On May 16, 2015 I walked into the field for my first NWSL game between The Boston Breakers Vs. Portland Thorns FC; my first professional game of my career. I was the 4th official of the match. This is marked on my calendar as one of the greatest achievements in the past 18 years of refereeing. I was just as nervous as the 1st day I stepped onto the field in a referee uniform for my U8 game. My hands were sweaty, my legs felt weak and the nerves were kicking in. For me it did not matter what role I had in the crew. My job was just as important as everybody else’s in the crew and I wanted to do my best for a successful match. After the initial whistle and after the nerves settled down, I realized that I had the best seat in the house and enjoyed every minute of it. I finished the year with 3 NWSL games . 2 were in Boston and 1 was in Western New York.
On February 13 of this year, a week after coming back from National Camp in Arizona, I received an E-mail from Sandra Serafini, the Women’s Referee Manager for the Professional Referee Organization (PRO). The email was inviting me to attend the NWSL pre-season camp in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I could not contain my excitement and replied right away.
The camp was held on March 18th through the 21st. There were 43 referees invited and being part of such an elite group was just an honor and such an amazing experience. The room was filled with National and FIFA referees. At registration we picked up our training shirts, got our ears molded for the communication systems and got our body composition measured by the organization’s sport scientist. Throughout the weekend we received amazing instructions and field training by some of the top instructors in the country. The instructions received were very clear and geared towards the expectations from us at this level. We watched a lot of videos. Some of them were on what to do and some of them were on what not to do. Most videos were league games from last year and most of the referees in the video were also present in the room. Having 43 of the top referees in the country critique you on video is something that was not comfortable at the beginning. At this level is something we have to get used to as every play will be replayed, slowed down and critiqued by people all over the country. The pressure of getting every call correct is elevated by knowing that your performance is being judged every single minute of the game. The meals for the 3 days were provided and chosen by the organization’s nutritionist.
As I looked around the room I couldn’t help to notice that we had people from all over the world. One of the reasons I love the sport is because it brings people from different parts of the world together. The passion for the sport is a universal language that could be understood by everybody. I have attended many events in the past 18 years and I have noticed that the best referees are also the most humble people I have ever met; the NWSL camp was not the exception. After critiquing ourselves on video, we also recognized that it’s a lot easier to get the call correct when you are able to slow it down, pause and rewind the video as many times as we want. On the other hand we have to be aware that we are subject to this on every call we make. The part-time to make some extra cash has become a profession and like any other profession, it requires dedication, discipline, passion and hard work. People’s jobs are at stake, players careers are in your hands and every call counts.
We all started refereeing for similar reasons. My reason for continuing has changed throughout the years, however my passion for refereeing has just gotten stronger. One of the toughest challenges I am faced with every day is to be able balance family, work and refereeing. Being part of the 2016 NWSL pre-season camp has only increased my hunger to keep growing as a referee and to become one of the best in the country. Being part of the 2016 NWSL pre-season has increased my hunger for continuing to have the best seat in the house.
Follow your dreams, but most of al work hard for them. They will become reality when you least expect it