April Bulletin 2023 | Page 9

Refereeing can be lonely . Unlike teams that grow close over a season , officials work with constantly changing partners — or solo . “ You ’ re either with a brand new ‘ team ’ every game , or you ’ re out there by yourself ,” says Pagan .
In Illinois youth soccer , pay increases have lagged . Many leagues pay a lump sum at the end of the season , too . “ When I worked at K-Mart , I got my money every two weeks ,” she notes .
Socially , Pagan adds , girls have not been brought up to think of themselves as authority figures . “ That ’ s changing . But it ’ s hundreds of years of systemic social history .” It ’ s hard enough for a new , young official to stand up to adults berating them from the sidelines and stands . It ’ s even tougher for girls — especially when they have few female role models .
Pagan caught the soccer bug early . She followed an older brother — first as a player , then a ref — in Algonquin , Illinois . With five brothers , she was used to being the only girl in many situations . Still , it was intimidating to be 12 years old , and the only girl among a couple hundred males , at her first officiating clinics .
At the same time , she found refereeing empowering . “ Most guys got paper routes , and girls babysat ,” Pagan recalls . “ I hated babysitting . But I liked soccer . And reffing a game for an hour , you got the same pay as five hours of babysitting .”
Her natural self-confidence helped too . Adult coaches yelled . But she learned to say , “ You ’ re standing at midfield . I was there . I saw the ball cross the line .”
Pagan ’ s playing career ended after high school and club teams . Then her officiating career took off . Now , as the top youth referee administrator in her state , she ’ s searching for ways to find young players who are where she was nearly 30 years ago , and sell them on the idea of blowing a whistle .
Besides the newspaper ad and educational webinars , the IYSA is urging leagues and clubs to help . Current players can officiate “ the game they know and love ” on non-game days . She ’ s particularly interested in college athletes . “ They ’ re fit . They ’ re at the top of the game . They know the rules and the tactics . And they can make money ,” Pagan says .
There are other satisfactions , too . Pagan enjoys controlling a match by developing on-field relationships with players . Each one is different — and so is every situation . Some situations demand a quiet word ; others , a strong voice . Each referee develops his or her own style .
“ Soccer is such an enjoyable game ,” says Pagan . “ There are so many life lessons for players : leadership , friendship , community . You can get those as referees , too . We just have to find a way for people to see that .” n
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