WANTED: REFEREE MENTORS
By John Enroth
Former ~ AYSO National Director of Referee Assessment
Reprinted from AYSO “INPLAY” SPRING 2003
Permission Granted from Author
AYSO is a... volunteer organization. We depend
on parents and guardians of the children to lend a hand on game day, at
practices and generally running the region. It is not an easy job. It
takes dedicated, caring people who not only love their children, but
also have a love for the game. One of the toughest volunteer jobs is
being a referee. Refereeing involves more than simple putting on a
referee uniform, with whistle in hand, marching onto a field of bright,
eager children ready to have fun?
Sometimes there is more facing the referee than children eager to
playing a game. Occasionally a coach, parent, or other spectator may
feel that the referee has made a “bad call,” and the manner in which
this person deals with this feeling can have a significant effect on the
volunteer referee. When the urge to voice an opinion about the “bad
call” is not controlled and leads to inappropriate behavior or comments,
this begins to erode the enjoyment of not only the players but the
referee as well. When calls go against the chosen team or against a
favorite player, some immediately jump to irrational assumptions that
the referee “must have a child on the opposing team” or “doesn't call it
both ways” or had it in for us” and “it’s the referees fault we are
Attitudes like that are abuse to the referee and detract from everyone’s
enjoyment. A referee should not have to contend with abusive parents,
but unfortunately it does happen. It takes a strong-willed person to
deal with these situations.
Each year we lose new referees because of sideline abuse. Those
responsible have very little understanding of AYSO and cause early
departure of many referees, especially youth referees. These abusive
individuals are generally the first to complain about the lack of
officials at their games. So what can we do about it? What can we do to
retain the referees we train?
If you have a love for the game and care about your child having fun on
a Saturday maybe you can mentor a referee. A friend on the sideline can
go along way to keep a referee while he/she is gaining valuable
experience and confidence. What does it take to be a referee mentor?
The first question asked about being a referee mentor is, “Do I have to
be a referee?” Obviously it is better to have been referee trained, but
even without formal referee training there are many soccer knowledgeable
people who can help mentor new referees and in particular youth
referees. Mentors are needed mostly for new referees doing U-6, U-8 and
sometimes U-10 games. It is not high-level stuff. We are looking at
pre-game preparation, starting the match, how to stop it, how to
re-start it. This is called the ‘mechanics’ of officiating. Also, we can
advise a mentor on what to do to help the referee from the sidelines
when parents get out of control. Parents and youths who have played the
game and understand how the game is played can be mentors at this level
for new referees. Referee mentors are needed as much as new referees. Do
you fit this description? Can you find an extra hour each game day to
mentor a new referee? Is it important enough to keep your region referee
healthy? If the answer is “yes”, we’ll look in the next part about what
you need to know to be a referee mentor.
If you have decided to be a referee mentor and help the region retain
their newly certified referees, what are the first steps? First of all,
you must get in touch with the Regional Referee
Administrator (RRA) who is responsible
for the region’s referee program. Let the RRA know that you are
interested in helping the region by mentoring new referees. If you are
already a regional referee and seeking to advance to the Intermediate
Referee level, the Intermediate Referee Course contains a class
Referees”. This is a stand-alone class that can be
taught outside of the Intermediate Course. It is generally recommended
that the Area Referee Administrator be involved to monitor the course
and assist in the Regional Referee Administrator.
Experienced senior referees who are Intermediate referees or higher are
especially qualified to be mentors. Senior referees who are Referee
Assessors and National Referee Assessors are generally the backbone of
the ‘mentoring’ program and help whenever they can, but often their time
is focused on assessing higher-level matches. The region needs
experienced soccer people such as regional referees with years of
experience handling the U-6, U-8 and U-10 play. Regions can also use
experienced coaches and former players who understand the elements of
play and can guide new referees on their basic duties until they get
comfortable being in the middle. But first they must attend the
‘Mentoring Referees’ class to get an understanding of being a mentor.
What are the essential elements of being a mentor and what are the
mentor’s duties? The referee mentor plays many roles. First of all,
he/she is a coach, a guide and a teacher to the new referee. The mentor
is there to guide the referee through the initial steps of a match and
help him/her get comfortable being “in the middle.” The mentor must be a
trusted friend who the referee can count on for advice.
As an advisor, the mentor can help the new referee get the game started,
help in the interpretation of the Laws of the Game and give advise of
the what the spirit of the law means.
The mentor is a supporter, advocate and choreographer to the new
referee. The mentor provides sound, simple advice as well as being a
good listener and coach. The mentor is very visible on the sideline,
ready to handle parents and coaches who do not understand that the
referee is volunteering and needs time and encouragement to develop
his/her craft. The mentor is a teacher and a role model to the referee.
The mentor is ready at the quarter, half time and end of the match to
assist the referee on the methods of officiating soccer. The mentor
needs to be approachable by the new referee to help him/her through the
intricate details of match administration.
The mentor’s duties are fairly simple. The mentor takes few notes.
He/she is not there to list all the ‘mistakes’ the referee makes.
Rather, the mentor is ready to help the referee get the match started by
meeting with the coaches, collected the line-up cards and insuring the
cards are completed correctly, and inspecting the field to ensure there
are no safety issues. During the match the mentor’s duties include
helping the referee with foul recognition, the proper re-start after the
match has been stopped, and good signaling. The mentor can also help the
referee with proper positioning so the referee can see every part of the
field and especially critical play.
Being a mentor is an important part of AYSO. It is essential that we do
everything we can to retain newly trained referees. By mentoring a new
referee through those nervous, scary first games, the mentor can be the
difference between not having game officials or making a successful
season where everyone can enjoy this wonderful game.
The Mentor Scheme
By Julian Carosi
The Corsham Referee
& Andrew Castiglione
Founder of Ken Aston Referee Society
A ‘Mentor’ is a Referee (or ex-Referee) who
looks after, and develops another Referee.
A ‘Mentee’ is the pupil Referee who is being
developed by another Referee (or ex-Referee).
An ‘Area Mentor Coordinator’ is the person who
co-ordinates and manages Mentors’ within an area (for example,
within a specific AREA in a SECTION). He also arranges for the
Mentors to receive ’Mentor’ type training on the best way to
develop their Mentee Referees.
Mentoring is a powerful tool in the education and development of
Referees at all levels. Successful Referee education programmers
change the behavior and practices of Referees - whether they are
newly qualified or International Referees. For this change to
occur, learning must take place. Mentoring supports the learning
process. Mentoring quite simply means a ‘one to one’
relationship supporting the development of another Referee. The
concept is as broad as necessary and as inclusive as possible.
The Mentor Scheme is designed to support and guide new
Referees in their early matches. It is also designed to develop the more
experienced Referees to help them climb further up the Refereeing
A 'Mentor' is not an ‘Assessor’. Assessors carry out a
slightly different function to the Mentor, but with the same aims as the
Mentor. The Assessor (like the Mentor) is also there to help Referees
improve through applying constructive criticism on the Referee’s
performance and highlighting ways to improve. But a particular Assessor
is likely to assess an individual Referee only once in a marking year,
unlike the Mentor who will watch several of the Referee’s matches. The
Assessors' reports are collated locally and the average marks are
considered for promotion after Referees have had several assessments in
a marking year. A Mentor will not necessarily complete a written report
after watching an individual Referee, but can do so in agreement with
the Mentee Referee. A ‘Mentor Summary of Advice Record’ can be found at
‘Table 1’ at the bottom of these pages.
Mentoring is not the same as teaching. It’s aim is not necessary in
providing solutions. Mentoring means different things with individual
Referees at different levels. With newly qualified Referees and Junior
Referees, Mentoring should be about empowering and helping Referees to
control the learning experience for themselves. With more experienced
Referees it focuses on challenging their beliefs and the values they
have developed so that they come to a deeper understanding of their
role, task and the application and interpretation of the Laws.
Learning comes in many different guises. Referees sometimes cannot
recognize the learning opportunities that lurk behind the problems,
chance occurrences and ‘run of the mill’ events that happen almost every
day. Mentors can help a Referee recognize and grasp the learning
opportunities presented to them. The role of the Mentor is to help make
the Referees learning experience less accidental.
Referee education, is not like ‘on the job’ training received in the
normal workplace. The training of Referees usually occurs in a classroom
environment away from the real-life environment of ‘a field of play’.
This education tends to occur in isolated blocks of time, often months -
if not years - apart and is, in the mind of the Referee, largely
unconnected with what he needs to learn as a Referee. Referee
instructional programmers operate under constraints of time and
resources. All this produces a Referee education gap. This can be
described in two areas:
Mentor schemes can provide much help and benefit to new and existing
Referees. Refereeing is often a lonely job. Having access to a
supportive colleague can make all the difference between a Referee
‘giving up’ or being able to talk through their concerns.
A Mentor scheme relies on the commitment and availability of existing
members and active Referees. Therefore, before a Mentor scheme is
implemented, you should consider the commitment a potential Mentor can
give and the availability of a suitable number of Mentors in your area
to make the scheme viable.
There are a number of types of Mentoring schemes that can be run
depending on the level of availability of the Mentors within your area.
The following are suggestions that can be considered before you start a
scheme in your area.
[A] Full Mentor Scheme
The full Mentor scheme above is mainly aimed at new Referees, but you
may wish to consider setting up an alternative (or combined) scheme for
existing Referees, particularly those who are actively seeking
[B] Mentor Behind the Scenes
One of the problems with Mentor Schemes is that some Referees are unable
to give their time to become a Mentor, as they are either Refereeing or
have personal commitments.
The ‘Mentor Behind The Scenes’ is probably one of the
easiest ways to Mentor, as it gives the less experienced Mentee Referees
an insight to pre-match and post-match life.
The ‘Mentor Behind The Scenes’ will provide the same
advice as the ‘Full Mentor scheme. The ‘Mentor Behind The
Scenes’ is where
a more experienced Referee or Assistant Referee (with permission) takes
a 'new Referee' to his/her match and offers the less experienced Mentee
Referee, the opportunity to experience the build-up and the post-match
discussions. The ‘Mentor Behind The Scenes’ method requires only a small
amount of additional effort by the Mentor - i.e. collecting the student
Referee, and taking them back home.
Although the 'new Referee' is not officiating he can learn from a number
of points, which will be important as he progresses.
(1) Pitch Inspection,
(2) Pre-match instructions,
(3) Working as a Team,
(4) Checking the Balls,
(5) Team sheets,
(6) Instructions to Coaches,
(7) Technical Area,
(10) Ground Facilities.
It is appreciated that some of these points are covered in the
classroom, but nevertheless the real practicalities of being 'hands on'
during a ‘real live’ game, are much better. This idea may only apply to
those Referees whose leagues have three officials per match, example:
Supply League and above (in England). However, there are many minor
leagues that are fortunate to be blessed with three officials. Referees
on a ‘fast-track’ program may benefit greatly from this, as when it
comes to their turn to deliver some of the above points, they at least
will feel less nervous
An idea such as the ‘Mentor Behind The Scenes’ plays a
very important role in the retention of Referees - as the easy part of
recruitment has already been done.
[C] Point of Contact
Even though you may not have enough people to run a full Mentor scheme,
you can still help by providing a ‘point of contact’ for each new
Referee. This allows the Mentor Referee to provide assistance to a less
experienced Referee on a reactive rather than a proactive basis. Advice
given over the phone or by email is still worth receiving.
This can also provide new Referees with a friendly face if they join the
local Referees’ Society for the first time.
The information on Mentoring shown below focuses primarily upon the
early stages of a Referee's development and to support those first few
It includes advice for the Mentor and the process of managing a Mentor
The Aim of Mentoring during the early stages of a Referee’s career is to
encourage individual’s fresh from the Referees’ induction training
process into Refereeing and thereby promote enjoyment, success and
The ‘Objectives’ of a Mentor is to support the new Referee; providing
guidance and encouragement to develop skills and confidence to become
better, eventually, in all aspects of the Referee’s game and being able
to deal, in a professional manner, with all those people whom they come
into contact with.
Credibility is a key factor in the Mentor's Role, and ideally the Mentor
should have Refereeing experience. The Mentor should be a more
experienced and trusted advisor who provides a one-to-one relationship
supporting the development of another Referee. The Mentor should be a
friend, approachable and patient. The Mentor should also be readily
available either in person or on the end of a telephone (or by email). A
‘key feature’ in the Mentor Scheme learning process is the creation of
an open environment that supports, helps and advises the new Referee on
The Mentor must be proactive during the early stages, taking the lead
with communication and support. From the moment the Mentor is assigned
to the Mentee Referee, the Mentor should make contact; arrange to meet,
to agree the strategy for the first few games.
The Mentee Referee's first game is of prime importance and every effort
should be made by the Mentor to accompany the Mentee to the game, or
make arrangements for another Referee/Mentor to attend. Encouragement
should be offered en-route to the game and before the game at the venue.
Support should also be offered at half time, delivered in a reassuring
manner and offering any solutions to questions from the Referee that may
arise. Support should also be given after the game or at any stage that
the Mentee requests it.
After the match the Mentor must congratulate the Mentee:
"Well Done! A fine performance. You did three things particularly well,
and I'd like to suggest just one area for you to think about before your
The Mentor then briefly expands upon all three points, but also ensures
that the Referee has plenty of opportunity to raise their concerns and
issues. The Mentor should not dictate to the Mentee. It should be a
two-way communication allowing for discussion and gentle development. At
no stage should the Mentor list down and discuss every little thing that
the Referee did wrong in a game. This will have a negative effect. By
focusing on two or three areas, the Mentor will be able to coax the new
Referee into doing better next time, but without sounding like a ‘school
Further games accompanying the Mentee may follow, expanding the areas
discussed regarding support and development. At no time should the
advice be directly critical or cynical, rather, it should always be
offered in an encouraging manner The Mentee should have the opportunity
to question the advice offered, contributing himself or questioning the
advice being given.
If active, the Mentor should be prepared to take the Mentee Referee
along with them to their own games for experience. Here it can be fun
also to ask the Mentee to comment on the performance of the more
experienced Mentor Referee during his game.
The Mentor should find that after about ten games the Mentee will have
taken the leading role, and the level of contact will reduce. This
indicates the level of confidence of the new Referee in the learning
In summary, a Mentor should aim to be a friend and confidant, someone in
whom the Mentee can develop complete confidence and trust. The essence
is for an expectation to achieve frequent communication between the two,
and where appropriate they should attend the local Referees’ Society
The Mentor's advice and support should not focus solely upon match day
skills but should consider providing advice concerning the following:
Check List of Contents for the Early Stages in a Referee's development.
Suggested topics (This list is not exhaustive, there maybe
something more appropriate on the actual day) to cover with the Mentee
- Match Preparation (Kit, Ground details, Pitch Inspection)
- Correspondence / Administration/ How to deal with Club Officials
- Discipline (Before, During, After; and Reporting Procedures)
- Law queries
- Practical Match Refereeing Applications
- Assistant Referees and Club Assistant Referees (Co-operation)
- Attending Training Seminars
- Importance of joining the Referees' Association and attending the
local Referees' Society
Match Preparation (Kit, Ground details, Pitch Inspection)
- Does the Referee have a checklist and do they pack their own kit in
plenty of time?
- Does the Referee ensure their kit is in good condition and appropriate
for the conditions, particularly footwear?
- Does the Referee check the venue with the home club secretary and plan
the route, with an alternative should there be traffic problems?
- Does the Referee leave home in plenty of time; to arrive at the ground
well before the kick-off time they need to be there?
- Does the Referee check the mileage traveled and calculates expenses
before leaving the car? Always introducing themselves upon arrival to
the club secretary / representative?
- Does the Referee inspect the field of play before anything else
allowing time for corrective action should it be required?
- Does the Referee when inspecting the field of play, make the safety of
players and their enjoyment the top priority? Allow for the age range of
players in severe weather conditions?
Correspondence / Administration
- Does the Referee understand that good communication is a prerequisite
to enjoyment and success?
- Do discuss the accepted protocol with your Mentee and make
introductions to Competition Secretaries and the County F.A. secretary.
- Advise the Mentee to respond to correspondence within 24 hours and
communicate at the very earliest opportunity.
- Advise the Mentee to keep a diary and maintain it; keeping it up to
date at all times.
- Advise the Mentee to retain copies of important information,
information they can make use of again.
- Advise your Mentee to make you aware of the games they are to Referee.
How to deal with Club Official
- Do not be aggressive or demanding, encourage the Mentee to be
courteous, polite but yet firm in their requirements.
- Never expect to receive any hospitality before the game, half time or
after the game.
Discipline (Before, During, After; and Reporting Procedures)
Before the Game
- Self discipline; provide advice to arrive in good time to report to
the club secretary, / representative and inspect the field on play.
- Is the Referee aware of the competition regulations they, will be
- Check the balls, collect the team sheets, and note the names of the
During the Game
- Is the Referee firm but pleasant when speaking to players; and do they
appreciate the beneficial effect of "Please" and "Thank You"?
- Unless a disciplinary offence has occurred, does the Referee try to
manage situations without use of the notebook?
- However, should they need to caution or dismiss a player do they
remain calm, in control and making sure the correct procedure is
- Advise they must remember that a player cautioned a second time in the
same game must be dismissed.
After the Game
- Advise the Referee to check carefully all the facts they will need to
be able to compile disciplinary reports. Suggest they confer with their
Assistants (If any are provided and they consider appropriate) or the
Home Club secretary should they need too.
- Suggest that as a courtesy, they inform the club secretary of reports
they intend making.
- Advise that it is essential that all players cautioned or dismissed be
reported to the County, Football Association.
- Advise that they may seek advice from you (their Mentor) when
compiling a report; suggest use of the English Football Association
"Guide to Report Writing".
- Should they be required to attend a personal hearing then advise them
to seek advice from you (their Mentor) who will probably accompany them
to the hearing?
- Advise completion of misconduct report forms to arrive at the County
Headquarters 48 hours after the game.
- Ensure they are aware of the County F.A. requirements regarding report
forms; these can differ between one County and another.
- Advise that proper misconduct report forms should be used when
reporting player misconduct.
- In addition that all other reports (against managers and coaches etc)
can take the form of a letter (or use a discipline report quoting Law 5)
outlining their reasons for the report (e.g. the facts).
- Reassure the Referee not to worry if they make a mistake in Law, just
ensure they learn from it by revising that particular Law. Suggest they
‘check it out’ themselves by consulting the L.O.A.F. (Laws of Associated
- Whether they, find the answer or not, ensure they discuss with you,
- Advise that it is essential they join their local Referees' Society.
Referees Society members have experienced almost all problems and can
give sound practical advice to the Mentee.
Practical Match Refereeing Applications
- Does the Referee appreciate that the nearer you are to an incident,
the more readily will the players accept the decision?
- Advise that they apply the Law firmly and without fear.
- Reassure the Referee that virtually ALL player appeals are more in
hope than expectation: recommend they make their own mind up!
- Does the Referee make quick decisions and not hesitation when
- Is the Referee alert to the previous history between teams?
- Is the Referee alert to the developing relationship between players?
- Does the Referee have confidence in themselves? The Law says the
Referee is right!
- Does the Referee maintain a firm but friendly manner in all
- Does the Referee appear cool and dignified: aloof from the emotion of
- Does the Referee treat all players alike?
Working with Assistant Referees attached to Clubs
- Is the Referee friendly; and does the Referee, smile, shake their
hands? TRY to memories their first names.
- Is the Referee able to remember the Club Assistant Referee briefing
instructions to give them from the Induction Course? (Mentor to hear
all, and then briefly amend Mentee's remarks as necessary. Avoid adding
anything unless it is a serious omission.)
- Were the flags that the Referee supplied clean?
- How did the Referee overcome situations when Club Assistants gave
contrary advice to the Referee's instruction?
Offer advice on the importance of joining the Referees'
Association and attending the local Referees' Society:
- Kit at reduced prices
- Local and National Magazines
- Guest speakers at meetings
- Meeting new colleagues
- Social events arranged
- Exchange of ideas
- Law queries and match incidents answered
- Possible access to F.A. Cup Final Tickets
Fitness. (Use the Fitness Handbook for Reference)
- Provide advice on why the Referee should keep fit:
- Health Benefits
- Increase Concentration and Awareness
- Enhances Positioning: Right Place- Right Time
- Improves Communication Skills
- Builds Confidence
- Maintaining contact with play
The Mentor's Skills and Qualities
- Positive Communication: Active Listening, Questioning and Feedback.
- Observation Skills: identification of Strengths and Development areas
in a Referee's performance
- Coaching Skills.
- Counseling Skills.
- Current knowledge of the Laws of Association Football and their
- Feedback skills: to offer advice challenging the Mentee Referee's
development areas and offer possible solutions whilst retaining empathy.
- Action Planning Knowledge of the Improvement Process to include the
cycle of objective setting, performance review.
The Management of the Scheme
Schemes will usually have an organizer (‘Area Mentor Coordinator’) with
a team of Mentors.
The Coordinator will communicate with others to decide those Referees to
be Mentored and will then start the ‘ball rolling’, contacting the
individual Mentor and the person(s) to be Mentored.
The Mentor will then establish contact, arranging a ‘get-together’
meeting. It is essential that the Mentor takes the lead as the Mentee
will await contact.
As the relationship develops the lead role in promoting communication
will move from the Mentor to the Mentee, but the Mentor must ensure the
process is continuous, and the Coordinator should be informed of any
There is an expectation of feedback from the Mentor to the ‘Area Mentor
Coordinator’ and to facilitate and standardize this, records and forms
The "Mentor Summary of Advice Record" that is shown below at ‘Table 1’
is offered to the Mentor as a means of recording development of the
The "Scheme Feedback Form" that is shown below at ‘Table 2’ is offered
as a means of communicating observations from the Mentor to the ‘Area
Mentor Coordinator’. Information concerning particular problems and
issues arising for the Mentee Referee can be helpful to the Referees’
Instructor Training Team for use in Referee and Assistant Referee
training and education events. Comment upon the guidance offered by
assessment appraisals can be helpful to the Assessor Training Team for
use in providing feedback to the assessor.
At some point a Mentee Referee may outgrow the relationship with the
Mentor assigned and it is important that the Mentor is aware that this
situation may occur. The Mentor should inform the ‘Area Mentor
Coordinator’ and allow the Mentee to move on for further development. At
this point the ‘Area Mentor Coordinator’ will usually offer the Mentor
another Referee to look after.
Mentor Summary of Advice Record
Name of Mentee Referee……………………………………………………………………………..
Number of the game that this summary covers………………………………………………………
Name of Mentor………………………………………………………………………………………
Date this Report was completed.
Table 2. (To Area Mentor Coordinator)
Scheme Feedback Form