Referee Job Description

Referees officiate games or competitions. They explain and enforce rules, assess penalties, signal the start and end of games, stop play for reviews as needed and inspect sports equipment prior to the start of games. They might work for professional sports organizations, schools or community sports organizations. Referees might be used in such games and sporting competitions as baseball, basketball, football, boxing, volleyball or soccer.

As reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment growth rate for Referees is expected to be 5 percent through 2024. This projection is based on the expected demand for Referees as participation in organized sports continues to grow at the high school and college levels. Funding issues due to budget cuts in some school systems, however, could negatively impact this growth.

 

Referee Duties and Responsibilities 

To accomplish their primary goal of officiating sporting events, Referees are responsible for completing several tasks. We have reviewed several job listings and other sources and found the following among the core Referee duties and responsibilities.

Oversee Games

The main role of a Referee is to make sure that the rules of the game they are officiating are being followed by all players. A Referee will explain rules as needed and ensure that all participants understand these rules. Referees make calls regarding when these rules are broken and assess penalties. Referees will stop games as needed to review plays and might use videos to determine if a call has been made correctly.

Track Time of Events

In most cases, games or sporting competitions play out over a determined amount of time. It is typically up to the Referee to indicate the start and end of a game and to keep track of the time throughout the event. It is up to the Referee to decide if a game needs more than the allotted time to complete.

Inspect Equipment

Referees will usually conduct an inspection of equipment to make sure that it all meets the specifications of the organizations in which the games are being played. This might include checking the pressure of balls in football games or the types of bats used in Little League games. They will also inspect equipment to ensure it meets all safety standards.

 

Referee Skills

Working in a fast-paced environment, Referees need to have an eye for detail and possess strong verbal communication, decision-making and leadership skills. They should be able to easily resolve conflicts and utilize above-average customer service skills. Referees should be energetic and have the physical ability to be on their feet for long periods of time, as they will be standing, walking and even running during sporting events. In addition to these general skills, a Referee could be expected by potential employers to possess the following skills.

Core skills: Based on job listings and other resources we looked at, employers want Referees with these core skills. If you want to work as a Referee, focus on the following.

  • Possessing full knowledge of various sports rules and regulations
  • Enforcing rules
  • Assessing penalties
  • Examining sports equipment for compliance and safety adherence

Advanced skills: While most employers did not require the following skills, multiple job listings and related sources included them as preferred. Add these to your Referee toolbox and broaden your career options.

  • Promotes leagues and sports organizations
  • Ability to work in stressful situations

 

Referee Resources

It is beneficial to conduct additional research if you are considering working as a Referee. Below, we have provided links to online and print resources about this position.

On the Web

Referee Magazine – A long-running publication providing the most current news for Referees. Covers rules updates, game management strategies and information about educational and training opportunities.

Referee – A blog offering personal musings of a former professional Referee.

Third Blind Mouse – A personal look at the life of a soccer Referee. Includes articles about rules, safety, fouls and more.

Industry Groups

National Association of Sports Officials (NASO) – Begun in 1980, NASO provides professional and part-time Referees in all sports with training seminars, educational opportunities and publications.

The Referees’ Association – From career to legal advice, The Referees’ Association offers support to Referees at all levels.

Books

Successful Sports Officiating – A thorough guide to applying various management techniques to officiate sports events. Addresses everything from communication to time management.

Tough Calls: NHL Referees and Linesmen Tell Their Story – A book exploring how difficult it is to be a Referee, with professionals telling stories about blown calls and their aftermath.

For the Good of the Game: Modern Techniques and Practical Wisdom for Today’s Soccer Referee – Veteran professionals offer tips and insight into the current techniques applicable in modern soccer. Contains detailed information about rules, fouls, game control and game preparation.

 

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