RINCON — The Greater Savannah Soccer Officials Association (GSSOA) needs a few good men and women.
On several occasions this spring, the association has been unable to furnish enough members to cover high school matches in its service area, which includes Bryan, Bulloch, Chatham, Effingham and Liberty counties. Some contests were canceled as a result and others were conducted with just one official.
“Two (officials) per game is the norm but we all prefer three,” said Vicki Webber, who assigns officials for area middle school, high school and rec league games.
Webber said a spate of poor weather in early February is a culprit in the lingering scheduling problem. COVID-19 has been a detriment, too, she added, saying it cost the association about 10 members at various times.
“At the first of the season, we did rather well at getting three (officials per game),” Webber said, “but what happened is we had several rainout days and then everybody starts rescheduling. Even though I asked them not to, everybody started scheduling on Tuesdays. The last several Tuesdays have been rough because we have 30 games at 17 different sites.
“Our area is large and, when you get that many games, you can’t put three officials on them. There just aren’t that many bodies.”
Webber said it isn’t difficult or time consuming for soccer aficionados to become an official. They can earn eligibility to work middle school games this season. A mandatory GHSA test offered only in January precludes candidates from working high school contests before 2022.
“If they want to become a high school official — or middle school — they do not have to be (United States Soccer Federation) certified, but it makes them a better official because they go through a little more training in USSF,” Webber said. “You do that through Georgia Soccer (georgiasoccer.org).
COVID-19 restrictions prompted changes in the certification process.
“What they are doing now is — there are certain things you have to do online,” Webber said. “You are reading the rule book and answering the questions online. Then they have a Zoom meeting, which kind of reinforces everything that you have read online.
“It’s an actual online course that would probably take you maybe two days if you break it up like they like you to do it.”
The certification course costs $90. It also costs $30 annually for membership in the Greater Savannah Soccer Officials Association.
“And they have to be out of high school to be a high school official,” Webber said. “You can be as young as young as 13 to become a (youth soccer) official.”
In an effort to enhance their development, rookie officials are paired with more experienced ones.
“I would never throw someone out there by themselves,” Webber said.
Webber said official candidates must be able to absorb criticism from coaches and fans because it comes with the job.
“That is something that you learn the more you do it,” she said. “You have to have that thick skin to be able to tune it out. Some officials, it doesn’t bother them, but it definitely bothers some more than others.”
Webber said successful officials are also reliable.
“You have to love the game to be there,” she said. “This is important because if you don’t love the game — then being there is a chore. This is a job, which is something that I stress to even the younger ones.
“You get paid for it ($50-$70 per high school contest) and when you agree to work games you need to get up and be there. There is no being late or not showing up. Younger kids have a hard time with that sometimes.”
People interested in becoming an official should contact Webber at 912-313-1535 or email@example.com.