Becky Pagan paves way for girls and women to join referee ranks
DAN WOOG // MEMBER SINCE 1983
The ad ran this past Mother ’ s Day in the Daily Herald , the largest newspaper in suburban Chicago .
“ Join the Women in Black : Mothers , Daughters , Sisters , Referees ,” it read . “ Become a Soccer Referee .”
Benefits were listed : “ Earn income . Flexible hours . Work outdoors . Great college credentials . Build confidence . Learn leadership . Contribute to the Beautiful Game .”
Four female officials stared directly — and authoritatively — into the camera . They ranged from Yatzeni ( an 8th-grader ) and college students Solange and Yuzim ( the latter , U . S . Youth Soccer ’ s 2022 National Young Referee of the Year ) to Becky , holding a baby .
Her credentials were impressive . Becky Pagan has been a “ woman in black ” for 26 years . She ’ s a U . S . Soccer National Referee , with professional league , NCAA and NAIA championships — for both genders — on her resume .
In May , she had just been named Illinois Youth Soccer Association ’ s state referee administrator . The ad was part of the organization ’ s outreach efforts . Finding officials has never been easy . Post-COVID — with referees retiring or not returning in droves — it ’ s tougher than ever . The IYSA ranks have shrunk from about 5,000 to 3,000 , Pagan says .
The number of female refs is particularly small . Pagan does not have exact figures , but estimates that fewer than 10 % are girls or women .
In the 50 years since Title IX was enacted , playing and coaching has become much more attractive to females . Officiating has not kept pace . The issue is not unique to soccer .
There is abuse — usually verbal , sometimes physical . It comes from coaches , players and parents . “ When people show up to a sporting event , they seem to forget all politeness and decorum . They think it ’ s OK to yell and scream , no matter how young the referee is ,” she says .
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