say that I was a perfect referee who made no mistakes, I can’t complain that all the comments were completely out of place. In the four years I’ve refereed, I will admit to the fact that I made a few bad calls. It’s unavoidable. In the certification class for youth soccer refereeing, I was told multiple times that mistakes were going to be made and to not worry too much.

They did not tell us that asking a coach to take a toddler off the field because he would not stop punching and slapping at the other players would release an unbridled fury from a horrifying lineup of parents.

Within the younger age groups, there is a rule that there can be no purposeful contact with a players head and the ball. This rule exists to ensure that the kids are not risking concussions at a young age. But if a player smacks another team’s player in the head with a ball, I couldn’t find it in me to call a foul on the child squirming on the ground with a headache. This naturally constituted a string of insults from the parents on the other team.

While I found it astounding to hear a 40 year old call me a moron at the crisp age of 12, nobody seemed to agree.

Refereeing was a great first job for me, despite the insults. The games are short and entertaining, and it was a great way to get out of the house during the summer. However, if you are planning on working as a youth soccer referee, consider thick skin an unspoken item on your checklist of things to bring each game.