While most youth sports referees appear to be exclusively middle-aged men, officials of all ages, genders and backgrounds work games at the National Sports Center. With so many teams involved in most tournaments, the organization casts a wide net when looking for referees.
This means that plenty of young people obtain experiences working fun, active jobs within the sports industry. And yes, as a referee, it can’t hurt that the job compensation can help buy that iPhone or Xbox that your parents are making you pay for, but younger referees at this weekend’s NSC CUP agreed that the job is about more than making money.
Dylan Anderson, 15, said he started refereeing when he was 10 because of his love for the game of soccer.
“I always saw the refs doing it and thought ‘That seems like a fun job to have,’” Anderson said. “Rather than working at McDonald’s or somewhere else, I’d rather work at a job around what I love doing.”
That player-to-referee pipeline is an obvious but powerful one. When Brielle Haschey, 15, wanted to buy an iPhone when she was 12, she thought of the referees she always saw at her soccer games as a way to pay for it.
“But after a while, when I got the money to get it, I decided not to, because when I’m older I want to get a nice car,” she said, grinning.
Luke Willy, 17, who has been officiating National Sports Center games since he was in seventh grade, says it’s a good early job for young people.
“It’s easy money with choosing hours and stuff, and you still have time to be a kid and hang out with friends.”
Anderson added that his experience as an official has helped with his own budding soccer game.
“Now I also have a perspective for what the refs see, so it helps me on the field to not get upset or anything like that.”
The job also leads to cool experiences and fond memories. Elissia Rodriguez, 22, is starting her fourth season reffing at the National Sports Center and makes a point to come back from studying at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls to officiate games.
“I remember one cool experience was I got to center ref a USA CUP Mexico versus Poland game, which was really cool,” Rodriguez recalled. “It was a little hard with the language barrier, but it was really fun.”
Families with multiple referees can also use the job as a bonding experience. Jason Broska, a resident of Duluth, started refereeing when he was a kid and recently returned to the job when his teenaged son started officiating a few years ago, creating a cool father-son dynamic.
“He’s been playing in tournaments here for years, so I knew about referees,” Broska said. “He and a friend of his on his team, we drove down this morning and we’re just going to spend the day reffing.”
Young referees can even have fun in some unusual ways.
“I really like games in the rain,” Haschey said. “I remember I had one in the rain and I slipped a little bit, which was a bit embarrassing but also kind of fun.”
Broska said that he believes that refereeing is a good way for kids to learn the responsibilities that come with a job.
“I think it’s good for kids, before they’re able to have another job, to learn those types of skills and responsibilities,” Broska said. “My son started when he was 10 and I think he’s a lot better off for having learned how to do this.”
If you’re interested in refereeing at the National Sports Center, visit nscsports.org/referee or contact Referee Coordinator Karah Lodge at (763) 717-3238.
Referees work on campus throughout NSC CUP. The National Sports Center encourages referees of all backgrounds and ages to participate in tournaments (NSC/Carlee Hackl).