With the shortage of sports officials in youth sports, now is a great time to become a referee. It would be a shame if our kids lost the opportunity to play the sports they love because there were no referees or umpires to officiate games.

If you’re interested in becoming a youth sports official, remember that it takes dedication. It can be emotionally and physically demanding. But while the job can be frustrating at times, it can also be very gratifying and fun. Here are four basics of being a youth sports referee:

Certification and Training

Policies on game officials depend on the sports league; some don’t require their referees to be certified. However, acquiring certification helps build your credibility as an official, and it may even allow you to charge more for your services. And because accreditation requires training and testing, you expand your knowledge of your role and responsibilities.

Know the Rules of the Game

Know the game inside and out. Don’t rely on the rules as you remember them from when you played in high school or college; the rules may have changed by now. All youth sports leagues should have a book on the game rules. However, it would be wise for you to have a copy to review when needed. And if your learning style is more auditory and visual, there are also videos you can watch that will teach you the rules of the sport.

Have a Pregame Routine

Just like athletes warm up for a game, so should you mentally. Look sharp in a clean uniform. Never rush to a game; arrive early. Meet with the other referees officiating the game. Inspect the playing area for any potential hazards. Meet briefly with the coaches. Ensure your whistle works. Give yourself a pep talk and get ready for a great game between kids who are eager to have fun playing the game they love.

Mental Toughness

From irate coaches to enraged parents, referees need to be mentally and emotionally prepared for coaches and parents who lose their cool. Not everyone will agree with your call. People are surprised how hot-tempered things can get at a sports event for children. However, when you think about how overprotective some parents can get, you will understand why.

As a sports official, you need to be prepared for parents who take it personally when you call a foul on their kid or coaches who think you made a bad call. You will be booed and called names. Remember that you can’t please everyone. The reality is that there will be times when you will misread a play and get some calls wrong. The best thing you can do is remember your training, know the rules, and ignore the negativity.

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