Just For Kicks
YOUTH referee programs have flourished here for the past 10 years, coinciding with the expansion of soccer statewide.
Connie Young, the section youth referee coordinator for the American Youth Soccer Organization, estimates there is a pool of 150 youth referees. She notes many of the graduates of the program who have gone on to college continue to referee on the mainland.
"With the growth of soccer, the focus is on the development of youth players all the way to the national team level. That necessitates the growth of refereeing," Young said.
"I see youth soccer development synonymous with the development of future referees. Not every player will become a World Cup player, but a lot will take their knowledge of the game and use it in refereeing."
The late Lem Limahi, whom Young called "the great referee father," asked her to be the section coordinator in 1995. He wanted someone to run a summer pro camp like those operating on the mainland.
The summer pro camp includes youths from around the state. The three-day affair has been held at Camp Erdman on the North Shore. The site not only affords the future referees the chance to concentrate on learning, but provides fun recreational activities.
AYSO starts youngsters at age 11, and once certified with a regional badge, they can officiate matches involving players 10 and under. An area badge can be obtained at age 14 and a sectional badge at age 16.
Those who wish to can cross-certify with the United States Soccer Federation. That involves an 18-hour course and a test. AYSO referees also can go for a national badge.
The AYSO program is hands-on training, with an adult mentor at each match. There is instruction on how to handle "difficult" adults and comments from the sidelines. The course is the same taken by adult referees.
"We stress teamwork and communication with the assistant referees. It's important that they have fun doing it. There is a lot of reinforcement. The mentors stay with the youth referees throughout the season," Young said.
"I've never had anyone I've trained say they wouldn't do a volunteer game because of a paid game."
Each AYSO region in the state also has youth referee programs.
"Wouldn't it be great to see a referee from Hawaii doing a Major League Soccer or World Cup game?" Young said.
Disappointment, but ...
The Hawaii teams made a statement at the U.S. Veterans Cup in Beckley, W. Va., but didn't bring home a championship trophy.
"No other area had the support we did. We had leis and gifts for everyone. I think we did Hawaii soccer proud," said Donna Fouts, Hawaii Soccer Association president and a member of the Hawaii Five-O Over-50 team that finished 0-1-2 in pool play.
He Kini Popo reached the semifinals of the Over-40 Division before falling to Seattle on penalty kicks after playing a 1-1 draw. He Kini Popo fashioned a 2-1-1 record. Seattle went on to win the division title.
"We grieved when we lost the semifinal," said He Kini Popo coach Pinsoom Tenzing. "Seattle only had one shot on goal, but the gal hit it as hard as any man."