The old saying goes ‘never mix work with pleasure’, but for one of the Professional Referee Organization’s newest recruits, that combination is proving to be quite a success.
Assistant referee Andrew Bigelow started his officiating journey, like many, to earn some extra cash whilst also having fun in his high school days in 1997.
Now, in 2015, after working his way up the officiating ranks, the dad of three is combining his duties as a referee of the classroom with an AR on the PRO roster.
“The skills that make me effective as a classroom teacher also serve as the foundation for my career as a referee,” he told proreferees.com.
“In both environments there exists a need for good communication, teamwork, composure under pressure and strong management.
“Both soccer and teaching allow me to utilize these skills regularly, and I truly believe that I am a better teacher due to my role as an official, and I am a better official due to my experiences as a teacher.
“But my day job doesn’t stop there – the other part includes being a dad to three amazing daughters and a husband to my wife, Ashley.
“Without their support I would never have been able to pursue my dreams of officiating at the highest level in North America, and have two different but similar jobs that I love and enjoy.”
The history teacher at DeKalb Central in Waterloo, IN, initially began as a center referee at the age of 14.
In 2012, after three years as a national referee, Bigelow made the switch from the middle to the side, gaining experience through Development Academy Finals, the Open Cup and international friendlies.
Now he’s reached Major League Soccer level, taking the flag for Sporting Kansas City versus Portland Timbers, Colorado Rapids versus New England Revolution, and Columbus Crew versus Orlando City so far in 2015.
“When Michael Kennedy [PRO referee manager] called me last fall and invited me to pre-season camp, it was a genuine surprise,” he recalled.
“Then came the two assignments, and the experience provided by my fellow officials were a great asset to me as a new PRO member.
“The preparation at the hotel beforehand, stadium protocol and the small words of wisdom provided have enabled me to understand already both the professionalism and the camaraderie that exists at this level.”
Bigelow recognises the differences he has experienced at each level whilst coming through the ranks, but he has taken them in his stride and now operates at the highest level of North American soccer, becoming one of the latest officials to come through the development ladder.
The assistant referee is grateful for the opportunities he has received and is determined to repay the faith shown in him.
“Knowing the dedication that officials put in with the goal of reaching this level is not something to take lightly. The chance is not lost on me and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to make a positive contribution for years to come.
“Each and every decision is a building block for the next as I look for continuous improvement to try and achieve my maximum performance level, like in any craft.
“It is humbling to be part of the PRO roster and involved in a league like MLS that is growing each year. The training camps, physical programs and expectations only serve to reinforce what’s set to come on this journey.”