Community Sports

Whatcom County soccer referees see it all

Jozlin Peterson referees an exhibition match for Whatcom Youth Soccer on Sept. 2, 2014, at Western Washington University’s Robert S. Harrington Stadium.
Jozlin Peterson referees an exhibition match for Whatcom Youth Soccer on Sept. 2, 2014, at Western Washington University’s Robert S. Harrington Stadium. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Jozlin Peterson has been refereeing soccer games since she was 11 years old, and all kinds of people have crossed her path during the nearly 300 matches she has worked.

Singing players, unofficial timeouts and cursing coaches are only the beginning.

“Any match can go bad but it depends on your teams and your crew as a referee,” Jozlin said. “It’s just a matter of controlling it and letting the parents known that you’re in command and that you’ll watch the game.”

Jozlin, now 14, covers most youth tournaments in Whatcom and Skagit Counties and this weekend is working the Rimland Challenge, August 7-9, at Northwest Soccer Park.

Ultimately, her goal is to work the World Cup, already setting her sights on 2029. Since she was on a soccer team, she has always admired the referees for their role in maintaining order on the field.

Young referees are crucial within the soccer community, said Jozlin’s father and fellow referee Mark Peterson.

Three work every game, running the field alongside players to try and see each play from the best angle. It can be mentally and physically exhausting.

“It really is almost like doing an endurance sport over that weekend,” he said.

Mark is a Grade 7 referee and covers U9 to adult games. For him it’s a side job on weekends and nights, but it is also an opportunity to work alongside his daughter. Jozlin is Grade 8, meaning she can cover U12 and younger games.

To be certified, referees attend an eight-hour clinic annually and are tested on their field instruction.

According to the Washington State Referee Committee, it is suggested that refereeing begins at age 14, but Whatcom County allows 11 year old boys and girls to test into Grade 8 qualification.

Advancing as a referee is based on assessment and experience.

Assigners work with the community of referees and will watch games to decide if one can move on to cover a higher level of play. They also tell referees which games to cover, but it is fairly open and Mark said he can request the games or tournaments he will be available for.

Jozlin is appreciative of beginning. She started working U6 and U7 games but quickly advanced to U8. She was able to move along with the players and got to know many of them, their tendencies and playing styles on the field. Because of this connection she can become more confident in her calls, she said.

Open dialogue with players and coaches is the best way Jozlin has found to maintain a respectful game.

Still, she’s learned not everyone on the sidelines can be pleased.

A U11 game at Northwest Soccer Park provided her worst experience so far. The away team’s coach was upset when calls were made and when they were not. He was screaming obscenities at Jozlin and she could not get him to calm down.

“If you’re talking with the referees like this, how are you speaking to your players is what I always wonder,” she said.

The center referee backed up Jozlin by pulling a yellow card and threatening another to silence the yelling. After the game, the coach threatened to report her as an unfair referee.

In her 300 games to date, that event is her one negative review.

Not every memorable experience has been bad, some are inspiring and others simply funny.

One time, a very energetic U11 team boy sang the lyrics to Katy Perry’s “Shine Bright Like a Diamond” while running the entire game. When the ball got stuck in a drain pipe, he went in after it.

“The kid puts out his arm like superman and says, ‘Never fear, I’ll get the ball,’ then climbs into the pipe,” Jozlin said.

Another humorous incident happens regularly at the youngest levels of soccer. A 5 or 6 year old will be lining up for a shot and yell “stop” so he or she can make the play, then say “go” when they feel confident again.

In those moments, it may not make sense but everyone does stop, Jozlin said with a laugh.

Other times, Jozlin finds herself inspired by a team’s spirit. Last week at a Northwest United game the team cheer was “1-2-3 family!”

Family is what soccer is all about for Jozlin, especially as a referee.

Mentors and coworkers are always giving her tips to get better and she does the same for any new referees she meets.

Jozlin recalls one friend who had a bad experience and has not come back since.

“I don’t think that is something the parents recognize, she said. “When they yell at them or do things they won’t forget, it makes the kids not want to ref anymore.”

Jozlin and her family of coworkers cover more games in a season than most soccer players attend. She tries to help every new referee be successful because ultimately, they need a strong community to do this job, she said.

2015 Rimland Soccer Challenge

When: August 7-9

Where: Northwest Soccer Park