The Memories & Spirit of the Game, as only Ken Aston could teach it...
Enjoy, your journey here on...
-= Ready for Anything ? =-
Ready for Anything?
by Brian Goodlander - (published in Referee Magazine) - 12/01
A Referee for Soccer Association for Youth (SAY), USSF, college and high school in Cincinnati.
He is a USSF Assessor and Instructor. Additionally, he is a board member of the...
South West Ohio Soccer Officials Association (SWOSOA).

Hit Counter

How do you tell an experienced referee from a fresh recruit? Some say it’s in their confident nature or superior fitness. Maybe it’s because of the way the know everybody in the referee tent or at your association meetings? I say that one way to tell is to rummage through their referee kit. A new referee will often carry the bare minimum of items and often not what is really needed, while an experienced referee sometimes seems to need a Sherpa to carry their bag. What’s the difference between the two referee’s kits? What’s important and what’s just a personal luxury?

 The 10 Essentials:

  • Whistles – I carry two whistles in my bag. My favorite one that I use in most situations and my spare that is in my other shorts pocket during the game in case I drop my favorite one. The spare also has a different tone in case the referee in the next pitch has the same favorite whistle.
  • Watches – I also carry two watches. I wear both of them when I am the referee and only one when I am an assistant referee. One typically is set to count down and the other to count up. If I decide to stop one watch, I always let the other run. I do this since about a third of time I either forget to restart the watch or accidentally reset it. This way I still have at least one watch with the right time. Also, I think every referee who has been working games for more than two seasons has had a watch battery die in the closing moments of a big match
  • Cards – I carry a couple of spare set of cards. Like the watch and whistle, I carry an extra set on the pitch in case I drop one. The other ones in my kit are for those rare opportunities when you find an up-and-coming referee who is using the fact that he or she doesn’t have any cards so they can’t work the middle of this game.

Another kind of card I carry is a set of 3x5 cards. I use this as game cards. Even when I am at a tournament where they supply game cards, I use my cards then transfer the information onto the official game card. This helps the tournament officials read the cards since it should be clean and clear versus my sweaty or scribbled card.

  • Pen, Pencil, Marker – You guessed it. I carry two writing tools and have some spares in my bag. It is a good idea to have both a pen and a pencil since pens don’t like to work in the rain and may freeze in the late fall and early spring. For those of you that like the cards that you can write on, a spare marker is a good idea.
  • Flipping Coin – It is always handy to have a flipping coin in your kit since you may not have any change on you when it comes time for captains. In a pinch, I have had used the old “which hand is my whistle in” routine but it seems a little unprofessional.
  • Duct Tape – As a young man, my father taught me that almost anything could be fixed with duct tape. This seems especially true as a referee. I have added numbers to jerseys, fixed poorly hung nets, kept the socks up, fixed my overstressed referee bag, and a million other things with a simple roll of duct tape
  • Alternate Jersey(s) – It is always a good practice to include at least one of the alternate jerseys in your referee kit. Invariably, one of the teams will have chosen a club color that is the same color as your jersey. If the rest of the team has an alternate but you do not, this can be embarrassing and make life difficult for all involved. If you are just starting out and don’t want to spend the money, then see if you can buy an old one of a referee with big bag or check with your association to see if they have a collection of used jerseys that you can use. Once you make some money and decide that you are going to stick with refereeing, reinvest some of it and buy some alternate colors.
  • Money – You never know when you may need a few bucks. Maybe the tournament does not pay until the end of the day and you need some lunch. Maybe the coaches don’t have the correct change or you need to figure out how to split the money up with the referees when you don’t have the right combination of smaller bills.
  • Eyewear & accessories – Early in my career, I was working a heated youth match when the ball and my face had an unexpected meeting. This contact broke my glasses. After a stoppage of play, I ran off the field and found my nerdy back-ups and continued the match. Now I where contacts, but during a windy tournament I was working next to a baseball diamond and got some dirt under my contact. I was forced to remove my contacts and put on my nerdy glasses again to finish the match. Contacts are great but don’t forget to bring some spares, some solution, a small mirror and never forget those nerdy back-up glasses
  • Garbage Bag – OK. Now you have all the bare essentials crammed into that tiny gym bag. You are about to run the middle of a great match confident that you have any items that you may need, when the rains come. All my goodies, getting soaked by this rain. Don’t forget to take a long a full sized garbage bag. Stick your bag, and your assistants stuff too, into the garbage bag and tie off the end. Life is good. During a recreational game some years ago, I found a very different use for my garbage bag. During warm-ups on these fields behind a local elementary school, one team of girls suddenly began squealing. Upon closer inspection, I discovered that there was a dead, half-composed animal in front of the goalmouth. I was able to remove the carcass with the help of my trusty garbage bag and the game continued without incident.

The Nice to Haves:

Now that you have the ten essentials items for your referee kit, lets consider some items that are nice to have but not essential.

  • Bag – Like most everyone else, I started off with the classic cloth gym bag with one big zipper that opens the entire bag. Now, I have a nice, sturdy, leather-like bag with my name on it. It has multiple zippered sections. Each thing has its rightful place and when I need it, I know where it is. My buddies jokingly call it “my body bag” due to its size, but I am never at a loss for something I need.
  • Medications – As you get older and your body begins to creak, some medication taken preventatively can help the day and your game go better. I carry a bottle of Aleve and some sports cream in my bag. You may need to carry an inhaler or other important medications.
  • Pump with needle and pressure gauge – One of the tasks of the referee is to inspect and approve the game ball(s). About 75% of time, they need some level of adjustment. I have found it easier and simpler for me to pump the balls up rather than pass them back and forth with the coaches until the right pressure is established. A gauge is a good idea to get the pressure right. I have had players complain that the ball is too soft or too hard but they can not argue with a gauge.
  • Wet wipes – I carry wet wipes for those hot days to help freshen up and wipe away the crusty sweat off my hands and face. It is not a shower, but it is amazing how refreshing it feels.
  • Zip strips – Carrying a few of these handy strips are great for fixing ill-hung nets. They are quick and easy and save you from wasting large amounts of the precious duct tape..
  • Alternate Jerseys in long and short sleeve versions – As you advance in the sport, you find the need for more and more options for jerseys. College has 3 jerseys, NFHS has at least two options, and the USSF has 3 options. With each of these options are long and short-sleeved jerseys. It does not take long to have a large collection of jerseys.
  • Alternate shoes – Just as players often carry more than one style of shoes, referees may also find this to be helpful. Cleats are great for muddy and wet conditions to assure firm footing but they will absolute kill your poor feet on a hard sun-baked pitch. Have a spare set of turf shoes or indoor shoes can allow you to change to the right equipment for the job
  • Spare socks – Pretty early, I discovered the need for spare socks. After working a couple of games in a local tournament with some veteran referees, we ventured to the referee tent to relax until the afternoon session. My feet were cold and clammy from the early morning rain which was now gone. As I looked at my experienced teammates, they were changing into dry comfortable socks ready to take on the afternoon in comfort.
  • Sandals – On the same day, I saw those same veterans reach into their large referee bags and pull out some sandals. I, on the other hand, was gingerly tiptoeing around the tent in my barefeet as my socks hung to dry.
  • Foul weather clothing – Since soccer is played in all kinds of weather, being prepared for foul weather is important. A simple pair of gloves can make a tremendous difference on a cool day. A warm hat is important for half-time and post-game. I own a rain jersey. I seldom use it for rain but it works wonderfully under my regular jersey as a windbreaker. I found that I can referee very comfortably in quite cold weather with this combination.
  • Candy Bar – It’s half-time and the concession stand is nowhere to be found. You are tired and need a little boost. For such situations, I keep Power-Bars in my bag. They are full of sugar and carbohydrates yet are virtually indestructible. They don’t get gooey in the heat and don’t shatter in the cold. They have even improved the flavor. Don’t like them. Try something else that meets your needs. It can be the difference between having fun and waiting for the minutes to pass.
  • Warm-ups – Beyond the warmth, a nice set of warm-ups can provide an impression of professionalism. Entering a stadium dressed in your USSF or NISOA warm-up with your teammates and inspecting the field, let all those watching that you take your job seriously and professionally.

The Luxuries:

Finally, here are some items that are just plain luxuries.

  • Shoe bag – Shoe bags are great when your shoes are wet or muddy and you don’t want to put them in your bag or even your car. A shoe bag allows you to get them home without risk of making everything else dirty or stinky.
  • Cell phone – This luxury is very important if you have someone else waiting on you when you pick up the last-minute game or you go into the second overtime period. A cell phone could have been the difference between me coming home to a nice meal or to changed locks.
  • Clothing organizers – I recently bought these and love them. I bought a set for short sleeve jerseys and a set for long sleeve jerseys. They allow you to fold up the jerseys and pack them neatly into your bag without them wadding up in the corner of your bag.
  • Pocketknife – I carry a small Leatherman knife complete with a screwdriver and small pair of scissors. These have done everything from fix glasses to cut medical tape, to many other small jobs.
  • Sewing kit – The small sewing kits that are given out on overseas airline flights or are used for camping can be helpful to repair tears in jerseys or more likely darn those darn socks.
  • Shoe polish & accessories – Shoe polish is important to show a level of professionalism in your appearance. Polishing or brushing your shoes is a common task during off-games in the referee tent. Today, there are small polish saturated sponges that are great for quick simple touch-ups without the mess or inconvenience.
  • Game report forms, schedules, maps, telephone numbers – I carry a small three-ring notebook with blank game reports, my game schedule, maps to fields, telephone numbers, and tournament rules.
  • Rulebooks – In the folder of the notebook, I have the rulebooks for the various leagues that I referee. I try to never get them out on the pitch but I do like having them for discussions before and after the game..

So the next time you see an experienced referee followed by a small mule train laden with packs, he is not headed for the Grand Canyon. He is just headed to the pitch to do his job. Who knows, he might let you ride out there on the back of his favorite mule.

+-+ BACK TO TOP +-+
Page updated on... Friday, July 18, 2014 @ 23:50:46 -0700 PM-GMT
+- Webmaster -+