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Michigan Referee Program / Newsletter  / June Newsletter

June Newsletter

Volume 3, Issue 6
June 1, 2022

Yuya Kiuchi
State Director of Referee Development

Welcome to the June issue of the MRC newsletter. A big thank-you to those who participated in the State Cup quarter- and semi-finals in Saginaw. We had about 100 referees and 10 mentors present. We will have the finals in Saginaw during the first weekend in June.

Our new video series, “The Video of the Week,” has been successful. We have had some good clips from which you can learn. You can check out the videos here.

As always, our June newsletter is full of exciting stories and information. We are featuring Andrew Smutek for “Referee of the Month.” Kaitlin Keck is the feature official in “Who’s Who.” We have an announcement on the 2022 John Bieniewicz Memorial College Scholarship winners. Also, this is the last newsletter for which I serve as the editor. We will have a new editor starting with the July newsletter. You can find more about this transition below.

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

New Editor-in-Chief

Since the first newsletter March 2020, Yuya Kiuchi has been the Editor of this newsletter. This newsletter marks the 40th newsletter. In these newsletters, we have featured both high-profile officials including current FIFA officials as well as local officials. We have featured past MRC members and even some of the dogs that our referee friends own.

Now the torch is going to be passed to Mr. Brad Barlog. Brad will be in charge of the newsletter. It will be up to him to coordinate with contributors to further enrich the content of the monthly newsletter. Brad has been an active member of the referee community in Michigan for a while. He is also a District Director of Referee Development in the Saginaw/Flint area. He is currently a grassroots referee and a referee mentor.

Please reach out to him to congratulate him on his new role. If you have any ideas for the July newsletter and onward, please reach out to him.

Referee of the Month: Andrew Smutek

Andrew Smutek
Grassroots Referee

My name is Andrew Smutek and I am a Michigan ref of 10 years now from Livonia, MI. I first began reffing as a freshman in high school as a way to make money and stay around the game that I had been playing my whole life. What started as a casual hobby, grew into something that I began to take more seriously. Through game experience and mentorship, I slowly gained confidence and eventually participated in my first Michigan State Cup in 2019. I have participated in every State Cup since and have started taking higher level game assignments in the MLS Next, GA, ECNL, and NLC leagues with the intention of upgrading to a Regional Referee when possible. I have thoroughly enjoyed refereeing at the higher levels, and plan to continue progressing through the ranks. After I am done playing, I hope to be able to referee matches in the various semi-professional leagues that I have played in.

Off of the field, I am never too far from the field. I am a soccer coach, player and a first-year high school social studies teacher. After beginning my coaching career shortly after college, I soon decided to pursue teaching as a full-time profession. Teaching is something that I fell in love with after realizing how much I enjoyed sharing my knowledge with others and helping students (and players) progress as individuals to prepare for their futures. As a coach, I was recently named the head coach of the Wayne State University Club Soccer team and hopefully will have the opportunity to win a club soccer national championship down the road. Additionally, I have just begun coaching with the Michigan Jaguars and previously was an assistant coach for the Churchill High School boys’ varsity team in Livonia. As a player, I am a member of Inter Detroit (Midwest Premier League/UPSL) and the Director of Summer Internships for the club.

Fitness Tests

We have completed all five fitness tests between April and May. Anyone who wish to recertify or certify as a regional referee next year had to take one of the fitness tests and successfully pass it.

We were also happy to see Christian Little, Jacob Little, and Jake Brochu at the test to help proctor. All of these referees are national assistant referees and are a part of the PRO assigning pool, while also being referee mentors.

As the picture above shows, they might have needed some extra time to figure out how to use some of the equipment but it was great to have these national officials helping regional referees and upgrade candidates.

Birmingham Bloomfield Soccer Club Referee Class

Mr. Walter Schrauwen, the treasurer of a local soccer club called Birmingham Bloomfield Soccer Club hosted an in-person brand-new referee class this spring. Below is the report from Walter about what happened. If you know of a local club that is interested in hosting something similar, please let us know.

“Last fall we had a number of games without a full crew. Even some of the lower age groups we did not have a single referee and a parent had to step in. This is not the value what we want to present to the families that sign up for BBSC.

“At the same time both my daughters (one is an active referee) are enrolled at the International Academy (IA) in Bloomfield Hills. Part of the curriculum is an “Enrichment Program.” All students are required to finish 6 Enrichments in 4 years. Examples are playing a guitar, portrait painting, knitting for a cause, etc. So basically, the idea was to create an enrichment to become a soccer referee.

First, I talked to the registrar of this program, Mrs. Belotti, and wondered if we could set up a Grassroots Soccer Referee enrichment class. And she responded very enthusiastically because they do currently do not offer many sport related enrichments. She thought it was a great idea and wanted to know more about it.

After that, I contacted the MRC and got a response from Carlos Folino within a day! We then set up a three way zoom call between Carlos, Mrs. Belotti, and myself and I explained my idea the following:

1.         One in-person class to start off. Some basic stuff and to make sure the students are properly enrolled into the USSF online training class and the Michigan Refs website.

2.         Students finish the Referee Grassroot course and Michigan Ref modules at home.

3.         Second in-person class to go over the material after the on-line class is done with videos of examples and such and at the end we distribute the referee badges.

4.         Each student needs to participate in at least 2 games to finish the enrichment.

In the beginning of the year, we send out an email to all students across the to all three IA campuses. It reached over 1000 students. I was hoping to get a response from 10 students, but I was very happy to see the class grew out to 27 students within a couple of weeks.

Carlos arranged for two experienced instructors (Alex Plum and Ivan Padilla) to come to the first class on March 8. They did a really good job and got the students all fired up. The students had 4 weeks to complete. Of course, many waited till the very last minute, but in the end 22 finished all the material on time. (4 could not make it to the second class, and will finish in a regular zoom session later this month.) On April 9, Alex Plum and David Esshaki (who again is also a fantastic teacher) finished the class and the students got their badges.

My main intent of this enrichment was to remove as many thresholds as possible. For instance, the students did not only pay for the grass roots course ($67.50), also included in the fee to register for this enrichment was also the cost for a starter kit (shirt, pants, socks, whistle, flag, red/yellow cards). They received their starter kits at the end of the second in-person class when they also got their badges.

The second threshold I wanted to remove was the hesitance to do the first game by creating what I called “a soft landing.” The intent here is that an experienced referee will be on-site during the first two games of these students to guide them through the process on the field and to make them feel more comfortable. So I have been on the phone and have written emails to many recreational soccer clubs all over the metro Detroit. There are IA students from Howell in the West Campus, to Troy in the East Campus. And from Huntington Woods in the south to Lake Orion in the north. Unfortunately I did not get a response back from all clubs (which I thought was remarkable because I know there is a need for new referees). But thankfully, just enough clubs did respond to try to make this soft landing happen. Besides Mark Sholtis for my own BBSC club, Glaudio Soave from the Bloomfield Hills Youth Soccer League (BHYSL) stepped up to the plate and is helping getting games for the IA students for his league. Also Ken Wikle has generously made himself available to help out with students on the west side (with help from Erich Shrewsbury assigning). Mike Eberle will help with students from Waterford. Tyler Carpenter in Lake Orion/Oxford Soccer League (OOSL) and Heather Abell from the Rochester Soccer Club (RSC) in Rochester Hills. We are now in the process of this soft landing and I have to tell you this is a lot of work. But I am hopeful that it will work out. I think 10 students already have games assigned at this very moment in various leagues. I am trying to keep in contact to see how it is going.

Then there is on last hurdle I was trying to take away and that is the cost of the enrichment itself (which btw was $115). BBSC is offering full return on class fees if the students do 20 games this spring season. BHYSL will refund $67.50 (grass roots course fee) after 20 games. And some of the other leagues have told me they are in the process of doing something similar.  

I did it all voluntarily but I have spend a large number of hours to set it all up. I am hoping that Carlos and I can continue this enrichment again next year and hopefully I do not have to redo all the steps from scratch! But I really enjoyed doing it and I can’t wait to meet some of the students on the field in the next few months.

Seek for More Challenging Games

Especially with the current referee shortage, various tournaments and events, including out-of-state tournaments, may send a mass email to invite you to their event. If you aspire to move up to become a higher-level official, make sure you ask yourself what you are gaining from each experience.

For example, we have numerous youth tournaments where national referee coaches may be present. Many of these events are out of state and offer unique opportunities and experiences. We also have local adult games, some of which may be amateur while others may be semi-professional. Youth events will take you to Florida, Texas, etc. that are probably more exciting and fun than adult games that take place 30 miles away from your home.

When you have all of these opportunities, ask yourself why you choose to attend a certain event. Exposure is great. Getting feedback from a national referee coach is, without a doubt, beneficial. But do the games challenge you? Are the players behaving too much in front of college recruiters and coaches? Are the games too sanitized?

This year, we have seen many referees struggle on adult amateur games. Many of them are successful at the youth level. They have attended various events including MLS Next, USYS Nationals, etc. They generally do a good job on high-level youth games.

But once they are put on an adult match, their decisions, interaction with players, etc. end up compromised. These amateur games may not have the appeal of youth events with resources. But referees who wish to move up need to work on such adult games to be challenged.

If you want to move up, seek these adult games. In the past, all high-quality games were on the east side of the state but it is no longer the case. Today, we have MWPL, USL2, and other leagues that have games across the state.

2022 John Bieniewicz Memorial College Scholarship Winners

Here are the five winners of the 2022 John Bieniewicz Memorial College Scholarship. Each winner received a $2,000 scholarship for their continued education. Scholarships are funded by the John Bieniewicz Memorial College Scholarship Golf Outing. This year’s event will be held on August 6 at Riverbank Golf Courses.

Josh Mason
Mia Judd
Ian Smiley
Carly Doran
Tristian Janisse

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.

What is Your Call?

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

The May video was this.

Unfortunately, we only got 4 people respond. But there was a split. Everyone agreed that Red #7 committed an offence. But what to do about the offence varied. Two people said an indirect free kick should be given where #7 touched the ball. One person said the indirect free kick should happen where #7 entered the penalty area. The other person said the restart should be a goal kick because an advantage could be given.

The answer is that an indirect free kick should be given where the infraction happened. The infraction was not the touch on the ball but the encroachment. Therefore, the restart location is where the player entered the penalty area.

Because we will have a new editor-in-chief starting July 1, this is the final “What is Your Call?” column. Please let Brad know if you want something similar in future newsletters.

Who’s Who in Michigan: Kaitlin Keck

Kaitlin Keck
Grassroots Referee and Referee Mentor

When and why did you start refereeing?

I started refereeing as a volunteer with AYSO when I was 12 years old. My dad had started officiating, and I wanted to be like him.  It was something we could both do together, and I felt really cool being a referee like my dad. At the same time, it was still something I was doing myself and my dad was alongside me to coach and mentor me through it. I watched him get certified with USSF and learned I could also be making some money, so as soon as I turned 14 I also got my USSF certification and the rest is history!  

What do you enjoy the most about refereeing?

There are so many things I enjoy about being a referee, it’s hard to say what I enjoy most! The friendships I’ve made along the way have definitely been a huge highlight. But I think what I love most is the constant challenge. Every game is different and presents a wide variety of scenarios to assess. I love that each game is an opportunity to apply what I know, try new things, and to learn and grow to become a better referee. I thrive off the challenge and the accomplishment I feel as I continue to officiate more difficult and demanding matches. It also helps that I just love the game! When I’m officiating, I do my absolute best so that I can provide a safe, fun environment for everyone to enjoy the game as much as I do.       

What are some of the best memories from refereeing?

I have so many, it’s hard to choose!  And what’s fun, is they aren’t all from the field. A few stick out though

1.  Surviving the coldest, wettest, windiest weekend in Boston, MA in 2021. The friendships you make in such grueling conditions are always some of the best. 

2.  Jamming with some fellow Michigan referees in the minivan during a weather delay at President’s Cup 2021. There is video evidence—I know because I took the video 🙂 

3.  Working so hard at President’s Cup 2021 that a National Referee Coach commented that I was the best referee he had seen all week. I had validation that all of the hard work I was doing was paying off. And it reaffirmed my desire to keep reaching for more.

What made you a successful referee?

Some of the moments when I learned the most were when I would watch a game with a mentor and just listen to their comments and talk with them about what we were seeing. I could watch what the referee was doing and hear a mentor say what they were doing well or needed to improve. It’s one of my favorite things to do and I learn so much. I also soak in the feedback I get on my own performance and self-reflection, but also the feedback other referees receive. Fitness also helped. The more demanding matches have stronger and faster players, which means I as a referee need to be stronger and faster in order to do the game justice. And smiling! It’s amazing how much a smile can help you get through some of the most challenging conditions, but also help you set the tone and manage the game.        

How else are you engaged in soccer beyond refereeing?

I’m a mentor and I love it! Teaching classes, watching referees in action, helping with field sessions, etc.  I’m actually a teacher, so being able to combine my love of teaching and refereeing has been an absolute joy. I’m also involved with the Women’s Referee Development Academy and participate in monthly sessions that help enhance our knowledge of the game and application of the Laws and considerations. I also enjoy watching professional soccer and checking out what FIFA officials are doing when they’re in action. I am very excited for the World Cup in November for this very reason.

What do you do when you are not on the field?

I’m the Director of Bands at Coloma Community Schools, so if I’m not out on the field, I’m probably at a marching rehearsal, competition, or a concert. Or I might just have some time to myself in which case I’m hanging out with my husband, our Siberian husky, and my newborn son 🙂  I enjoy playing video games, running, and recently trying to get our baby to give us his first laughs 🙂 

How you spend your time during the offseason?

During the off season I really focus on my running/fitness and am currently working my way back to running another half marathon. I also just take that time to relax and enjoy time with my family. The off season for soccer tends to be busy for a band director with plenty of performances. I can also be found teaching referee courses 🙂

Do you have any advice for new referees?

Smile, and remember, it’s supposed to be fun!  There will be challenging games, awful weather, screaming spectators, angry coaches, and plenty of difficult situations. Don’t take critique personally, ask questions, reflect, and work to improve. And in those moments when the game is flowing and you’re having a great time, remember to smile and remind everyone (fellow referees, players, coaches, spectators, and even yourself) that you love and enjoy what you’re doing.

Thank you, Kaitlin.

Thank you.

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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