When did you decide to become a referee, and who were some of the influences on your career?
- I became a referee in 1997 at the age of 14. My youth coach asked if anyone wanted to attend an entry level referee course and I volunteered to go as I figured it would be a fun way to earn some money. Another major influence was my district referee administrator at the time, Tom Chapman (current OH-N SRA).
What do you think is the most misunderstood aspect of the refereeing profession by coaches, players, fans and the media?
- It’s disheartening when they think we treat refereeing as a hobby and not a profession. There are a few of us that aren’t under full time contracts but still referee full time as our main job. We devote just as many, if not more, hours of our day to refereeing just like players devote to playing/training, etc.
From your perspective as a professional referee. What are the best and worst aspects of being a referee and/or assistant?
- I’m always the first to say that I love what I do. I travel the world as a soccer referee. What could be any better? Obviously, the amount of negative media and pressure we are under are not ideal aspects of the job, but that comes with the territory.
In your opinion, what are the key attributes that a modern-day referee must have to be successful domestically and internationally?
- One word you always hear is strong. The referee must be strong both mentally and physically. Self confident, steadfast, and be able to remain calm in moments of utter chaos.
How do you diffuse a volatile situation that you know players are about to explode?
- No two situations are ever the same. The last thing you want to do is lose control of yourself. Remain calm but be strong. Don’t let players see your emotions. If the referee is out of control, the players will continue and explode. Referees must bring a feeling of calmness to the situation.
What are your impressions about the proposal to add additional assistant’s referees on the field?
It never hurts to have more eyes. The pace of the game and the skill of the players continue to improve. It seems that the experiment has worked well in Europe, so perhaps it could be tested in the US.
What do you thing about the ‘RESPECT” campaign that US.Soccer has launch?
- It is a great idea. Referees are always under scrutiny, so any help from an FA or league to help alleviate the pressure that referees face is welcomed with open arms. Dissent will always be in the game, but steps can be taken to reduce it.
What’s your pre-match routine?
- Pre-match starts several days in advance with research of the teams and players. I will email the crew a couple days prior just to cover all the admin items and make sure we are on the same page. We will meet for breakfast to catch up on our personal lives, and then again for lunch to go over the pregame and any info we’ve come across in our research.
Pre match meal?
- Always pasta the day/night before, a light breakfast of fruit and oatmeal on game day, followed by a light lunch usually consisting of chicken or other protein as well as a salad.
We all have bad games, how do you deal such match in your mind?
- I always give myself a day or two before going back and watching the game DVD. I will take notes and write up my self eval. As soon as my self evaluation is finished, I put the game behind me. Take a few things from it to learn and move on.
Tell about your style of officiating how would you describe it.
- I’m typically very calm, cool, and collected. I pride myself on my ability to manage players and people and that is always my focus. It’s not always how well you know the Laws of the Game as it is how well you can manage 22 different personalities.
Most memorable game moment?
- First whistle – July 24, 2010 – NYRB v. Tottenham Hotspur – Thierry Henry’s debut.
How often do you train?
- Depends on my game schedule, but I try to never take more than 2 days rest in one week.
What are your plans or ambition as a referee for the near future?
- My goal has always been to become an International Referee. From there I would love to work either an Olympic Tournament or World Cup
How you feel about your nomination to the FIFA panel 2013?
- It means more to me I can really put into words. A 16 year project in the making. I left a full time job as an Ohio State Trooper back in late 2006 in order to focus on refereeing. At the time it was a decision I hoped I would not regret. It’s been a ride of ups and downs, but a ride that I wouldn’t trade in for anything.
Chris, you recently participate at the UEFA CORE course last August 2012, what you can tell us about that experience?
- The UEFA experience was great. Very educational experience in regards to seeing the different approaches to refereeing and slight differences in philosophy. UEFA takes refereeing very seriously and devotes a large amount of resources from referee and assistant referee coaches to fitness coaches. All in all, a great experience. Looking forward to the return visit in May.
What advice would you give to anyone who desires to become a referee?
- Refereeing is what you make of it. It can be very rewarding, but like everything else in life, it takes hard work and sacrifice. Some sacrifices are bigger than others, but those decisions are different for everyone. If you want to climb the ladder, just remember that it will be full of ups and downs, plenty of hard work, times you question what you’re doing and if it’s worth it, and times where you will have to make sacrifices. Along the way you can never forget that family comes first. I am very fortunate to have a supportive fiance that also referees and I wouldn’t be able to do what I do if I didn’t have her by my side.
Chris, thank you very much for your kind and insightful contribution to our Referee Community.
US Referee Connection is pleased to welcome Mr. Chris Penso. He is a USSF National referee in the MLS league.
Chris, please accept a warm welcome to US Referee Connection.