Referee Articles

Referee retirement, what to do next?

The retirement from refereeing can generate a series of mental and physical problems, however, beyond the profession there are other things that can bring happiness.
Written by: Jose Borda


Many referees in the world will not participate in the 2013 season of the professional, international, or amateur leagues due to a forced retirement.  They will reflect on how to separate the man from the referee.  For those who were at the peak or their fitness, or close to it, and have dedicated their lives to intense physical challenges, retirement may generate a series of mental and physical problems.

Sometimes they don’t listen to their bodies saying “It is time.” while their hearts and minds request one more game.  It is always one more time!

Sense of loss


Bill Cole, a famous high level performance coach based in California, has worked in various sports and has seen how many referees struggle to embrace retirement.  A factor that contributes to their problems is the deep sense of loss.  The referees highly identify with what they do so take that away and they will feel abandoned, naked, and will not understand how to give meaning to life.  “It is like losing an important part of themselves.” he says.


Difficult Moments


The referees have had regular daily doses of serotonin for many years and suddenly, the dose decreases or stops completely.  This condition largely affects the body’s chemistry.  In other cases having had a “tunnel vision” and a regulated life explains in part why the referees have more problems with retirement when compared with other professions.  Cole explains that their “compartmentalized existence” may have served them well in their promotion and maintenance as prolific judges, but can generate a feeling of grief when left behind.    


Facing new challenges


That routine can lead to a feeling of loss when they retire, so they need to find something to replace the activity.  Because if they do it or not, their life will radically change.  The sports psychologist Victor Thompson recognizes the challenges associated with retirement: “Referees in general, enjoy testing their skills in tournaments and games with thousands of spectators.  This is the kind of challenge and excitement that one experiences in their daily life, and leaving it behind can be torturous.

There is life after


In order to complete the transition it is important to plan for retirement and have a strong support group.  If one does not accept that nothing else will offer that kind of glory or satisfaction, one will continue looking and looking without finding anything.  A recommendation for the referees who are thinking about retirement: initially one must prepare the way (to happiness) and must surrender to the fact that performance was good and now one must do something else in their life.  While it may not generate the same excitement, the need can be satisfied and doing something else can get the much desired happiness.

Former FIFA Assistant Referee Thomas Bobadilla is now the AYSO

National Referee Administrator, 2013