It’s the second weekend of the 2014 SFSFL season, and the game returns to the historic Boxer Stadium, home of the SFSFL for the last 50 years, way before the MLS was even a dream. As Premier Division players warm up and prepare to give their final pep talks, league commissioner and SFSFL President, Leo Schoomilof, inspects the field for one last time before the action begins.
Officiating at these games are some of the west coast’s brightest young referees, carefully trained and selected by the California North Referee Administration (or CNRA for short). Like players and coaches, referees have their own passion for the beautiful game and many have dreams of officiating at the highest level possible. So the CNRA – which has 12,000 referees on it’s books – has created a new Tier 1 group of referees, comprising of over 40 talented men and women who represent the future of soccer in America.
Excited by the SFSFL’s high level of competition and talent, today’s Tier 1 referees have traveled from far and wide: Tucker Schwarberg from Turlock, Victor Rivas from Berkeley, Luis Ordaz from Thousand Oaks, Isai Baltezar and Charles “Chase” Zumpft from Reno (yes, Reno, Nevada).
It’s a long commute for many of them, but the high intensity and the complexity of the game is a worthwhile effort for referees who are looking to gain experience at the highest level possible at amateur level. In turn, players in San Francisco’s historic league, and many other of CSAN’s 23 affiliates, have the comfort of knowing that their games are officiated by the very best of America’s young rising talent.
During his time playing club and high school “ball”, Tucker Schwarberg, now 23 years old, tried his hand at refereeing as a way to earn extra money on weekends and in summer months. “You could make your own schedule and earn a good amount of money for a teenager.”, he says, “But then I got hooked.” Last week, Tucker was the fourth official for the Fresno Fuego v LA Galaxy 2 game. Today he’s center referee in an SFSFL Premier Division game. “I’d say the skill level is more or less the same but the players are a little fitter and faster.”
THe CNRA’s Tier 1 officials get together once a month for specialized training and receive special funding to travel to other states across the United States for vital refereeing experience. “It used to be that we would have to pay for all this travel out of our own pockets.” says Chris Hutchison, “But the CNRA has made a good change to help nurture our best refs”.
Chris Hutchison is a national official who, as well as having many years experience at a very high level, used to play in the SFSFL in his twenties. ”The Tier 1 program would be nothing without the assignors”, he adds, “They are the guys and gals who make this program work”.
Referee assignors are responsible for “assigning” the right referees to the right games. This is often a tricky task as the assignor needs to understand an official’s strengths and abilities as well as the level of competition of each team and the type of game they will be overseeing. The San Francisco Soccer League’s vice-president, Jeff Staben, is one such assignor and has been an avid champion of the Tier 1 program since it’s inception.
As the back to back matches at Boxer Stadium draw to a close, and the team managers give their player debriefs, our referees complete their match reports for submission to the San Francisco Soccer Football League. Two players were sent off today – one for kicking out at an opponent and another for preventing a clear goal-scoring opportunity. Those players will have to watch from the stands for a while, but at least they will all go home knowing that their futures will be reviewed promptly, fairly and with the spirit of the game in mind.
By the way, if you’re interested in becoming an referee, you might want to pay a visit to the CNRA website: http://www.cnra.net/
Getting involved is easy, you’ll get to meet great new people and you’ll enjoy playing one of the most important roles in our precious game.