I can still remember my first match. I was an Assistant Referee for a u10 game. Safe to say, I wasn't great.
I specifically remember one moment in the match where as AR1, I was about 10 feet inside of the other half of the field from where I should've been. The coach, politely said "Why are you over here. You can't call Offside in our defensive half." I replied, not wanting to look like an idiot "I'm just getting ready" or something stupid like that.
Making the decision to become a referee isn't easy. And I did it as a 40 year old man who played as a youth, coached for over 6 years and watched the game every chance I could! I thought I knew plenty to be a good referee. How wrong I was.
When my son started at 10 years old, he had me alongside him. We worked almost every game together. We were a team on and off the pitch. After the game, we could reflect on the game and deal with challenging decisions together. Had I not been there, I'm not sure he would've stuck with it for over 7 years. It can be intimidating to say the least.
That is why I really go out of my way to make new youth referees feel as comfortable as possible and do everything I can to help them be the best they can be. Yesterday I worked with 2 young refs. One who started in the fall and one who was on his first day!!! Both of them did great.
Young Ava, who was in her first year, looked very professional on the pitch. I was very impressed. Her positioning could be improved especially on plays around the goal line, but otherwise, she will make a great ref.
Johnny, who was only in his third match ever on his first day, was willing to listen and learn. That is critical! As expected his flag mechanics and foot positioning need the most coaching. Getting the 45 degree angle right on throw-ins, holding his flag straight up and being confident on Offside calls was his greatest opportunity for improvement.
When working with young refs, it's important to be positive and only give limited instruction. Giving them any more than one or two things will be overkill. Personally, I want us to be on the same page with eye contact and for flag mechanics to be tight. If we look good as a team, it will go a long way to making sure we have credibility on the pitch.
Starting anything new isn't easy. These two young teens have made a bold decision to get a job, become a referee and start earning money well before their peers. I hope their interaction with me was positive, gave them some confidence and encouraged them to stick with it for years to come.