BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. (WBOY) — The West Virginia State Referee Program hosted a new U.S. Soccer Grassroots Referee Clinic at The Bridge Sports Complex on Sunday.

Instructors expressed that before the COVID-19 pandemic, the state had more than 700 soccer referee officials ranging from ages 13 to 80 years old. Currently, there are fewer than 500 soccer referee officials. Referees in training were able to learn about the pre-game, during the game, and after the game with rules, regulations and referee etiquette during the referee clinic.

“Players get to practice; referees don’t ever have a chance to practice. So, oftentimes they are thrown out there on their first game, and ‘What do I do?’ you know, there is already pressure, there is already nerves. So, if we can simulate situations out here and try and take some of that stigma away, we hope that it will help retain the referees later,” said Kevin Nicholson, State Director of Referee Assignment for West Virginia. “Without referees, you can’t have games, legally you can’t have games without referees to be in charge. So, before you decide to yell at a young person who’s trying to learn the sport, to learn to be a referee, realize that is why we don’t have referees now. So, we’re offering classes all the time. If you can do it from the sidelines, you can do it from the field and we’d love to have ya.”

Soccer officials stated that there are always new soccer clubs forming and the sport is ever growing in the Mountain State with more and more people showing interest. Officials say that their club registrations are almost back to the standings they were at before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have the field session, we actually come out and they actually do some game scenarios, and see what it’s actually like, work on the positioning on the field. We’ll go through the coin toss, we’ll go through checking the field to make sure it’s safe and playable, checking in players, what it takes to check in a player,” said Douglas Sharpe, State Director of Instruction for West Virginia Soccer Association.

There is a tab on the WV Soccer State Referee Programs website that anyone interested can use to become a referee. There is an online module and the current laws of the game and quizzes that will transfer over for certification.