Sports officiating is a great opportunity to stay involved in sports while also making some extra money, but how do you get started? There are a lot of unique stories about how individuals first started officiating, but these are the typical steps.
Step 1: Decide what sport to officiate
Typically sports officials choose to officiate a sport they’ve played in the past or a sport they really enjoy watching. Familiarity with a sport will make it easier to learn to officiate it.
If you want to become a soccer referee, follow our guide here.
If you want to become a baseball umpire, follow our guide here.
Step 2: Find an organization or association
Once you know what sport you want to officiate, you’ll need to figure out what organization or association you want to officiate for. A good place to start is your state’s high school athletic association. You can also try searching for a local sports official association. Another option is reaching out to local leagues to get connected with the organization that is providing their officials or attending local games and talking to the officials there to find out who they are working for. There are good entry level opportunities at the youth level or in adult recreational sports leagues. Alternatively, you could download the Go Silbo app for free on the App Store or Google Play. Silbo will connect you to training opportunities and will allow you to officiate for multiple leagues in your area.
Once you’ve selected an organization, you’ll need to confirm their requirements including what training or certifications you’ll need, if you’ll need a background check, and other similar requirements.
Step 3: Complete training
There are a variety of training options available including digital training and in person training sessions. Most organizations or associations will either offer training or be able to connect you to training options. Training and certification requirements typically vary from organization to organization. Some trainings will be free and others may require a fee.
Ask any successful official how they got where they are in their officiating career and they will likely mention one or more mentors who helped them learn and grow as an official. While not required, it’s highly recommended to find a mentor. This could be someone you’re set up with during your training program or you may need to find someone on your own. Having a more experienced official to encourage you and give you pointers will help you improve as an official.
Step 4: Get equipment
Every sport requires different equipment and uniforms. Sometimes there will also be variations by league or level. For example, in some leagues basketball referees wear a black and white striped shirt and in others they wear a gray pinstriped shirt or a baseball or softball umpire you may wear a black, navy blue, or light blue shirt. You’ll want to confirm the typical uniform of the league you’re officiating for and if they allow multiple uniforms, you’ll want to coordinate with your partner for each game to make sure you’re going to match. Your uniform is an important part of the impression you make when you first step on the field so make sure you follow all league rules and make yourself look presentable.
Step 5: Start officiating games
Once you’re trained and have equipment, you’re ready to start officiating games. If you’re officiating for an organization that uses an assignor, they will assign you games based on your schedule. If you’re officiating through the Go Silbo app, you can select your own games. You might be nervous and make mistakes in your first game, but just like playing sports, officiating is all about getting better each time you get on the field or court.