Recently, I was asked to write a biography about my journey of becoming a FIFA Assistant Referee. Reflecting has been fun and I hope that my experiences will provide encouragement for other young referees.
It’s been an interesting journey – one that has taken me countless miles and across the paths of many different people. I owe endless gratitude to those who provided me with opportunity, support, encouragement and guidance. My deepest appreciation goes to my family and local state association, PA West. Refereeing at this level comes at a high cost of being away from my family for extended periods of time, and without their patience and support, I would not have been able to pursue this career.
I began my refereeing career in Washington, PA at the age of 12. As a young player in summer soccer at the Washington Youth Soccer Fields, I was impressed with the referees who worked the games. When I realized they got paid, I thought that being a referee was something I might like to do. At that time, the closest certification clinic was a six week workshop, one night a week at Chartiers-Houston High School. My parents made sure that I got to each session and in 1987, I became a “certified soccer Referee.”
My first game was on my thirteenth birthday at the Washington Park soccer field where I ran the line for a U19 boys game. The game seemed so fast and the ball moved from foot to foot so quickly. As time went on, I gained confidence and began to feel comfortable being on the field as a referee. I liked the excitement of making quick decisions and controlling the match. Refereeing soon became an important part of my life. I was doing something I liked and getting paid for it.
It is important to realize that my journey to getting my International Badge was not always smooth and easy. I have experienced many frustrating times, especially refereeing players in the Amateur Leagues in which I often felt as if I was “going into battle.” It was also very frustrating and seemed very difficult when upgrading to the next level. Dozens of assessments and much needed encouragement from fellow referees and administrators was sometimes needed to obtain my next badge. However, through the frustration I somehow felt a need to persevere.
In January 2004, I received my National Badge and shortly after was asked to choose a direction. I had to decide whether to specialize in being a Referee or an Assistant Referee. Following one of my mentor’s leads, I chose the path of an Assistant Referee because this role fits my personality, and I felt that I could better serve the game at a higher level as an Assistant Referee. I’m really a “black and white decision maker,” and I enjoy making game influencing calls.
I never set my goal to be an International Referee. My goal when I was younger was to be yelled at by 25,000 fans. I have always gone game by game and learned one thing from each game and let my future be determined by the last game that I officiated. I have surpassed my original goal and now hope that my future games will lead me down the path to represent the United States at the next World Cup in Russia.
As I begin my 29th year of refereeing, I have refereed over 280 professional matches, 79 International matches, 10 World Cup Qualifiers, 2 MLS Cup Finals, 1 MLS All-Star Game, over 30 matches representing the United States outside of this country and have been yelled at by over 90,000 fans with one decision.
From this experience, the most important advice I can give to young referees who aspire to advance through the ranks of soccer is to avail yourself to as many games as possible, do your best, be patient, listen to suggestions and constructive criticism, learn from others, learn from your own mistakes and most importantly, do not argue. I feel that it is very important to keep an even balance in life with your family, your work, and soccer. When the scale gets tipped, you will not be successful.
Being a FIFA Referee has been a rewarding experience for me. One through which I’ve learned, made lasting friendships, made many mistakes, endured frustration and ultimately grown as a person. Growth takes time, sacrifice and experiences, none of which can be rushed. Other referees, assessors and administrators have a wealth of knowledge and experience to share, so attending workshops and forming relationships within the soccer family is important. Your local soccer association will always be a source of support, a place to learn, feel comfortable, make mistakes and “give back.”
- 1987 – (Age 12) Grade 8 Certified Referee
- Refereed as many games and open tournaments a possible
- 1991 – (Age 17) Grade 7
- Refereed regular games, open tournaments, Region I Tournament and Amateur League games
- 1995 – (Age 21) Grade 6
- Refereed regular games, Region I tournaments, State Cup Tournament, Youth National Championship (Orlando, FL)
- 1999 – (Age 25) Grade 5
- Refereed regular games, tournaments, invited to referee ODP National Championship (Phoenix, AR), Riverhound Professional Team
- 2001 – (Age 27) Grade 5 National Candidate
- Invited to U14 Academy (Concord, MA)
- January 2004 – (Age 29) National Badge
Made decision to pursue AR Badge
Invited to referee Soccer Festival Finals (Milwaukee, WI) as Assistant Referee
- March 2005 – (Age 30)
- MLS pre-season (Charleston, SC)
- November 2006 – (Age 32)
- Nominated by US Soccer to the International Panel of Assistant Referees
- February 4, 2007 – (Age 32)
- Received International Badge from FIFA (Los Angeles, CA)
CONCACAF Gold Cup
U17 World Cup (Nigeria)
MLS Cup Final (Real Salt Lake vs LA Galaxy)
- MLS Cup Final (Colorado vs Dallas)
CONCACAF Gold Cup
MLS All-Star Game
CONCACAF Gold Cup
CONCACAF Gold Cup Final
Refereeing soccer has been a hobby of mine over the years. Of all of my accomplishments, I am most proud of my ability to balance my life. I have been happily married for 11 years and am a proud father of 2 beautiful daughters and a son. I invest in real estate, own a self-storage business (Emlenton Storage) and a wetland seed business (Enviro-seeds) and also volunteer as a pole vault coach at Slippery Rock University.