Skip to content

Cambridge Youth Soccer's goal to recruit and retain referees pays off

Referee numbers remain below pre-pandemic levels but are back on the rise
20210722 Adult Soccer 0107
The number of local referees within the Cambridge Youth Soccer Club is trending upward. EVAN BUHLER RMO PHOTO

With the soccer season about to begin, Cambridge Youth Soccer is seeing positive trends in the number of referees available to officiate matches.

Just last summer, CYS general manager Derek Bridgman said finding referees was becoming difficult, with retention rates hovering around the 20 per cent mark coming out of the pandemic.

But head referee Nadia Shenurina now says those numbers are looking up after the organization put a focus on recruitment and retention.

When it comes to youth, there's been a 25 per cent increase year-over-year. A significant jump considering the importance of introducing people to the job.

To try and create a positive experience for young referees, CYS offers a mentorship program through the Ontario Soccer Association to ensure ongoing development and learning opportunities.

"Refereeing soccer is a fantastic summer job for all ages, but it is especially for younger match officials as there is a lot of flexibility in terms of scheduling," Shenurina said.

"You can referee one to two games, any day of the week and often in nice summer weather. What we're also seeing is families getting together and registering to officiate together. It's a great way for kids and their parents to spend time together, earn a bit of money and enjoy the outdoors."

Female rentention numbers are also on the rise, with a 38 per cent increase year-over-year.

While that number is certainly positive, Shenurina said women represent just 11 per cent of the club's overall pool of referees and states there's "still a lot of work to be done" in the area.

Based on primary registration, which ended March 31, the club's pool is up by 43 per cent from last year.

"The vast majority of our referee pool comes from Kitchener, Cambridge and Waterloo," Shenurina said.

"Our average match official age is 41 years of age, which again is fantastic as this gives us an opportunity to bring together our experienced returning match officials as mentors, educators and leaders by example to our new and returning youth match officials."

Shenurina has seen a dramatic number coming from Kitchener with an increase of 156 per cent, while Cambridge-based officials are up eight per cent. Those coming from Waterloo have dropped 43 per cent.

"Overall, the numbers are still lower than pre-pandemic," she said.

"However, based on the trends I'm seeing and with a focus on development and supporting our match officials, I'm confident we'll be back soon."