The Calgary Minor Soccer Association wants young people to know they can hit the soccer pitch without being a player.
And, it helps the city sport organization slide tackle a potential problem.
(CMSA) is launching First Call, a program that will help youth recognize a different pathway to developing within soccer.
First Call is a funding program for anyone 14 years of age or older who is interested in becoming a soccer referee during the 2020-2021 Indoor Season.
Susan Cress, CMSA’s executive director, said they Calgarians to know there are more ways to be involved in soccer than just playing.
“It’s important that individuals recognize the different opportunities beyond playing, including officiating or coaching,” she said.
“We believe in the benefits soccer provides youth and encouraging them to be physically active.”
Cress said First Call is a great way for the CMSA to introduce individuals to the referee pathway and for the organization to add new referees to their database, while tackling a probable shortage in officials.
“We anticipated a decline in referees across the city,” said Cress.
“A number of our referees also play, and coach, and individuals are making decisions based on what best fits them.”
A new approach to the game
Cress said referees are an important piece in a child’s soccer experience. She said that CMSA wants to promote the different pathways people can have to be a part of the game.
But a long time Calgary soccer player explained that there’s one major difference between playing and officiating.
“When I’m down on myself, I have teammates to pick me up,” said Stine-Marie Thorne.
“But referees don’t have a team.”
Thorne has been playing soccer for 15 years. The teams she played on were a part of the CMSA organization.
But she recognizes the importance of refereeing, and how it can provide a different form of participation for youth in the sport.
Referees often get criticized for the decisions they make. That could be difficult for young people to get over without the same support system a team would provide.
Criticism and overcoming challenges are an important part of sports, and CMSA believes that the First Call program will help youth grow and learn through soccer.
Becoming an official
To become a referee in Alberta, you’re required to complete the Entry Level Referee Course. As the game transitions to the indoor season and introduces variations of the sport such as futsal, boarded and boardless soccer. Referees must also complete the Indoor Conversion Course.
Each year referees must renew their credentials by taking the Refresher Course.
First Call will cover the costs of courses, including entry level refereeing, indoor conversion, or the refresher course for new referees or for former refs who haven’t updated their officiating credentials for a while.
Cress said that CMSA recognizes the financial burden for referees in these challenging times and wants to help relieve the cost, while attracting new referees to the role.
Alberta Soccer Association (ASA) is offering one-day Entry Level Courses in Calgary, Oct. 24, 25 and 31, at the CMSA office.
While the Indoor Conversion Course combines online and in-class learning, and the Refresher Courses can be completed online.