Volume 73, Number 50 | March 14 - 20, 2004

Sports

Youngster has right stuff to referee at Pier 40

By Jill Stern

During the winter soccer season at Pier 40, I saw Ben Maer, age 15 and a freshman at Bronx High School of Science, every weekend, because he was the referee at my daughter’s games. All the moms on the sideline at the indoor field were impressed with Ben. I recently interviewed him via e-mail about his part-time job as a soccer referee with the Downtown Soccer League. He is one of only five teenagers the league hired.

Manny D’Almeida, who is responsible for hiring the refs, when asked about why he chose Ben, said he is one of the nicest and most polite kids around. “Ben is a bit introverted and shy, but strong willed enough to be assertive, hopefully not to the point of being obnoxious,” said D’Almeida. “He has fine easy-going qualities and his childlike personality is definitely comfortable with the kids.”

I interviewed Ben by e-mail. Here’s how our correspondence went:

Q: Do you play soccer yourself?

A: Yes, I do.

Q: How long have you been playing?

A: Since I’m 6 years old, so nine years. Recreational soccer in fall with Downtown Soccer League in Tribeca for nine years; competitive at Chelsea Piers in winter for three years; soccer team at Lab Middle School in seventh and eighth grades; varsity soccer at Bronx High School of Science for one year so far.

Q: How did you start refereeing?

A: In fall 2003, Manny D’Almeida asked me to be the referee for the 6-9-year-olds at Downtown Soccer League, and I did. Then, this winter, he asked me to ref for the same age group at Pier 40.

Q: Were you trained and who trained you?

A: I didn’t have any formal training like going to a ref school. I trained and learned the rules from my nine years of experience playing and from good coaches and refs who instructed me. And then, when I got the ref job, Manny sent me e-mails with the specific rules for each age group and that I should teach the kids while they play.

Q: Do you like your job?

A: Yes. I enjoy it.

Q: What was the best call you made?

A: It’s hard to answer that question. Since I ref only little kids, nothing much happens that is too difficult to call.

Q: Have any parents or children questioned you about any of your calls?

A: The kids have never questioned me, but the parents have a few times. Once the ball hit the crossbar of the goal, and I called it not a goal. The parents complained that it was the net from the goal that kept it out. Another time, a kid side-tackled on an indoor field, which isn’t allowed, and I called it a “dangerous play” and the other team got the ball, and some parents complained. Another time, the goalie caught the ball but his feet were just inside the net so I called it a goal. The parents of the goalie’s team argued with me about it. But Manny told me to just call it as I see it, and I was right each of these times, so I stuck to my guns. Also, I know from my own experience that you just don’t argue with the ref. In a way, the parents argue with me less than they would with an adult coach because they are too embarrassed to argue with a kid; so I think I don’t get yelled at as much as the grownup coaches might.

Q: Do you ref at school at all?

A: I am a freshman at Bronx High School of Science. I am on the varsity soccer team so, no, I don’t ref at school. And I’m too young and inexperienced to ref competitive games of kids my own age. You need to be older and better trained than I am to ref teenagers.

Q: What else would you like to mention about yourself and the referee job?

A: It’s a great job if you love soccer.

Watching Ben inspired me to ask Manny if my kids have a future in refereeing.

“At this age, it is far too early,” he said. “As far as personality is concerned, it would depend upon where he/she will be used. In some adult leagues, a referee needs to be stern to control the game. In recreational leagues, the personality becomes most important. The referee is required to be user-friendly, if I may use the term. Compassionate, with a warm smile, and instructional, like a good coach, would be the requirements.”

Then D’Almeida added, “Referees are no different than any other profession. They are all as different as their personalities. When you find a good one, get the name, contact number and hold onto it.”

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