PRO Development Group officials enjoy mid-season camp

Last weekend, PRO Development Group officials completed their mid-season camp in Denver. The camp was focused on fitness testing, field technical exercises, debating important critical match incidents, and attending and analyzing a live MLS game hosted by the Colorado Rapids.

Upon their arrival on Friday, officials submitted to body composition testing conducted by PRO’s Sport Science department. After dinner, Alex Prus welcomed all participants, covering the camp agenda and logistics.

Following a welcome session, officials participated in a video test that contained 15 of the most debated critical match incidents across NASL, NWSL, and USL, followed by a short quiz based on knowledge of all three leagues.

On Saturday, camp officials were fortunate to experience two special guest speakers in Bibiana Steinhaus and Howard Webb. Steinhaus shared details surrounding her journey to officiating the Women’s World Cup Final and being the first female referee promoted to the German Bundesliga for the 2017-18 season.

Her story served as an inspiration for all young officials in attendance, and Steinhaus was delighted to be involved, telling proreferees.com: “I loved being able to share my experiences with this group of ambitious referees from the USA and Canada. Soccer has the same language worldwide and referees face similar challenges. I hope I was able to show them that with hard work, passion, and perseverance, anything is possible.”

Webb’s presentation focused on the VAR program that will go live in early August following the MLS All-Star Game, and he had glowing feedback following the session.

“It was a pleasure to be in the company of such enthusiastic officials who have an obvious love for the game,” Webb reflected. “They were clearly eager to learn about new developments such as the introduction of video assistant refereeing. Some of these officials will play a big part in the implementation of such initiatives. The future appears to be in good hands.”

Following these presentations, Alex Prus prepared two on-field sessions with officials focusing on fitness testing and technical field exercises. When these sessions had concluded, officials attended dinner and later the Colorado Rapids versus Portland Timbers match, refereed by Baldomero Toledo with Frank Anderson (AR1), Jonathan Johnson (AR2), and Nima Saghafi (4th) in support.

Each official was assigned a specific topic to observe during live play, with discussion surrounding these occurring the following day, along with a written assignment submitted via email. On Sunday, in addition to discussing the MLS game from the night before, a review of Friday’s video test and quiz was conducted with prizes for the highest scorers.

Following this half-day discussion, Sandra Serafini presented data on critical match incidents from across NASL, NWSL, and USL and led a hands-on exercise about writing game and competition incident reports after matches. PRO General Manager, Peter Walton, provided closing remarks with the takeaway message that it is up to each individual official to help determine how far they can go, based on hard work and their performance on the field.

Looking back on the camp, Alex Prus reflected: “First of all, I would like to thank all officials for their hard work in all games so far and putting in an outstanding effort throughout a very demanding camp schedule.

“Everyone acted professionally and hopefully they understand by now that only the hardest working officials will make it all the way to the top. I would like to also thank our special guests, Bibi and Howard for sharing with us their knowledge and stories, and showing young officials that most important thing is to be honest, brave, and humble enough to admit mistakes so they are not repeated by others.

“Also, I would like to thank Peter Walton for attending and providing tremendous support to our Development Program. Special thanks to all staff for making our camp a successful one.”

What they said:

“I was delighted to be in attendance to see the progress of our development match officials under the guidance of both PRO, USSF and the CSA.’’ – Peter Walton, PRO General Manager

“It’s a pleasure to be working with the development group of officials. The progress made from the preseason to the midseason camp has been steady.  The officials challenge each other to make improvement in their refereeing skills.” – Rick Eddy, Director of Referee Development for the USSF

“I thought the overall training atmosphere at the camp was very positive and encouraging for the officials to keep making improvements. The approach to officiating and discussions at the camp were not only related to on-field performance but about the preparation and time management off the field too.

“It was eye-opening to see some of the resources PRO is providing to the group to further develop their skills needed to officiate in our league through educational classroom sessions as well as field exercises.” – Victoria Rich, Operations Manager for NWSL