Introducing Erika, the assertive referee in Calgary minor soccer
By April Cruz
Refereeing soccer games in Calgary minor soccer is at times a thankless job. There’s more to the role than blowing a whistle when players are breaking a rule.
It is no secret that the amount of male referees far outweigh the amount of females found in the position. The reason perhaps, there are simply more males signing up.
There’s a Calgary minor soccer player who decided to change the perception of ‘only boys can ref’ and took the whistle into her own hands.
Meet Erika, a 16 year old who really enjoys refereeing Calgary minor soccer games. She also plays on the girls U16 Tier 2 team, Blizzard Lynx.
Her father, Robert, is currently a referee for Calgary minor soccer and has been for severeal years. There has been another influence as well, that turned Erika on to refereeing.
“There’s a ref, his name’s Mario and he changed my whole aspect on everything,” she said. “Sometimes, if there’s a call made, a referee might bend but Mario never took anything.”
Being exposed to a female referee changed her perception.
“And then I saw a female ref one time. When I was younger, I actually thought every referee had to be a boy. I saw a female and I said ’I can ref?’ ok!” Erika said.
Please help us serve you better by filling out this brief survey form. We thank you for your feedback and your commitment to local online news about Calgary Minor Soccer.
The Calgary Minor Soccer Association (CMSA) offers courses and mentorship programs, open to everyone and anyone over 12 years old interested in becoming a referee.
Erika enjoyed the training and mentorship provided through the program. She believes it has made the difference when it comes to handling the challenges of being not only a female referee, but a young female.
“I feel like people don’t take me seriously ’cause I am a girl, but as long as you show your dominance on the field, you’re set,” she said. ”Like making strict calls, and you don’t take anything from the players. You always make sure that your calls are definite, not suggestive.”
One of the mentors that she was thrilled to work with during the CMSA Mentorship program was the influential referee himself, Mario.
‘It’s good to hear the stuff that you need to work on, and I need to hear that all the time. If it’s not refereeing, it’s (playing) soccer and all the other sports,” she added. “So it’s really good to go through mentoring. I know a few girls that didn’t go through it and they don’t ref now.”
Erika spoke of the ’trouble from parents, players and coaches’ that she has to deal with. She credits the mentorship and training for providing tools to handle these situations. As well, that these types of challenges are a main reason young referees quit.
“You get a lot of parents and coaches challenging you, all the time. Even when I’m just a linesman, I’ll get a ‘what kind of call was that!’ and am not supposed to say anything in response, it’s hard sometimes,” she said.
There have been logical limits put in place to help minimize the amount of ‘trouble’ a young referee might contend with. A referee between the ages of 12 to 18, will never referee a game of their age group or older.
The oldest age group Erika can referee is under 14 Tier 3.
Having refereed over 20 games this summer, there is some recognition happening.
“The coaches are recognizing me now and they tell their team ‘you cannot push and no hand balls, Erica’s refereeing’. It’s a fun thing now when teams recognize me,” she said.
The position of referee is a paying job within Calgary minor soccer leagues.
“And it’s good pay, it’s better than your typical summer job,” said Erika. “I thought about it, I could have done a summer camp or referee and I was like, I’ll do refereeing because I can ref indoor season too. It’s a year round thing.”
Between refereeing and playing games, Erika has had to manage her time wisely to squeeze in other sports and spending time with her boyfriend.
“Usually I don’t have morning trainings so I’ll hang out with him in the mornings and sometimes in the afternoons,” she said. More than likely her parents are just fine with that.
In addition to her long list of activities, she’s mentally preparing for an action packed fall. She’s heading to grade 11 and will be switching schools.
“I’m switching to Central Memorial to attend the National Sports Academy for soccer. I get to play soccer every day at school for an hour and a half.” she said.
Where on earth does she get the energy from?
“There’s these things called ‘Sharkies’ and they’re energy chews. I guess they’re good for you ’cause they’re natural but I probably shouldn’t eat them as much as I do,” said Erika.
Everyone has a vice. Let’s hope ‘Sharkies’ is all she has to struggle with.