Name: Aaron Strickland
What initially prompted you to become a football referee?
As a player, I would get frustrated at what I saw as poor officiating. They were usually older and slower but obviously loved the game and kept themselves involved in the game by officiating. I now commend that attitude. I felt if you couldn’t beat them, join them.
Do you play football? Who do you play for?
I played a number of years in the Churches Football Competition. I played a season with New Lambton Eagles and won a Grand Final- had some great fun that year. I currently play futsal at Howzat with some other hacks to pinch a few goals each week.
If you play football, how has becoming a referee changed the way you approach the game as a player?
I appreciate referees a whole lot more regardless of standard. They are there to help facilitate an opportunity for me and others to play. Without referees, competitions deteriorate and there is no game. In the end, it’s just a game and everyone including the referees deserves respect and be able to enjoy it.
Did you attend any Referee development camps & how were they beneficial in your progress as a referee?
NNSW Targeted Athlete Program (TAP) camp – when I was refereeing in the Churches comp and from that camp I joined the State League, Senior division.
I also attended two National TAP camps in Sydney, the National Schoolboys in Canberra and Australian Youth Olympic Festival where I got to referee Australia v Japan.
All of these camps provided me with greater insight, honed my skills, improved me technically and got me better prepared mentally for matches.
They were also great opportunities to meet other referees from around the country and officiate some of the best young players in the country.
Would you recommend other referees to follow the Talented Referee Pathway?
Definitely. We are all on a learning curve. It is a great source of knowledge and helps provide you with a greater understanding of refereeing. If you’re looking to improve and develop your ability to referee at park or a higher level, then it is a must.
What are your goals in refereeing?
My goals in refereeing are to mentor fellow referees at any level, to share my experiences and lead by example. Also to ensure that those I referee with each weekend learn, have fun and have a laugh.
What have you learnt as a referee that you’ve been able to apply in real life? E.g. personal life, school, relationships.
Refereeing has helped me to be a more confident person, to speak up and stand up for myself. Man- management in matches has shown me that how you speak to someone will dictate how they respond and react. In the heat of the moment, we need to be patient, relax and think clearly so that our message is received to get the desired response. Respect off others goes a long way in creating healthy relationships.
During your time refereeing, how have you seen the game change?
The ultimate goal of putting the ball into the back of the net will never change but the systems teams use have changed in getting the ball from one end to the other. It has become more of a business as clubs are wanting to become more professional which brings more pressure on players but also to us as referees. Club cultures have changed as premier grades keep getting younger. There used to be a reserve grade for the premier competitions which was great for the progression of referees. It would allow you to gain the necessary skills to make the jump to first grade.
What is it about football that you love?
Passion. Skill. The fact anyone can play. Whether you are young, old, able bodied or physically challenged, male, female, blind, deaf, a doctor or homeless, on almost any surface, or from any part of the world, you can play football. Anywhere, anytime with anyone. It can cross all boundaries and cultures.
What do you most enjoy about refereeing?
Being involved in the game. It is the best seat in the house. I like providing a good flow to the game that allows the players to show off their skill and supporters to enjoy a spectacle. I like to see other referees improve, grow and getting enjoyment out of their involvement as referees.
Have you ever experienced negativity as a referee? How did you overcome it?
I’ve had my share of abuse and negativity over the years. I first wrote ‘fair’ share but abuse, dissent or negativity is never fair. As referees, we are human, not perfect. People say we have to have a thick skin to do our job, which might be true to a point but continual badgering and abuse can eat away at you, which doesn’t help you or others when it comes to refereeing a game.
The first time I left refereeing wasn’t solely due to negativity but it played a part. I didn’t have a mentor back then, someone that I could chat to, to help talk through the things I was dealing with. Small things in games would get me frustrated, I was starting to make basic mistakes in big games.
Getting away from refereeing for a period of time and pursuing other passions was good for me mentally. Getting out playing sport without people always scrutinising your actions and decisions just because you were a referee was something that I definitely needed at the time.
If there was one piece of advice you could pass down to new referees or people thinking about becoming referees – what would it be?
Have a go. Refereeing can be a very rewarding experience but be prepared to learn. It is a great way to stay involved in the game. You will go through ups and downs. Ensure you keep a healthy balance on reffing and other activities.
Is there anything about refereeing you don’t like? Why?
Unfortunately, the negativity, disrespect and abuse from players, team officials and supporters are the things I don’t like. The persistent badgering or bullying can steal one’s joy of the game. A player takes their frustration out on you because something in their personal or work life is stressful.
If the shoe was on the other foot and the referee took their frustration on a player, in the same manner, someone would put in a complaint.
I think the general public think we are expected to take a lot of it on the chin because it’s classed as part of the role. I’d like to think that we could change that culture. We should be able to go to a game and come home with a smile on our face.
Would you encourage your friends to become referees?
I would. I think it can be a great vocation and another way to enjoy the world game that presents many opportunities. As long as they are well supported and provided good counsel to ensure they are learning and enjoying themselves.
Do you have a mentor? If yes, who? What is the most important thing they’ve taught you?
I source my counsel from fellow 1st-grade referees and referees coach Rodney Allen. My dad is also a keen observer and someone I can debrief with after a match. Most important thing I’ve been told is “Football is a simple game. Don’t complicate it” and “If it looks like a foul and smells like a foul, it probably is a foul”
Outside of football and refereeing, what are your other extracurricular activities?
Cycling, mountain biking, tennis, golf, spear fishing, beach swim. It’s important that you have something else outside of refereeing.
Do you follow A-League? If so, which team/s?
Having refereed on the A-league I like to keep tabs on the referees coming through and those that are still there. No teams in the A-league but I do support Liverpool.
About Newcastle Permanent Referee Recognition Week
Northern NSW Football (NNSWF) and Community Football Partner, Newcastle Permanent Building Society (NPBS), have extended the annual Referee Recognition Weekend to a week this year to celebrate the region’s Referees!
The recognition of referees is integral to the Newcastle Permanent Community Football partnership with the Community Referee of the Month Award celebrated monthly throughout the 2017 Season.
Newcastle Permanent Referee Recognition Week now gives the football community the chance to show our appreciation to our referees and match officials and show they are valued members of the football family who are respected by players, coaches and supporters alike.
Referee Recognition Week will commence from today, Monday 24th July to Sunday 30th July 2017. Throughout the week, NNSWF and NPBS will share stories of Referees in the region and share their journeys and experiences throughout their time refereeing.
On match days, clubs are encouraged to thank each of the referees and show their appreciation of their hard work that makes our game so enjoyable and safe.