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Michigan Referee Program / Newsletter  / April Newsletter

April Newsletter

Volume 1, Issue 2
April 1, 2020

Beginning of the New Season (Almost…)

Yuya Kiuchi
State Director of Instruction

Welcome to the April issue of the MRC newsletter. We hope you enjoyed our inaugural issue that was released on March 1, 2020. 

Since our last newsletter, so much has changed. The Michigan Referee Committee has suspended all of its instructional activities, including grassroot classes, recertification classes, and fitness tests, until April 30. The situation continues to be fluid. Please stay up to date with information issued by the U.S. Soccer, the MRC, as well as various leagues and tournaments you officiate for. 

In this April issue, we will continue to have many exciting articles. We are featuring Lance VanHaitsma, CONCACAF Manager of Refereeing, for Michigan Referees Beyond Michigan. Mr. Ronald Asiimwe and Mr. Matt Krause are also featured in this issue. We also have a special article on Women’s Referee Development Academy. Jordan Howard shares his experience at the Development Academy Showcase. Nick Balcer, a national assistant referee, contributed to the Tip of the Month column. You will find many other articles below.

I am also happy to share that the MRC website now has a set of short videos that explain the 2019/2020 Laws of the Game changes. Each video is about 10 minutes long. Here is the list of topics covered in each video.

Video 1: Substitution; Disciplinary cards to team officials; Injured penalty kick taker

Video 2: Coin toss; Dropped ball

Video 3: Delayed disciplinary cards; Handling by goalkeepers; Indirect freekick signal

Video 4: Defensive freekick inside penalty area; Defensive Wall; Penalty kick; Goal kick

Videos 5 – 7: Handling

Please familiarize yourself with the most recent law changes by accessing the videos here

After the inaugural newsletter was released last month, I received a lot of feedback. Please continue and feel free to reach out to me if you have any thoughts on how to improve this newsletter. Also, please do not hesitate to email me with any article ideas.

COVID-19 Related Changes and Cancelations

The Michigan Referee Committee has suspended all of its instructional activities through April 30. This includes but not limited to grassroot classes, recertification classes, and fitness tests. 

For those who were in the middle of the certification process, an email has been sent out to you with instructions on how to be certified and receive a badge. In short, please complete all the online requirements and send Carlos Folino a self-addressed stamp envelop as well as a proof of the U.S. Soccer grassroot module completion. More information can be found here. You will also receive information about how to attend a field training session in the future.

All the fitness tests have also been postponed. We do not have dates for rescheduled tests, yet. The MRC will communicate with you once rescheduling is complete.

Leagues and tournaments have their own countermeasures against the outbreak of COVIC-19. Please stay up to date with the latest information from these entities regarding changes and cancelations. 

Please check out our COVID-19 Updates page for the latest information about suspensions and cancellations. You can access the page here.

Michigan Referees Beyond Michigan: Lance VanHaitsma

Lance VanHaitsma
CONCACAF Manager of Refereeing

Originally from Caledonia, MI, Lance VanHaitsma is currently the Manager of Refereeing for Concacaf. We had the honor to interview him for the April newsletter.

What is your relationship to Michigan?

I was born and raised in Caledonia, MI. I attended Western Michigan University from 2002 to 2006. While I was at WMU, I started my referee career as an MHSAA official working games for Gerry Ouellette and Wayne Wilkinson. In 2004, I became a certified USSF referee by completing an entry level course at the Soccer Spot (now MSA Sports Spot) in Grand Rapids, MI, with Keith Miller as my instructor. I used refereeing as a way to stay involved and give back to the game I grew up loving. Being a college student, the additional money was always an added benefit to the “job.”

What do you miss the most about MI?

I miss my “families,” both biological and referee families. Some of my best memories as a referee were spent under the lights on high school fields as a player at Caledonia High School and as a referee in the Kalamazoo area. I also miss working with mentors such as John Nadzam, Chad Syzmczak, Chris Haack, and Scott Ryder at the countless number of tournaments such as K.I.S.S., Portage Invitational, Saginaw 7-11 Cup, and M.I.L.D Cup.

Do you have any referee or soccer-related memories from MI?

My favorite memory was being selected by Matt Slovacek and Larry Gagna to attend a Michigan Referee Academy event at Best of the Midwest Memorial Day Soccer Cup. The night before the tournament, we were afforded the opportunity to attend an international-level match between Northern Ireland vs. Romania at historic Soldier Field. After the match, our liaison, Anthony Vasoli had arranged a meet and greet with the FIFA referee crew, where we could ask questions about the match. The crew included Referee Michael Kennedy, AR1 Tom Supple, AR2 Steve Davidson, and 4th official Brian Hall (my future boss). 

It was during that weekend that I realized the opportunities outside of my local area and the support the MRC provided for referees upgrading to state level (grading system at the time). Being around peers of my own age that were entrenched in the system motivated me to reach levels I did not know existed. Immediately after the event, I contacted Carlos Folino and requested a Grade 7 upgrade assessment. Little did I know, it was at this point my officiating career was on a rocket ship to the moon. 

What are your current referee-related responsibilities?

I currently wear three hats in the world of refereeing. First and foremost, I am the Manager of Refereeing for Concacaf. At CONCACAF, I support 41 Member Association’s referee departments and associated programs. I provide assistance with coordination of the Concacaf’s referee development program with the Head of Refereeing for each region and member associations as well as FIFA Regional Development Officers and Instructors. I provide management support for all Concacaf refereeing events, course, competitions, etc. My main focuses are managing our development initiatives such as the Program of Referee Excellence (PORE), Dallas Cup Referee Academy, Futsal and Beach Championship, and creating educational content for our newly created Concacaf Referee YouTube Channel (Coming Soon). 

The second hat I wear is working on a part-time basis with the National Intercollegiate Soccer Officials Association (NISOA) as their Senior Director of Operations. With NISOA, I assist with educational initiatives such as the National Summit, Practical Field Clinics, and the National Referee Academies. I am also responsible for assisting chapters with troubleshooting needs such as constitutional bylaws, insurance inquiries, recruitment services, etc. Before accepting my current role with Concacaf, I was the Chief Operating Officer with NISOA; responsible for managing the overall organization and implementing the 5-year strategic plan. 

The third, and last, hat I wear in the refereeing world is I am still a Collegiate Soccer official. 2020 will mark my 12th year as a college soccer official. I am privileged to actively work in some of the top conferences in the country (ACC, Big 10, Big 12, SEC), highlighted by the 2015 & 2018 NCAA Women’s D1 College Cup Final. Working college matches allows me the opportunity to continue my growth as a referee and be able to pass along my knowledge and experiences with the next generation of officials. 

What is the best memory of your referee career?

Many would think it was being appointed to the 2016 FIFA Futsal World Cup in Colombia during my first year on the FIFA panel or working the Gold Medal match at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Argentina. Although these are unforgettable achievements, my most memorable moments of my referee career are the countless matches I worked with my brother Trent VanHaitsma (U.S. Soccer National Assistant Referee). Since taking the USSF Grade 8 entry level class together back in Michigan, we’ve worked countless matches together, some more memorable than others. However, every time we step off the field, I can’t help but to look forward to our next match together. Due to our different referee career paths, the matches together are becoming fewer each year, which makes each match together more treasurable than the previous one. We challenge one another both physically and mentally to be at our best at all times. 

What is the best memory as an administrator in the refereeing world?

My best memory as an administrator is yet to be written, but will include helping referees achieve goals they thought were unattainable. Sir Issac Netwon famously said “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” One day, I hope to be one of those shoulders. 

What are a few of the things that helped you become a successful referee?

Be coachable, hardworking, honest, trustworthy, and a great teammate. With the game constantly evolving, one must be a student of the law book. Master the Black & White and only then will you be able the manage the grey area. 

What advice do you have for young aspiring referees?

Success is always the result of overcoming adversity. Every referee faces adversity one way or another in their career. It could be a failed assessment, failed fitness test, injuries, wrong end of politics, or just plain bad luck. We’ve all been there before, but it’s our ability to bounce back from adversity that defines our character and makes us better officials for it. When faced with adversity, we have options; quit or learn from it. “Don’t let your failures define you, let them refine you.”

Thank you, Lance.

Thank you.

Referee of the Month: Ronald Asiimwe

Ronald Asiimwe is currently a grassroots referee in Lansing. He is originally from Uganda, Africa.

Ronald always dreamt of becoming a professional soccer player because everyone around him played soccer during his childhood. Because his primary school was in a rural area, he never had “actual” soccer balls. He and his friends in the school would get creative and used materials like papers, grass, polyethene papers, and sisal ropes which they squeezed to form a round-shaped ball that they would play at school.

Later, Ronald moved to City High School in Kampala (capital of Uganda) where he kicked an actual soccer ball for the first time. He attempted to join his high school soccer team, but he unfortunately couldn’t make it because he was small and short. That is when his dream of becoming a professional soccer player died. However, he knew there were other ways he could still be involved in soccer because it was a game close to his heart.

After that, Ronald moved to the U.S. and started his refereeing career. At the time, he was a graduate student in Oklahoma. Now, he has been refereeing for 3 years. He decided to become a soccer referee because soccer was, and is, still a game close to his heart. He loves being around the loud fans/parents, the excited and nervous players etc.… Additionally, being a soccer referee helps him keep in shape as a long-distance runner. 

While he enjoys many things about refereeing, most importantly, he enjoys watching young players play with passion mixed with fair play. For example, a player may kick the ball out when one of the players on the opposing team is hurting. One of his favorite memories from refereeing was during a premier state tournament in Midwest, Oklahoma. He met and networked with referees from all over the state and country during the week-long tournament. 

When Ronald is not on a soccer field, he is working toward his Ph.D. in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies specializing in Couples and Family Therapy (CFT) at Michigan State University. He also enjoys playing lawn tennis, playing the guitar, running long distance, telling jokes, watching comedy shows and the English premier league, cooking, and reading books on leadership and psychotherapy.

Women’s Referee Development Academy

Sue Grobbel
Director Women’s Referee Development Academy

U.S. Soccer set priority for a new program for Female Referee Development in 2019.  The MRC is, and has always been, driven to improve the skills of ALL our referees. In complete support of this initiative, the MRC began by identifying 10 women officials who aspire to improve skills and advance to higher certification and game assignments.  

In Fall of 2019, the MRC appointed Sue Grobbel as Director to the new Women’s Referee Development Academy.  Along with the support of the MRC, Sue looks for new members and mentors to add to our Program. We are slowly building and have added 6 new members to our ranks!  Members progress will be monitored, and the Academy will strive to find and offer opportunities in several venues where they can improve their skills. 

To date Sue has added two important mentors to the Academy.  Ms. Nicole Green (also a referee member) and Ms. Nichole Kramer-Kiuchi.  This Academy will be a true “Team Effort,” working closely together, Director, Mentors along with guidance from the MRC, look to improve and lead these female officials. 

The Academy began holding conference calls and exploring ways to help members grow and achieve their goals.  Group members have been challenged to determine short-term and long-term goals pertaining to soccer officiating, to better guide the program as well as reach each member uniquely for the accomplishments each aspires to achieve.

Fitness was identified by all our members as a high priority, as it should be for all officials. With this in mind, we are learning about fitness specifically for referees and creating (and sticking to!) weekly workout plans and finding ways to support one another. Both Nicole and Nichole passed along valuable information on both training and mindset to achieve goals set by our members at our last meeting. 

It is also the intent of the Academy to team-build and ENJOY our time together! 

In the future the Academy will slowly grow and add more officials and mentors! If you have any questions about the Women’s Academy, please contact Sue!  

Susan Grobbel
Women’s Referee Development Academy, Director

What Information Do You Share with Your Assignor?

“Officials should seek our opportunities to be mentored/coached in formal and informal settings.”
John Douglas, National Assignor

What kind of information do you share with your assignor? Of course, you are expected to share your availability, as well as what level games you feel comfortable with. But there is more you can share with them.

We asked Mr. John Douglas what kind of information he thought useful to receive from referees. John is the National Assignor for Michigan and assigns referees on the highest level games in the state, including the semi-pro games.

John stated, “referees should communicate their goals in regards to officiating.” Telling your assignor what you want to achieve via refereeing allows them to understand how they can help you attain your goals.

John also said, “officials should seek our opportunities to be mentored/coached in formal and informal settings.” John works closely with mentors, assessors, and other experienced officials. But you, as an official, can feel free to reach out to your local association or assessor to come observe your game.

We have many people who are willing to help you develop as a referee.

Report from the U.S. Soccer Annual General Meeting

Carlos Folino and Esse Baharmast at the 2020 Werner Fricker Builder Awards dinner

Carlos Folino and Ron Grobbel represented the Michigan Referee Committee and attended the 2020 U.S. Soccer Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Nashville, Tennessee. Carlos and Ron met and collaborated with administrators from State Referee Committees (SRC) throughout the United States. Various ideas were discussed for Referee programs that are both successful and challenging. 

Carlos and Ron met with SRC members from United States Adult Soccer Association (USASA) Region II and discussed events scheduled for 2020. At the U.S. Soccer Federation 104th National Council Meeting, the membership approved a range of appointments and proposals. Three new U.S. Soccer Member Organizations, one of which is the National Independent Soccer League (NISA – DCFC now plays in) were voted upon and approved. The former President of U.S. Soccer, Carlos Cordeiro, informed all of the attendees that U.S. Soccer was about halfway through a 5-year plan to invest $160 million surplus in growing the game at all levels, including player, coaching, and referee development, as well as performance at the highest levels for all our national teams. 

Cindy Parlow Cone was elected as U.S. Soccer Vice President for a four-year term. She has since become the President of U.S. Soccer. Her election is the latest achievement in an impressive career that began as a star forward with the U.S. Women’s National Team from 1996-2004. She was challenged for the seat by U.S. Soccer Board of Directors Adult Council Representative John Motta. Later, Jill Ellis, former U.S. Women’s National Team coach gave a brief talk to with encouragement and inspiration.

Former FIFA referee and veteran Referee Instructor, Esse Baharmast, was honored at the 2020 Werner Fricker Builder Awards dinner. He is the second winner primarily involved with referees to be honored with the award, following former referee administrator from Michigan, Gerhard Mengel, who received the award in 2005. Baharmast is the first Werner Fricker winner whose career focused on building the sport for referees in the United States.

“Do it because you love it,” said Baharmast in response to what the best advice he gives aspiring referees. “That should be your motivation. Don’t do it for the fame; do it for the game. I also tell them that your mentality must be ‘we’ over ‘me’. That mentality will get you where you want to go.”

Who’s Who in Michigan: Matt Krause

Matt Krause
District Director of Assessment: Northern MI

Matt started officiating in 2003 as an adult referee, shortly after college graduation. He moved quickly up the ranks and through competitive assignments to achieve his State Referee badge. He credits his love of playing soccer to his rapid improvement as an official. “Continuing to play soccer and ice hockey as an adult really helped me get a feel for good match flow in the games I officiated.  It also helped increase my empathy working with competitive players, since being able to communicate with the players is such a critical part of game management.”  

As a high school referee, Matt officiated five MHSAA state finals. He was a collegiate referee in NISOA for 10 years, working in the Mid-American and GLIAC Conferences. He continued to actively officiate soccer matches until a few years ago, when career-ending injuries forced him to hang up his cleats.  

Matt continues to serve the local referee community through active involvement in mentoring and education programs. As Northern Michigan District Director of Assessment, he collaborates with five other assessors to observe and mentor developing officials in the areas north of Lansing. He is a Grade 7 instructor, working with new and renewing referees primarily in the Flint and northern metro-Detroit areas. He also serves as a board officer for a local referees association.  

Off the field, the Central Michigan University grad works in the laboratory for Dow Chemical.  He resides in Frankenmuth with his wife and 5-year old future soccer/hockey player.  

Tip of the Month: Thorough Pregame

Nick Balcer
National Assistant Referee

In our March newsletter, Jason White shared tips about how to implement the 2019-20 IFAB Law changes into our games. A crucial part of that is in our pregame. More than we realize, the success and failure of our matches can be traced back to our pregame. Our pregame is a blueprint to the performance of the crew, which is no different than the formations and tactics of the teams we are refereeing. When teams follow their game plans they have practiced, it leads to scoring goals, successful defending, and good results. When referees follow a thorough pregame, it allows the crew to communicate effectively, make correct decisions, and manage the players in a way that is fair to them and the game. 

Referees: How do we have a thorough and effective pregame? Communicate, communicate, communicate. Be clear and concise. Talk through certain situations with your ARs (and 4th if you have one) about how you would like things handled and the type of communication whether that be with voice, eye to eye, or signal. Empower the ARs & 4th official to assist in certain situations/areas of the field, and ask them how they communicate well. A referee giving an AR or 4th confidence to make a decision or use their strengths goes a long way to a successful game, and makes life as a referee easier. This year especially, make sure to review the new Laws of the Game. It’s amazing how quickly we can forget a law change once we get on the field. 

Assistant Referees: How can we help in the pregame? Listen to the referee. Each referee is different in their style & approach to the game. Be willing to adapt and change based on their pregame. If you have a question, ASK IT. Whether that be clarification or a particular situation, if you don’t ask, you won’t know the answer and it could play a huge part in a critical call in the match. (Referees, always ask your ARs if they have questions during your pregame). 

We have many different types of referees with many different approaches to a pregame. Ultimately the goal for all of us is to have a successful match as a referee crew, and one that is fair to the players. I hope you can take some of these tips and use them to make your game and crew successful.  

Time for Reflection

Ken Wikle
Regional referee first registered with USSF in 1978

As a referee, once a game is over, you will often feel the need to reflect on your performance. You may self-evaluate your own performance. Or you may seek feedback from others. 

Understanding the partisan nature of soccer tells us that coaches and spectators do not provide impartial feedback. In spite of officiating errors, a winning coach may be happy with a referee’s performance. Sometimes in spite of officiating errors during the game, both coaches may be happy with the officiating.  A referee may do a stellar job throughout the game but the team that lost is upset with the referee’s performance. 

Where can a referee turn for good feedback to help improve his/her skills?

There are three sources a referee can seek: self-evaluation, other officials on the match, and a referee mentor/coach present at the game.

Self-Evaluation: Ask yourself how you could have handled a difficult situation differently. Sometimes just reflecting on what happened in the moment and committing to handle it differently next time will provide an answer. If you think you failed to apply the Laws of the Game correctly, study the laws again. U.S. Soccer has educational videos online, which you may find helpful.

There are some websites like “Ask the Referee” that use experienced referees to answer questions on application of the Laws. All of these can be used anonymously.

Another method of self-evaluation is to have someone video one of your games. By watching your own game, you may notice some mannerisms, signaling errors, or calls that were missed or misinterpreted. By improving your “stage presence,” the you  can be seen to be more decisive, empathetic, and professional. 

Your officiating team: Another way of reflecting on performance is to seek feedback from the crew. This takes an effort and a degree of self-effacement on the part of the participants. All three officials have to commit to evaluating their performance objectively. With egos left out of the process, reviewing situations that occurred and the team’s response, good or bad, may serve as a learning experience.

Referee mentor/coach: Getting feedback from a referee mentor or coach can be a learning situation for referees especially if they are receptive to feedback and if the mentor/coach provides constructive criticism. Mentor/coach can offer the value of their own experience, knowledge of the Laws, proven mechanics, and game administration to the match they have just witnessed. This is one of the best opportunities for a referee to reflect on their performance in order to improve.

With the right attitude, all three of these methods of reflection/feedback should help improve a referee’s skills.

Report from the Development Academy Showcase: Jordan Howard

My name is Jordan Howard, a regional referee from Grand Rapids. I have been a U.S. Soccer official for 9 years and a high school referee for 5. This is my third year as a college referee, and I have been to 6 Development Academy (DA) Showcases. The DA Showcase was introduced to help demonstrate the immensely talented players in the DA program to scouts from the best college teams around the country, as well as the U.S. National youth teams. 

As a referee, one of the biggest advantages of attending a showcase is the feedback from National Referee Coaches. These people have years of experience at the highest levels of soccer, and the opportunity to pick their brains is very rare. I remember my first event. I knew very few people, and I spent every day talking to a new assessor. It was eye opening to learn from the level of knowledge that I did not possess. I learned more in those five days than I had in the past year, and every time I’ve gone since has been a tremendous leap forward in my knowledge of the game. 

Beyond the field, I have enjoyed the opportunity to meet other referees from across the country, and grow even closer to the fantastic people from Michigan. They remind me just how much I love the game, they inspire me to work harder and climb higher.

Art of Health

Ryan Homik
Nutritional science

We all have areas where we can make our diet more nutrient dense. Breakfast is the meal that we are focusing on for this month.  Cutting sugar, salt, and preservatives are some easy areas that can make you feel better and ready to manifest the day. This advice is not to make you completely change your breakfast plan, but to make you think of ways that you can modify what you currently eat.  If I did not cover your type of breakfast meal, feel free to reach out and we can collaborate on ways improve your meal.

Find the video here.

Michigan Referee Committee
State Referee Administrator (SRA): Carlos Folino
State Referee Chairman (SRC): James Wheeler
State Youth Referee Administrator (SYRA): Ronald Grobbel
State Director of Assessment (SDA): Dean Kimmith
State Director of Assignors (SDoA): John Corbett
State Director of Instruction (SDI): Yuya Kiuchi
State Director of Futsal (SDF): Richard Gilbert
Email addresses are the title in parenthesis plus

Please reach out to us!

If you have any referee-related stories to share or someone you think should be featured in this newsletter, please reach out to us at

MRC announcements

The impact of COVID-19 is, of course, not only on the MRC’s instructions. From the professional-level soccer to grassroots-level soccer, the sport nationally has been suspended, postponed, and canceled. Because the situation continues to change, it is difficult but nonetheless important to stay up to date. You may see an assignment on your assignment account, but the game may actually be canceled. Please work closely with your assignors.

We also recommend that you check out the official website of the leagues and associations you officiate for. Rather than relying on secondary information, you should consult the website officially managed by a league or an association.

The MRC will communicate with its referees, assignors, assessors, and instructors in the coming weeks as we have a new development.

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