How to Become a Referee

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Team sports have a lot of rules and regulations and trained professionals are required to ensure they are always followed. Referees are trained sports officials that oversee a variety of athletic and sporting events.


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In 2015, I said goodbye to 16-hour days and hauling boxes up and down stairs for a living (I was a mover). I became a full-time entrepreneur, and I made my money by helping business owners make money.

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What does a referee do?

Referees observe the play of sporting events, competitions, and games to maintain play standards and make sure all players are following the rules and regulations. They anticipate play and take positions to best see a variety of actions, evaluate the situations, and impose penalties on players or teams for violations. They judge performance in competitions to determine results, award points, and determine scoring penalties. Referees often signal participants or other officials to regulate play and identify violations. They also keep track of time and start and stop game play during necessary points. Some referees examine sporting equipment to make sure they comply with safety regulations.

What kind of training does a referee need?

Referees need at least a high school diploma and an extensive knowledge of major sports. Many referees complete formal training from community colleges and universities. Prospective referees often complete courses in sports management, communication, public speaking, and motivation. Many aspiring referees complete volunteer experiences with youth sports teams and community events to gain practical experience. Many referees begin their careers working for small sports teams and advance to higher positions as they gain the necessary skills and experience. Referees that work for high school athletic events must pass a written examination on the rules of the particular sport and they must register with their state. Referees that work for professional sports need extensive experience and must pass a thorough background check.

What are the prospects for a career as a referee?

Employment of referees is expected to grow about as fast as average for all professions, increasing 10% from 2008 to 2018 (1). The growing population and increase in team sports will drive job growth.

Job prospects should be good with keen competition for high-level sports. Referees with advanced training and extensive experience will have the best job opportunities. Some job openings will stem from the need to replace referees that retire, transfer, or leave the field for other reasons.

How much do referees make?

As of February 2010, referees with 1 to 4 years experience earn average hourly rates between $9.00 and $19.00. Those with 5 to 9 years experience earn average hourly rates between $12.21 and $20.00 (2).

A career as a referee is a great choice with a strong interest in a variety of sports. Referees must have a solid understanding of the rules and regulations of a particular sport. Patience, physical stamina, self-confidence, and good leadership skills are necessary characteristics. Referees must have excellent communication and interpersonal skills and ability to interact with a variety of players, coaches, and other sports personnel. They must be able to control their emotions and make quick and effective decisions under stress and pressure.

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