Student referees pass on knowledge to future generations of players

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By Avery Maslowsky, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Junior Alex Aufiero is normally seen sprinting down the field, soccer ball a foot’s tap away or lacrosse stick tightly gripped, but attend a local youth soccer game and Aufiero can be spotted blowing a shrieking whistle, calling fouls left and right.

Aufiero began her career as a referee in sixth grade, refereeing boys’ and girls’ soccer, grades kindergarten through sixth grade in the Tredyffrin-Easttown Youth Soccer Association (TEYSA).

“The best part of reffing is getting to work with other athletes my age and helping the younger kids play a fun and safe game,” Aufiero said.

Student referees like Aufiero apply their athletic knowledge to the field in order to maintain a safe playing environment. According to the TEYSA website, “Our youth referees serve as mentors for our younger players, and they are encouraged to take time to explain the rules and allow players to correct mistakes.”

In the spring, Aufiero referees for the Philadelphia Area Girls Lacrosse Association (PAGLA). The PAGLA is a youth lacrosse league for third through eighth graders, and they compete at Valley Forge Middle School and Wilson Farm Park. Aufiero heard about refereeing from upperclassmen soccer players, who encouraged her to try it as a weekend job.

“I like (refereeing) because I already know all the rules, so it’s really easy. I can also choose my schedule, and I get to be outside,” Aufiero said. “I like working with the younger athletes and the other referee on the field.”

Senior Hailey Klinger also referees local youth lacrosse for the Pioneer Quix Stix and PAGLA leagues. Though she started as an assistant coach for a youth league during her freshman year, Klinger decided to take up refereeing after seeing upperclassmen doing so in her league.

“Reffing is a great way to stay involved in the area— these kids look up to us, and it’s important that we set an example and help kids learn. It is the small things that really matter,” Klinger said. “It is honestly all worth it because you get to see all sides of the game. Reffing is not as easy as people think (because) many do not realize how demanding your judgment is until you are in that situation.”

It isn’t just blowing a whistle and waving a flag either, according to Klinger. A good referee also gives advice to the players.

“My favorite aspect about reffing is by far helping the girls become better players,” Klinger said. “As a ref, it’s our job to make sure the girls play a safe game, and I always make sure to give tidbits of information to the girls on what they can improve on. It always makes my day when a parent or coach comes up to me and says that I taught their girls something.”

Although she won’t be able to ref in this area after she leaves for college, Klinger will take lifelong lessons from her experiences as a youth official.

“To be a ref, it is all about safety, fairness and fun,” Klinger said. “As a youth official, it is our responsibility to teach the younger girls the game we love so they can grow as players and people.