This fall, Heartland Soccer Association rolled out its new Referee Mentoring Program to help stem the tide of referee attrition, which can reach up to 75% annually. Kansas Soccer
Association certifies hundreds of new referees each year, and most of them are under
the age of 15. These kids chose to become referees because they love the game (and it puts
a little spending money in their pockets). But when faced with the reality of screaming
coaches and negative parents, many of them decide refereeing is not worth the abuse. Losing
that many referees after their first few seasons is detrimental to the players, coaches, parents,
and the game as a whole. So much of being a good referee is based on experience (making
mistakes, then learning from them), and when we lose those first and second year referees, we
lose their learning experiences too.
Heartland's new Mentors are there to watch those newly certified refs and those with more
experience. The Mentors themselves are drawn from Heartland's own referee roster and
include officials working high school, college, and even professional matches. Drawing on
this wealth of experience, the Mentors offer positive, encouraging feedback. They applaud
good habits and help newer referees learn from the mistakes they make. It is important for the
new referees to HAVE FUN during the ongoing process of learning to officiate in order to
keep them around for next year.