9 March 2009; Atlanta, Georgia – “The worst critics of referees are…other referees!” This statement was no truer than when a group of International referees attended the recent

2009 US Power Soccer Association (USPSA) Eastern Regional Championships.16 officials from six countriestraveled to Atlanta, Georgia, to attend a senior referee clinic hosted by the Fédération Internationale de Powerchair Football Associations (FIPFA) and then to officiate the tournament of 15 teams from New York to Florida playing 34 matches over 3 days. The referees included two from Denmark [Anne-Marie Svendsen (32 years old) and Kim Mølbach (25)], three from Canada [Ben Whitaker (47), Gordon Marks (54), and Ken Cunningham (51)], three from France [Anthony Morchoisne (33), Nicolas Balin (29), and Romuald Bouvier (31)], one from Portugal [Luis Almeida (35)], two from England {Allen Harrison (43) and Adam Parry (30)] and five from the US [Shane Butler (34), Doug Wolfe (33), Andy Green (40), Billy Hale (22), and Chris Mulholland (50)]. The group had extensive powerchair football and outdoor football experience: 2 had officiated the 2007 Powerchair Football World Cup in Tokyo, Japan; 3 had worked the 2008 European Powerchampion’s League in Douai, France; 3 had Major League Soccer (MLS) experience; 1 is an International Futsal Referee for FIFA; and all of them had worked national powerchair football championships in their respective countries.

On Thursday, 5 March, the referees spent a whole day in the classroom participating in discussions and instruction before moving to a powerchair football field for a practical session.

The overall goals of the clinic were to certify international referees, and begin developing referee instructor and assessment programs. The subjects covered in the clinic included FIPFA’s expectations of international referees, updates from FIPFA’s recent Rules Committee meeting in San Francisco, discussions on the interpretation and application of various aspects of the laws, the traits of a successful professional referee, the development of national referee programs, and the assessment standards for judging the performance of referees on the field.

Over the following three days (6-8 March), the international referees took turns officiating matches at the 2009 Eastern Championships while being watched and evaluated by the other referees. At the end of each match, the referees then met with their peers and reviewed their performances. In addition, all the coaches at the tournament were provided with forms to rate and comment upon the performance of the referee crew. These reviews were included in the post-match debriefs of the referees. It was during these sessions that the referees came to realize that their worst critics were themselves.

Across the board, the referees were hearing praise from the coaches such as the following comments, “[this was the] best officiating I’ve ever seen”, “this ref is of the highest caliber”, and “I really enjoyed watching this ref work our game.” Meanwhile, the referees were being brought back down to earth by their peers in self-critique sessions that identified areas that they could improve upon, such as better recognition of fouls and infringements of the laws, better management of players and coaches, and enhanced techniques for establishing presence and making signals.

The overall goal of these sessions was to provide the players with the quality officiating they deserve and to help each referee reach his or her highest potential.

During these 4 days together, the referees also participated in team building events such as a playing a futsal game between Europe and North America (but we won’t relate what the final score was!) and enjoying the menus of different local ethnic restaurants.

The tournament ended with an awards banquet and recognition of the referees for their exemplary performance and professional decorum by the players, coaches and spectators.

Before they left for their home countries, all the referees agreed that this had been an enjoyable and educational experience and that further exchanges of referees between countries would help this new sport as it continues to grow.