Sports

Rival soccer clubs’ head refs partner up in Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows

Among those taking part in a referee mentors training session at Pitt Meadows Secondary last week were, left to right, Roy Branco, Nik Dyer, Tim Blaine, Sydney Berridge, and Art Bandenieks. - Troy Landreville/TIMES
Among those taking part in a referee mentors training session at Pitt Meadows Secondary last week were, left to right, Roy Branco, Nik Dyer, Tim Blaine, Sydney Berridge, and Art Bandenieks.
— image credit: Troy Landreville/TIMES

What do Maple Ridge’s and Pitt Meadows’ two soccer clubs have in common?

First and foremost, both rely heavily on dependable, well-schooled officials.

That’s where Tim Blaine and Roy Branco come in.

Blaine is head referee with Albion Football Club (AFC) while Branco is his counterpart with West Coast Auto Group Football Club (WCAGFC).

Last week, WCAGFC and AFC co-hosted a grassroots referee education session on Oct. 19, and a referee mentors training session on Oct. 20.

The goal is to support the development of all referees within Alouette District, Blaine noted last week.

“Relationships between clubs are often competitive at best, and adversarial at worst,” Blaine said.

“This is a collaborative venture, jointly coordinated by the head referees of WCAGFC and AFC.”

The key objective is to connect with – and support – all levels of officials in Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows, and Mission, while providing “direct feedback regarding what they are doing well, and set specific, manageable areas to address for improvement,” Blaine said.

“A more competent and confident referee positively impacts every game, improving the experience for players, coaches and fans,” he added. “A referee who feels connected and supported has a greater likelihood of remaining in the game.

Branco and Blaine are aiming to implement best practices laid out by the BC Soccer Association’s Grassroots Referee Development program. Blaaine said they are “well-supported” by Art Bandenieks, BC Soccer Association Referee Development Officer, Fraser Valley Region.

“We are working for referee development, for all,” Blaine said. “I see us as kind of the Switzerland of the soccer world, here.”

BC Soccer’s mission is for every club in the province to have head referees, and under them, mentors, Bandenieks said.

“These two clubs happen to be very progressive in their thinking, having head referees already, and mentors,” Bandenieks said, “We want to support that and build on that as much as we can.”

Blaine said while the clubs may be in competition with each other, “Roy and I are pretty passionate about referee development, not just at the local level but right throughout the entire province, and with Roy, right across the entire country.”

He continued, “It made sense to us to put on some events that would really help bring up the level of our referees, connect them with each other, and keep them in the game longer by feeling supported.”

For Blaine, there are never enough referees and the benefits that come with officiating, especially when it comes to young people, are many.

“Our youngest referees enter at 12 years of age with a seven-hour training program they go through that qualifies them to be a small sided games referee, which is basically someone who is able to referee up to U12,” he continued.

“You’re learning a lot of the game but you are also learning how to place [yourself] in a position where you have to be the responsible person – you are the authority there, and you are there to ensure the game is played safely, that it’s played according to fair play guidelines, and you’re having to interact with not just players but with adults and sometimes with fans.”

Branco said the payoff for referees “is incredible.”

“You learn all sorts of life skills, you learn how to manage people, you learn how to take control of situations, you learn how to have confidence in yourself and your abilities.”

What young refs need, in Branco’s opinion, is more guidance and direction.

“They are pretty much left on their own as entrepreneurs,” he said. “They have to find their own way and a number of them aren’t ready. That’s what we’re trying to do – we’re trying to be their direction, their guides into the system. And then based on the passion they feel for the game, we’re here to help develop them and mentor them and keep them going for as long as they want to go.”

Two teenagers referees who have rose up levels locally are Nik Dyer, 19, and Sydney Berridge, 17.

Dyer started refereeing six years ago and feels he’s evolved.

“It [the learning curve] is pretty steep,” he said. “You learn on the job a lot. You learn from your mistakes. You make a mistake in the game and you go home and you think about it, and you realize what you should have done better,. especially after talking to more experienced officials.”

Berridge played soccer for 11 years and then transitioned to refereeing because, she said, “it’s a really good way to keep up with the sport that I still love to do – and it’s an overall really fun experience.”

For more on officiating with both clubs visit each club’s website (westcoastfc.ca and albionfc.ca/referees), or contact Branco at headreferee@westcoastfc.ca, or Blaine at headreferee@albionfc.ca.

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