My Displeasure with the Grassroots Referee Recertification Program

Kyle Roethlin, Staff Writer

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This past year, US Soccer changed the structure of its professional referee program. Prior to this last year, the system consisted of “grades,” each allowing the referee to officiate a different level of play. This system went from Grade 9 to Grade 1, with a vast majority of referees across the US Grade 8’s. The prior entry-level referee was “Grade 9.” Under this system, a Grade 9 referee was able to officiate recreational games of all levels and act as the assistant referee up to u14 travel games.   Under the new system, these nine grades were consolidated into five categories. They are Grassroots, Regional, National, Professional, and International. Grassroots Referees are now the old Grades 9, 8 and 7. Now, the entry-level is called “grassroots,” and allows a referee to officiate games up to the adult amateur level. This is a drastic change from the old system and many are wondering if it’s too drastic. However, with the new classification, referees are required to go through a brand new recertification system every year. 

Prior to the change, grade 9 referees would have to complete a quiz every year in order to continue reffing at the grade 9 level. Now, grassroots refs have to undergo an entire 4-hour course with a quiz in order to ref. This past week, I finally decided to get it over with and complete the course. In short, it was a pain. It treated participants as though they were brand new to refereeing. Sure, I am always happy to review my reffing skills and the laws of the game. In fact, that is part of being a good referee. But come on. Reteaching how to ref from my very first game when I have already reffed many is a waste of my time. In addition, many of the questions in this “quiz” essentially gave the answer away if the ref has half a brain. In all, I wish US soccer did the recertification program differently in a way that is more efficient and better constructed for experienced referees.