Saphire Stockman: Refereeing is something that my dad and I started together
Representing Costa Rica in the Program of Referee Excellence is an opportunity for Saphire Stockman to learn from the best instructors and share with other referees from around the region in a unique and specialized environment. The initiative is taking place at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida as part of the Concacaf Boys’ Under-15 Championship and consists of a second 3-week course involving daily on-field training sessions, classes, refereeing in games and fitness tests.

Football meaning 

What I like about football, from a refereeing perspective, is that every game you go into is different, and in every game there is something to be learned. It’s a profession of constant growth. While there are similar circumstances that present themselves in games, there are always situations that need to be resolved, and it requires thought and constant concentration. What I enjoy the most, is the part that challenges you to resolve those important situations, taking them into your hands and working with your teammates to solve those split seconds. Those moments in the games are the ones you look back on over the years and you don´t forget.

Becoming a referee

I became a referee when I was 14 years old. When I was younger my dad had coached a youth football team with my brother and me, he also played on weekends for fun. He had been doing some research on how to get more involved in the game. When he found out he could become a referee, it only seemed natural to take me with him to the course. We joke about it now because he kind of tricked me into taking the course at first, I wasn´t exactly expecting to sign up at that moment, but I´ve thanked him many times over the years for getting me involved in refereeing. 

Refereeing was something that we started together and became an activity we shared on the weekends and weeknights over the years. As I continued with refereeing through high school and college, and especially as an adult, it became a passion.

Tips for becoming a referee

It takes a lot of dedication, perseverance and commitment to become a referee. It takes an open mind to learn and to be open to criticism. It’s also a career that is not often applauded, so you form a thick skin when necessary, but you have to find a balance to being open to feedback as well to continually grow.  There are a lot of early mornings, late nights, training sessions, meetings, and weekends on games, but there’s also a lot of satisfaction when you see the results of all the work you put into it. 

More participation of women in football

I believe the growth of women´s participation in football starts at a grassroots level and through young girls. There has to be support and opportunities for girls playing football, in rural and urban areas alike, in all regions, in order to encourage more participation, because those early development years are vital for the development of the game. Through strong advocates for women’s and girls’ football programs, perceptions can be changed, giving more importance and generating additional resources for the sport. Support at the family level is also critical to keep girls playing over the years, as sometimes it requires travel and sacrifice from the whole family for girls to remain involved in the sport.  

Expectations of participating in the Program for Referee Excellence (PORE)

It’s not every day you’re able to eat, breathe, sleep and live football, with the opportunity to learn from the best instructors and share with other referees from around the region in the environment that the Program of Referee Excellence provides. Here we are able to do that for 22 days straight, twice.  Six weeks in the PORE program marks for me a huge opportunity to take a leap and grow both personally and professionally as a referee. It is both a privilege and an opportunity, as a relatively small group we are receiving personalized, specialized feedback and teaching. From the Introduction Course in March I came into it ready for a chance to show the work I have been doing as well as an amazing opportunity to learn.  During that first portion we were taught technical skills and tools to take back and apply in our countries and leagues, and we also made friendships with referees from all around the region who now feel like family. My expectations for the Certification Course are to polish up those technical skills and continue learning from our instructors practical skills to prepare us to solve those most important situations in our games, and to continue being a part of the Concacaf family.

The future

In 4 to 5 years, I see myself actively refereeing in the highest league in Costa Rica, and I hope to be representing both Costa Rica and Concacaf at an international level as a Referee on the FIFA list.