Achievement+ Perspective+ Perseverance





Elite Side Referee Offers Innovative Referee Development 








WSA Soccer is excited to announce it has officially launched an innovative, new, and game-changing referee development platform, Elite Side Referee, a referee development academy.  

The ESR Academy platform will serve to recruit, identify, train, evaluate, and advocate for referees in the local area and beyond through a revolutionary training program which goes beyond the normal training elements of referee development. 

"The concept is transformative in terms of it's capacity to impact the game at all levels, and to engage an extended soccer community we all belong to," reports WSA Executive Director, Roger Bush. 

The program includes three levels of vertical transition for referees from "entry" to "excellent" to "elite", each hallmarked by certain milestones achieved by referees that go beyond numbers of games officiated and include extensive feedback, benchmarks achieved, and education. 

Regional referee "advocates", who have accrued game experience at the highest levels, will mentor new and young referees during the process of transitioning through the referee levels, and game assignments will be catered to assign referees to appropriate levels of matches.  Assessments will be offered, as well as informal evaluations and practical mentorship.  

Brian Barlow, founder of ESR, added, "Referees who want to advance often get ignored resulting in lack of motivation, lack of development , while missing out on a very real opportunity of understanding the pageantry and finesse of upper level officiating.  We have developed multiple platforms including a short based video curriculum giving officials the necessary “unspoken” behaviors of what it takes to blow the whistle in a high level competitive match."  

A virtual training academy will be accessible to members of the referee academy, and incentives and perks offered for referees who are selected and qualify to referee at upper level club events.  In fact ESR will be networked to some fo the premier league platforms in the nation, through WSA's current connectivity and associations, providing leverage and opportunity unique to aspiring referees.  


The young and developing referee will wear armbands which identify the referee as "protected" during her/his beginning phases.  This armband will indicate to site coordinators that the referee is "off-limits" for any interaction with adult spectators, parents, or coaches, and will be exclusively mentored and interacted with by the referee mentor.   

The novel concept of identifying and protecting the novice referee is driven by one of the ESR objectives, to grow the referee pool.  Recruitment is one aim.  However, the focus is retention.  Retaining new and young referees and providing opportunity for them to grow into the game, develop the leadership, decision-making, and understanding and applicability of the laws of the game requires both time and opportunity to fail.  The armband will help signify to the entire soccer community the development plan.  

"Education and information continues to be key and instrumental to our ability to unlock the great potential in our soccer community," reports Bush.  "As we communicate our intended purpose and why behind the ESR program and it's benefits across the community, I believe the advancement in referees will be one part of a larger growth in community, engagement, and collaboration towards changing the game-day environment for all stakeholders, first and foremost the players." 


The ESR Academy is comprehensive in approach.  From virtual training courses for referees, to mentorship and advancement opportunities, it will also include an element of training and engagement with the extended soccer community beyond the player-referee interaction.  

Sideline Over Self is an integration of the Side Before Self mantra of WSA Soccer and the core values that support that mantra. Sideline Over Self will include content, videos, tutorials, quizzes, and more to help guide parents, spectators, coaches, and even the referees and players, on nuances of the Laws of the Game, applicability of rules, and some of the traditions of the sport. 

Ever wonder why "offside" is so controversial?  Sideline Before Self has some answers, an explanation, and some advice.  Let the referees make the decision and try not to misapply the rule.  And certainly don't misstate the rule by pluralizing it, "offsides".  You can, after all, only be offside, once.  

WSA Referee Assignor, Chris Fanelli, is encouraged by the platform's early success and potential, "As an assignor and ref, I've seen both sides of what it takes to train and retain ref's.  Over the last couple of years we seen a movement away from individuals wanting to center games.  This is a result of behavior from coaches and parents.  This has caused a shortage of centers capable of handling any type of game.  With ESR we are going to retain the refs we have and train them correctly, recruit new refs and provide an environment in which they'll be able to flourish.  So then everyone can get REFFED UP!"


ESR will launch immediately.  Videos will begin to surface on WSA Social Media outlets intended to begin a widespread education process.  New referee certification classes will be offered locally.  Armbands will begin to show up at the fields with club's leadership present to help monitor and manage the newly recruited, developing referees.  

Barlow adds, "From local mentorship to a clear pathway to officiate anywhere in the country we’ve aligned a step by step system that can take you from “Grassroots” to D1 college and perhaps someday even PRO.     This is your invitation in taking the biggest and most beneficial step in your officiating journey with some of the highest game fees paid in the state combined with a plan of protection, our zero tolerance policy concerning bad sideline behavior actually resonates within the entire program creating a culture of development for ALL of our officials.  We expect you to make mistakes, learn from them and then get REFFED UP!"

Want to learn more?  See the links below.  It's always an exciting time to join The Side!