Referee Exchange Puts Lone Star Staters
On The Field at Starfire

Players in the high-school girls semifinals and finals of the 2013 US Youth Soccer Washington State Championships weren’t the only ones on the field feeling big-event jitters.

Two referees working the State Championships were on loan from the South Texas Referee Association, part of a referee exchange that allowed youth referees from different states to experience the game beyond their borders.

Janae Thompson and Lindy Strahan made the trip from Texas in May to work the multiple games at Starfire Sports, including the GU19 semifinals, a GU17 game and the GU16 finals. Thompson said that it was an eye-opening experience.

“It took me awhile to adjust to their style of play,” she said. “In Texas, the girls play just as physically as the guys do. They have been coached to be physical and to play through fouls. They want as little interference as possible. So it took me a while to understand what the players wanted out of my whistle. They wanted me to step in much more than I am used to.”

Thompson, now 22 and a student at Texas Lutheran University, has been refereeing since she was 14. Already a player and junior coach, she was eager to try her hand at the one aspect of the game she hadn’t yet tackled — the whistle. She learned quickly that refereeing presents unique challenges — especially for a female working a boys game.

“When a man walks onto the field, he has an easier time earning respect from the very beginning, whereas I have to prove myself to the players. I have walked onto fields and heard parents, players and coaches say ‘She is not going to know anything, she’s a girl,’” Thompson says. “I enjoy [having the] chance to prove their stereotypes wrong.”

Over the past eight years Thompson has proven enough people wrong to rise quickly through the ranks in South Texas; when the opportunity came up for two referees to make the trip to Washington, hers was one of the first names on the list.

“I was so excited,” she recalls. “After I got the confirmation that I was going, I started getting nervous. I was thinking about how much different soccer could be up there, different styles of play, different styles of refereeing, different styles of coaching. I was thinking about all of the things that I would have to adapt to and I began preparing.”

The trip, though, was a resounding success. Both Thompson — who worked the whistle on GU19 and GU16 games, and ran lines on a GU17 game — and Strahan made a strong impression on Washington Youth Soccer’s Referee Program Director, Will Niccolls.

“They were tremendous,” Niccolls said of the two Texas refs. “We look forward to providing our own referees with similar opportunities in the future.

Thompson says, though, that the experience in Washington has prepared her well for her own refereeing career.

“It helped me learn to adapt to the game and the players better,” she said. “I know that as I move up I will be refereeing in different places, with different styles, with different people and Washington really helped me start to learn how to do that.

“Refereeing can be an amazing opportunity, if you treat it as one,” she added. “I get to travel, meet new people, and experience things I would not get to with any other ‘normal’ job. I would tell someone that if they are passionate about the game and wanting to know it better, that refereeing is the best way to do it.”

To learn more about becoming a referee in Washington state, click here!

Washington Youth Soccer

Washington Youth Soccer • 500 S. 336th St. Suite 100 • Federal Way, WA 98003
1-877-424-4318 (Toll Free) • (253) 4-SOCCER (476-2237)

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