Assessors will evaluate referees on a variety of factors, including positioning, mechanics and mobility. Sya Magee, Tacoma, Wash. (Photo Credit: Dale Garvey)

There are many myths and legends about assessors and their roles and responsibilities. Some officials do not want to be assessed because they do not understand how an assessor can help them improve. Others resist assessment because they feel they are better than other officials and do not need to hear from someone else about any shortfalls. The majority of officials, however, want to be assessed as an important part of their drive for steady improvement. Assessments can be related to continuing education in any other profession.

Similar to a referee, the assessor has duties and responsibilities before, during and after the game. The assessor should arrive at the match site approximately 15 minutes before the officiating crew‘s scheduled arrival to verify the crew was on time and had sufficient time to complete all pregame responsibilities. It is important the assessor greet the team and request permission to observe the pregame conference. This can be informative and insightful. By hearing what the referee expects of the assistant referees, the assessor can reflect on the pregame discussion in the feedback provided to the crew after the match. Once the pregame is completed, the assessor should go to an area where the match can be observed without outside interference from spectators, bench personnel or match administrators.

During the match, the assessor should take notes of situations, positioning, foul recognition and other facets of the crew’s individual performances. The notes should be abbreviated so the assessor can spend more time observing the match rather than looking down to take notes. Any note should include the time of the incident and, if necessary, where on the field it occurred. This will assist with giving specific feedback, including positive and negative items that occur during the match. An example of an informative, but brief, note: “At 11:35 in the first half — near halfway and touchline, hard foul by 13 green. Good whistle and verbal warning. Good position to make decision and defuse problem.” Such detailed information will serve as a recall for the assessor during feedback.

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While the assessor should be observing everything possible by the referee and assistant referees, there should be a focus on six key factors.


Is the referee moving with dynamic play to various parts of the field or remaining on a strict diagonal? Are the assistant referees staying with the second-tolast defender and in proper position to indicate offside?


Is the referee team using approved signals that are clear so all players know the decision? Are the assistant referees stopping a run before signaling or are they still moving? Is the whistle being used to let players know the difference between a hard foul and a normal restart?


Is the referee physically fit and able to make a long sprint during a transition of play and able to recover quickly? In contrast, does the referee apply the “they will come back” theory and not make deep runs even when necessary? Do the assistant referees follow every ball to the goalline? During dynamic play, do the assistant referees have the speed to stay with play and be in proper position to indicate a ball crossing the goalline and quickly return into play?

Moment of truth

Not every match has a situation that can impact the remainder of the match. However, if one occurs, how does the referee deal with the problem so that there is no retaliation later as a result of the particular incident? Does the referee move to the situation quickly, separate players and speak to the players involved in a professional manner? Does the referee immediately issue caution(s) or ejections(s) or take time to be sure of the decision to issue the cards? How does the referee control personal emotions during the situation? Does the referee remain professional or lose control of the situation because of emotion? What are the assistant referees doing in the situation? Are they observing players that are not involved to ensure there are no problems occurring away from the play? If near the incident, is an assistant referee working with the referee to regain control or allowing emotions to make the situation worse?

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Does it appear the referee and assistant referees are enjoying themselves or are they struggling to complete the match? Is the referee talking to players to assist with game control? How is the referee dealing with any problems from bench personnel? Is the referee letting players know when he or she is not pleased with a foul or action?


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Is the crew maintaining eye contact? Does the referee see all signals by the assistant referees and properly react to them? Does the referee reinforce the assistant referees with a thumbsup or smile when there is a critical decision? How are the assistant referees helping to control bench personnel? Does the referee signal to the assistant to take a particular position on a restart and is this consistent with what was discussed during the pregame conference?

Once the match is complete, the assessor must prepare for and conduct the feedback session. Prior to meeting with the officiating team, the assessor should review the notes and decide what three or four positive and negative points to stress during feedback. The assessor cannot overload the referee team with too many suggestions for improvement. Any topics discussed should focus strictly on game situations observed. The assessor should never just provide opinions but must focus on facts. The feedback should be a discussion among all parties involved and not just a monologue by the assessor. While the assessor should not accept excuses, it’s important to listen carefully to the referee about why a decision was made and help the referee through the process. Even if the referee does not perform well, the assessor should take an approach that helps build confidence and future improvement. Once feedback is completed, the assessor should thank the team for its efforts and leave the area.

The last responsibility for the assessor to complete is the written report, based on the feedback provided to the crew. It should not include additional information the officials were not made aware of during the discussion. As part mentor, part instructor, part counselor and sometimes more, the assessor must strive to provide a positive approach that can contribute to short- and long-term improvement by every member of the assessed officiating team.

John Van de Vaarst is a NISOA National Clinician, National Assessor and former State Level USSF Referee and Assessor from Cape May, N.J.

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Note: This article is archival in nature. Rules, interpretations, mechanics, philosophies and other information may or may not be correct for the current year.

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