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Michigan Referee Program / Newsletter  / April Newsletter

April Newsletter

Volume 3, Issue 4
April 1, 2022

Yuya Kiuchi
State Director of Referee Development

Welcome to the April issue of the MRC newsletter. We have so much soccer happening! We had a good number of leagues starting to play in March, actually. But many of you might have experienced cancelations and rescheduling because of the weather. I am sure that the leagues and players appreciate your flexibility.

As we are at the very end of the recertification season, we are shifting our focus on helping referees on the field from helping them in classrooms. Mentors and DDRDs had a few meetings in the past month to talk about the 2022 priorities. We have also launched a program through which any grassroots referee can request a mentor to watch their game and receive feedback. Please look for the article on this below.

As always, our March newsletter is full of exciting stories and information. We are featuring Brendan Dunavant for “Referee of the Month.” Simon Blackwell is the feature official in “Who’s Who.” We will also hear from Joe Suchoski. He had his first MLS preseason game this winter. We are also announcing the correct answer for the “Who is this” column we had last month. A lot of people thought it was Mr. Dean Kimmith in the pictures, but it was not him.

Beyond this newsletter, please be sure to follow our Twitter (@MichiganReferee), check out our blog, and subscribe to our YouTube Channel.

Referee of the Month: Brendan Dunavant

Brendan Dunavant
Grassroots Referee

When and why did you start refereeing?

I got certified back in 2012, about 10 years ago taking classes at a local hospital. I was there because my mom told me to. She helped me pay for my class and got me all registered and everything. Refereeing wasn’t actually something I wanted to do right away, it was a hobby and for a 14-year-old kid to make some money to help pay for all the things a normal kid would be doing at that time. Refereeing has taught me so many life lessons and skills and my mom was the one who saw the benefits before I even got certified. I had some great mentors right away and they invested in me and inspired me to be where I am today.

What do you enjoy the most about refereeing?

What is there to not enjoy about it??? It is actually funny because my friends who are not referees see refereeing as another job… which it is. But, to me refereeing is a great release from the rest of the world. To me it is something that I can do for fun and not worry about gas prices or what is happening at work. I can focus on the present and make split second decisions each and every match. I also enjoy all the opportunities that refereeing has to offer. As I am typing this, I am sitting in a hotel in Phoenix, Arizona for a tournament. I would not be here if it weren’t for my mentors and the game.

What are some of your best refereeing memories?

One of my favorite memories was having the ability to go to National Presidents Cup in Des Moines, Iowa. I had so many great memories, learned so much, and met great people from all over the nation. Many memories are from places like State Cup. For example, there were many years where we had thunderstorms so we all gathered in the Saginaw Complex garage or went to mini-golf after our games. I cannot wait for more memories with my friends again.

What would you like to achieve as a referee?

Currently I am a candidate for Regional Referee which I hope to have for the 2023 season. Outside of that I have no set aspirations to get to a certain level, just as far as I can make it and referee at the highest level I can achieve. I also would like to get out more to mentor other aspiring referees similar to what others have done for me. Hopefully I can be influential to the growth of the next generation of referees.

What do you do when you are not on a soccer field?

When I am not on the field I am in the classroom. I just recently graduated from college and am teaching music at the high school level. I teach music in many different forms like your typical band. I also teach marching band at many different schools across the state. Also, I teach indoor drumline down in Ohio most weekends during the winter which lines up perfectly because it is the off-season for soccer. I also teach lessons privately for students and my primary instrument is French horn.

Moving Up the Ladder

Joe Suchoski
National Assistant Referee and PRO2-C Assistant Referee

During this off season, Joe Suchoski, a national assistant referee and a PRO2-C assistant referee, was assigned to preseason MLS games. We interviewed him to learn about his special experience from the game.

Which preseason MLS games were you assigned to?

I was assigned as the 4th official for Columbus Crew @ Charlotte FC as a part of the Carolina Challenge Cup in Charleston, SC, and AR2 for Nashville SC @ Philadelphia Union in Tampa, FL.

How did you learn that you were assigned to the game and what were your first thoughts?

The first assignment I received was the Philadelphia v. Nashville game. It came through the Professional Referees Organization assigning portal PROsphere on a Wednesday at about 7:45am. I was sitting in a work meeting when my phone alert popped up and when I opened the email, I almost fell out of my seat. My first thought was, is this real? That was quickly followed by, when and where is this game? I quickly realized that I would be traveling to Tampa, FL for a Friday at noon kick-off and that I would need to book travel and time off from work. When asking my boss for time off, it was extremely hard to keep my excitement level in check as I was almost jumping up and down like a kid in a candy store with how giddy I was.

What was the highest level game you had had before this game?

Prior to this, I had worked 15 USL-C games and 13 USL-1 matches.

How did you prepare for the game?

Preparation wasn’t any different than being in season. Even though this was a preseason assignment, I continue to train at a high level during the offseason to be prepared for this type of assignment. This helped me well as we were scheduled to play 120 minutes regardless of the score at the end of the regular 90 minute match. Outside of the physical demands, I spent a little time reviewing each team’s website for what they had been doing in their preseason matches, and seeing if there were any recent signings or departures from the roster. I then watched clips from matches last year to understand what style of play each team might produce.

What stood out about the game?

The match was played at an open facility in Tampa, FL. No admission for any fans that showed up and it was a very low-key atmosphere. Everyone was very laid back and treated the match like a very high intensity training session. Players, coaches, and referees were all able to focus on doing their jobs in preparation for the season. One thing I can say is the professional game looks drastically different from field level than on TV. TV doesn’t do justice to exactly how fast some of these players actually are. But their touch and technical skill is what really amazed me. These players can see situations and navigate them in the blink of an eye and the deftest of touches.

What was similar and what was different between MLS and USL-C?

The style of play was very similar between the two leagues. However, at times USL-C can be somewhat erratic. Whereas for these MLS games, even in preseason, it appeared that everything was very thought out during the game. Passing was very crisp and the touches and technical ability by players were just on a different level than the USL-C.

What is your goal for the 2022 season?

My goal is to keep improving from last year. Last year I was in Tier D of PRO 2 (which no longer exists) and was fortunate to be promoted in the offseason to Tier C. I had a good year as an AR in 2021 and was able to earn my national badge at the end of the year. I’m looking forward to a great year of refereeing in 2022.

What advice do you have for aspiring referees?

One of the biggest things that was drilled into me as a young referee is “Control the controllables.” Know the Laws of The Game. Always be working on fitness. Watch clips and games on TV or the Internet. Put yourself in that referees’ shoes. Be ready for when your number is called. You never know who’s watching. Whether it be live or a video replay. Lastly, Have fun! Don’t be afraid to smile on the field.

Thank you, Joe. And congratulations!

Thank you.

Who is this?

Last month, we asked you to guess who this individual was.

It was not very easy, was it? The correct answer is Jeff Dornseifer. He is the Manager of Field Sessions and also a referee mentor. Only one person guessed right. Interestingly enough, about 70% of you thought this was Dean Kimmith.

2022 National Officials

U.S. Soccer held its make-up fitness test on March 19 for those who were unable to attend the national camp in December and for those who failed the fitness test there. Now that all the tests are complete, we have the list of 2022 national officials.

NameU.S. Soccer LicensePRO Status
Jason WhiteNational Assistant RefereePRO Assistant Referee
Nick BalcerNational Assistant RefereePRO2 Tier B Assistant Referee
Joe SuchoskiNational Assistant RefereePRO2 Tier C Assistant Referee
Christian LittleNational Assistant RefereePRO2 Assigning Pool Assistant Referee
Jacob LittleNational Assistant RefereePRO2 Assigning Pool Assistant Referee
Jake BrochuNational Assistant RefereePRO2 Assigning Pool Assistant Referee
Carlos FolinoNational Referee CoachPRO Assessor
Yuya KiuchiNational Referee CoachPRO Assessor
Igor ReznikNational Referee Coach


Request a Mentor

Do you want to become a better referee? Or are you looking for a few tips so you can be a more effective official on your next game?

Regardless of the motivation and reason, having a mentor on the field to watch you and give you feedback after the game can be beneficial. Now we have a system through which you can request a mentor.

Please fill out this form at least 2 weeks before your game and we will send you a mentor to your game.

2021 John Bieniewicz Award

Josh Abts and Brad Breining

The Michigan Referee Committee (MRC) recognizes and honors our friend and officiating colleague, John Bieniewicz, with the annual John Bieniewicz award. John died on July 1st, 2014 after suffering an injury from an assault while refereeing a soccer game. The Michigan Referee Committee John Bieniewicz Award is named in his honor and is presented annually to the Michigan referee who has demonstrated a love for the game of soccer both on and off the field.

This year’s award went to Mr. Josh Abts. Josh is a regional referee and a referee mentor. He helps referees across the state but especially in the west side of the state.

Congratulations, Josh!

New Mentors

We are happy to announce that we have four new mentors: Kaitlin Girbach, Christine Lindsay, Shemek Pryszczewski, and Tyler Gregory. They went through a weekend long in-person mentor training on March 12 and 13 at the MSYSA office in Plymouth, MI. This was a pilot project with a small group of mentor candidates as we expect to have more in-person classes in 2022 and onward.  

The training session was very successful. The instructors were Carlos Folino, Yuya Kiuchi, Jeff Dornseifer, Jim DeBrabander, Kristy Bos, and Dean Kimmith.

Over the two-day session, each candidate learned about mentor tasks, practices these tasks, and were evaluated on their performance. All of them passed the evaluation and they have been issued a U.S. Soccer referee mentor license.

Meet Anakin!

Kaitlin Girbach, Christine Lindsay, and Anakin

What is your name? How old are you? And what breed are you?

My name is Anakin, I’m 6 months old and I’m a Border Collie mix.

How long have you known Kaitlin and Christine? How did you meet them?

Seems like forever! I came home from my foster mom’s house when I was 10 weeks old.

Do you ever go watch them referee?

Mom says I might be able to when it’s warmer outside, but I have to learn to chill out first. I don’t really get what that means.

Do you help them pack their ref bag?

Yeah, yeah I’m a great helper! I grab each thing she tries to put in the bag and run around the house with it.

Do you ever help them train for reffing?

Mom says I’m good at helping her with interval training because I love to sprint and then stop and sniff stuff and then sprint again. I guess I’m not old enough to go on her long training runs yet, maybe I’ll be able to do that by next soccer season.

Can you do a trick? If so, what can you do?

I love sitting, but my new trick is Paw where I stick out my paw when Mom asks, and I’m pretty good at it. Sometimes, I get so excited I stick out both of my paws!

What is your favorite toy?

My favorite toy from when I was a baby is my duck. But now I really like every new toy I get.

What is your favorite treat?

My favorite treat is any food. I love all food. Why? Do you have any food for me? Except vegetables, those are weird.

What is your favorite game to play with them?

I love to play zoomies and jumps! It’s such a fun game! We usually start playing fetch with Hammer or some toy and then one time instead of fetching, I stare at my moms, give them a big smile, and then I zoomie straight at one of them and jump! Sometimes they will catch me and sometimes I parkour right off them and zoomie around the room and come back for another jump.

What do you enjoy about them being referees?

I love whistles!

What don’t you enjoy about them being referees?

I don’t get to play with them 🙁

What is something unique that you do?

I love jumping and I can catch my soccer ball in the air! But mom says I wouldn’t be a good goalie because I won’t catch it if it’s coming straight at me.

What do you like to do when they are not reffing?

I like to go on walks and meet new people. Mostly I like to make sure everyone is paying attention to me.

What is Your Call?

In the March newsletter, you were given a clip that showed a challenge. The survey asked you to identify what action would have to be taken.

The March video was this.

Foul with a yellow card for reckless challenge was the most popular answer. This is the expected decision. When we assess the severity of a challenge, as starters, we can think of three categories: POC, MOC, and Intensity.

POC stands for the Point of Contact. Which part of the body received a challenge? As you can see in the picture above, it was the white player’s left foot, to be more precise the side of her left foot, that received the challenge.

MOC stands for the Mode of Contact. Which part of the body was used to make contact with the opponent? It was the left knee of the navy player.

When we just think of the POC and MOC in the case above, we could have anywhere between a no-foul situation and a red card situation. The information above is not sufficient to determine what our decision should be. But it is still important to recognize that the challenge was basically on the ground and was not at the knee level or thigh level.

Now we move on to think about the intensity. Think about the timing. The navy player had some chance to play the ball, but as you can see in the picture above, she arrives a little too late to be able to play the ball. This was not an “on-time” challenge. It was more of a late challenge. What about the distance she ran to make the challenge? She ran probably 10 yards or more to make the challenge. The more distance a player runs to make a challenge, the more intensity the challenge is likely to have. What about the speed? Was the challenge fast or slow? It was not the fastest challenge but there was some speed. So let’s say it had moderate high speed. What about the impact? Did the challenge involve glancing contact or a player going into the other? In this situation, the player goes into the opponent.

Now, if we gather all these facts about the intensity of the challenge, what do we have? A late challenge with moderate to moderate-plus speed and distance. The player goes into the opponent. The contact is low.

Let’s combine these facts with the POC and MOC. We did not have POC and MOC to say that this challenge had to be a red card. We don’t have enough considerations from the intensity perspective to make this a red card. But we have considerations pointing us to a reckless challenge. Our intensity considerations do not point to just a foul without a card.

This month, we will focus on your law knowledge. You can find the video here.

You can submit your answer here.

Who’s Who in Michigan: Simon Blackwell

Simon Blackwell
Grassroots Referee, Assignor, and a Referee Mentor

When and why did you start refereeing?

I came to the U.S. from England in 2005 and wanted to connect with the local community. Our children played indoor soccer at the St. Joe Kickers, and I saw a flyer about becoming a local soccer referee. I thought that would be an excellent way to meet others, and I already knew a little about the game.

What do you enjoy the most about refereeing?

I have worked from home for about 23 years, and refereeing is my way of getting out into the fresh air, having exercise, enjoying one of the greatest sports on the planet and meeting new referees. It is the best free health center you can join. Even today, I still enjoy learning, especially how to improve and handle new situations and what I can do to improve myself as a ref.

What are some of the best memories from refereeing?

Most of my memories are working with crews at local tournaments and the amount of fun it can be working with a crew over a weekend. The amount you learn, the camaraderie and enjoyment from seeing good soccer and watching good players. While not a USSF related item, officiating in two MHSAA state finals, one with all referees from my area, is one of my fondest memories.

How else are you engaged in soccer beyond refereeing?

I have been assisting in training referees for several years, but this has become more official as a USSF mentor, and one of the local DDRDs. I am also the referee liaison for the local USSF adult league (BSL), focusing on finding referees who want to progress into these games with their different challenges.

Do you have a favorite pro sport team?

I would go to Stamford Bridge (Chelsea FC) for a couple of seasons. As a kid, I would occasionally go to Crystal Palace to watch them and the bigger teams. I still like to keep an eye on the football leagues in the U.K., especially in my home town. Crawley was promoted to Division Two since I have been living in the U.S.

What you like doing for your pastime? Where can we find you when you are not on the field? How you spend your time during the offseason?

There doesn’t seem to be much of an offseason with indoor and outdoor leagues these days. However, I like riding my bike (push-bike) and kayaking down the local rivers, again in an attempt to be away from my desk. I still enjoy watching the Six Nations rugby tournament in the UK/Europe (France, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and Italy) that starts at the end of February. I was always a better rugby player than a soccer player.

Do you have any advice for new referees?

As someone said to me, “Enjoy and Smile.” Don’t let a situation get you down; speak to a local mentor, referee, or your assignor. Find all the help you can in the first year or two years. Don’t dwell on a game or situation, talk it over with someone and move on. There are mentors and more experienced referees in Michigan that will be more than willing to help. Look for all opportunities to improve and keep learning.

Thank you, Simon.

Thank you.

Who’s in Charge

Ken Wikle
Emeritus Regional Referee

One of the reoccurring complaints I hear from referees is that of having to listen to coaches complain about their officiating. Understanding the nature of the game of soccer and its control by referees as well as officiating in general should lead one to some observations about what goes on during a match.

When you look at sports officiating and comparing soccer with other sports one thing sticks out. How many officials are making decisions in soccer? The major decisions are made mostly by one official, the referee. Compare this to American football, basketball, and baseball all which have at least three or more officials calling fouls and making key decisions during the game.

Soccer is unique in this regard.

If criticism of officiating is directed at someone in soccer, it is most often focused on the referee. Stepping out on the field as the center referee in soccer puts an official in the spotlight. Many referees in youth and amateur soccer refuse to be a center referee for this reason. For the those who do not like to expose themselves to this exposure being an Assistant Referee reduces their exposure to criticism. More on this later….

Given the competitive nature of the game and the differences in angles of view during the game, the referee can expect that a coach may see things much differently than the referee. A coach may loudly offer their differing opinion of what has occurred. Referees need to expect that this may happen and be prepared to deal with it. How a referee handles dissent will vary according to the incident and the nature of the dissent. Several years ago, FIFA gave referees the power to caution and send off coaches and team officials for misconduct. Guidelines for this are included in the law book. Referees should make themselves familiar with these considerations.

Most youth coaches in club soccer are paid professionals with considerable knowledge of the game. They know what a yellow card means and will cease their dissent when they are carded. So why don’t referees carrying the cards get them out of their pockets and get the game back under control? Referees need to step up to their responsibility as the person in charge and handle “card-able” offenses appropriately. Allowing irresponsible behavior or dissent to continue only empowers team officials to abuse more officials in the future.

The bottom line, especially in youth soccer is that the center referee is in charge of the game. In U9-U12 games players are rarely involved in misconduct requiring a caution or sendoff, so where will trouble come from? The referee needs to step up to their role as the person in charge and quiet the coach or spectators (through the coach). This must be done early on to “nip it in the bud.” By taking charge of the situation the referee can make the rest of the game better for everyone.

Because many of our referees are teenagers and most coaches are adults, confronting an adult who is acting like a 2-year-old can be a “world turned upside down” event. The referee, a teenager or adult has the power to rectify poor behavior and needs to “step up to the plate” and handle this problem.

Teenagers who will put themselves in the spotlight and accept assignments as a center referee will find it very rewarding as well as a character-building experience. Having mentored many referees who have taken the leap to centering games, I can assure you that the rewards are fulfilling and indicative of future success in whatever they choose to do in life. For those referees that only serve as AR’s the rewards are of lesser value but are appreciated, nevertheless, as they assist in providing full crews for games.

For those referees that continually complain about coaches giving them a hard time, stop complaining and step up to your role as the person in charge and make team officials and spectators pay a price for misconduct. After all, who is in charge?

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 Referee Development (SDRD): Yuya Kiuchi
State Director of Assignors (SDoA): John Corbett
State Director of Futsal (SDF): Richard Gilbert
Manager of Performance Observation (mgr.observation): Tim Deters
Manager of Field Sessions (mgr.field): Jeff Dornseifer
Manager of Video Analysis ( Nichole Kramer-Kiuchi
Manager of Pedagogy (mgr.pedagogy): Kalani Burghard

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

If you know anyone who would like to become a referee, we offer numerous grassroots referee classes, as well. You can find relevant information here.

Contact one of us on the Michigan Referee Committee if you have any questions.

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