New Refs: Referees Are Athletes

Referees are athletes.

This statement may seem counterintuitive at first, but consider this: in higher level games, referees will run as much as a midfielder does. I keep a pedometer in my pocket when I referee and in a 90 minute match I will run anywhere from 3 to 6 miles depending on the game and level of competition.

Add in environmental factors like the air temperature, humidity level, and radiant heat from the sun, and you’ve got a recipe for trouble if you don’t take care of yourself.  In many areas of the country, referees are in short supply, so you may find yourself doing multiple games per day. While this is good for the wallet, it’s hard on the body, even when you’re young. I am constantly surprised at the number of young referees – most of whom are also players – who show up to referee three or more games on a hot day and don’t bring any water or sports drink with them. (This has become such a problem that I usually bring an extra quart size bottle of sports drink to give to a forgetful referee on my crew. The investment of $1 has paid dividends many times over.) And even in U10 matches, which is where many of you will be starting, it doesn’t take much excercise at a heat index of 90 F (or higher) to deplete your body of fluids. Have I made my point? YOU MUST STAY HYDRATED. Ideally, you should bring a refillable jug to the field so you can drink as much water as your body needs.

If you want specific hydration guidelines, these recommendations from the National Athletic Trainers’ Association may prove useful.

Along the same lines, it’s always a good idea to keep a non-perishable snack in your bag, like a PowerBar or something similar. Some assignors may not give you a break between games, so you’ll end up doing three in a row. The scheduling of these matches is such that you won’t have time to sit and eat a sack lunch. But a quick munch on an energy bar before a game or at halftime can help stave off the hunger pangs until your work day is done.

Finally, don’t forget the sunscreen and lip balm. Referees are out in direct sunlight for many hours straight and it’s just good common sense to make sure you are protected from sunburn.

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