2015 turned out to be particularly significant for PRO referee Ted Unkel.
After being promoted to the role of referee on the roster at the start of the year, Unkel now finds himself among the Organization’s full-time officials.
On top of that, he has been added to the FIFA panel as a U.S. Soccer representative, to mark what has been, in his words, a meteoric rise.
He and wife Christina – a fellow FIFA referee – also recently welcomed their first child into the world, and we caught up with Ted to discuss it all…
Firstly – and most importantly – how are you, Christina and the recent new arrival?
We are all doing well. Quinn was born on Halloween and has certainly made the holiday season even better. She doesn’t have a clue what’s going on but she has traveled well – so important, given our professions.
As for Christina, the C-section pushed back her recovery a bit but she’s starting to hit her stride. It’s difficult to take an athlete off of her feet for that long, so she’s thrilled to be back to work and back training.
What are your feelings looking back on 2015 as a whole?
I’m not sure where to start with 2015 – we welcomed a healthy daughter into the world, had a very successful year professionally in business and I got to referee some big matches.
On the soccer front, I’ll never forget that Sunday afternoon in Yankee Stadium, the 120 minutes of the U.S. Open Cup Final in Philadelphia or the Playoff game in Portland.
That being said, I’m not one to reflect much – I’m thankful for today. I’m thankful for my family – with my extended soccer family included. I will do what I can to be a better person, and better referee, in 2016.
You have become a full-time referee with PRO ahead of 2016 – what will that mean for you?
The position will allow for more hands-on learning, as camps will be more plentiful this season. In turn, there are greater opportunities for review and education, application and growth, as well as building camaraderie with an impressive group of current full-time officials. I see only positives from transitioning into the role.
You have also been appointed to the FIFA panel. What does that achievement mean to you?
There is a surreal nature to it – we all strive to reach the top of our professions, and this is it. There is no greater badge. In the same breath, it’s not a trophy.
Kari Seitz said it best to me in that, “it’s just the beginning”. It’s an honor to wear the badge, though there are even larger expectations that come with it – organically and perceptually.
Being on the panel will not only allow me to step out of my comfort zone into new challenges, it will provide even more chances to give back through development, which is both important and rewarding to me. A FIFA referee is more than just being an excellent official on the field; one must represent themselves to the highest degree off of it as well. I strive to live up to those standards.
Plus, my wife Christina has been on the panel since 2013 – I had to catch up! Truly, I have no words to describe what it’s like to be able to both represent our country. I’m not sure if there’s ever been a husband and wife simultaneously on the panel, but it feels about as common as a unicorn.
Are you pleased with the progress you’ve made?
I’ve had an adage, “always happy, never satisfied”. But there’s no way I couldn’t be pleased with the progress – it’s been slightly meteoric.
I believe in my abilities and have one hell of a support system, at home and at PRO. Even that is oversimplified – so much has to go right. There are so many people involved with my successes and we all need and appreciate lady luck from time to time. To that, I’m very thankful.
Looking forward, do you have any specific targets for 2016?
It truly is one day at a time. It is always my goal to be a better person, husband, father, brother and son. In soccer, it’s to be a better referee, colleague and mentor. These goals, and others, are achievable because of the people I have surrounding me. This cannot be undersold.