Similar to any successful soccer club, the development and integration of new people is important to the PRO assessing program.
New assessors bring refreshing approaches and enthusiasm to the new season and gives the officials an opportunity to tap into the knowledge of individuals they possibly had never worked with before.
Steve Montanino, a New York resident, is one of the recent influx of U.S. Soccer National Referee Coaches who was recruited by Black in 2020. Montanino, a former US National Referee who worked on US Open Cup Games and also in USL, has worked extensively with officials at various levels in the game.
However, Montanino is aware of the differences that being a PRO Assessor brings: “After you join the PRO assessment team, one quickly realizes that to do the job well you must commit a substantial amount of time to remain relevant and to be consistent in your judgments that match PRO’s standards.”
Having made that jump and after a year of assessment work in 2020 for PRO, primarily in NWSL, Montanino is looking forward to this year’s challenge. He listed several skills that he feels will be necessary to develop further as he heads into the season:
- Technical knowledge and football understanding – PRO Assessors must be relevant regarding trends in MLS and world football.
- Continual study and personal development regarding all aspects of the game, using the extensive training modules that are available.
- Observation and report writing skills – not just any detail, but the correct detail.
Not only must all members of the PRO Assessor Panel be current U.S. Soccer National Referee Coaches or Canada Soccer Association National Assessors, but they must successfully complete a year-long training program before they are considered for PRO eligibility.
One successful graduate who is about to embark on his PRO Assessor career is former top-level J1 League Referee Yuya Kiuchi. In addition to refereeing experience in Japan and France, Yuya is currently Assistant Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at Michigan State University.
When asked about the transition from top-level official to top-level assessor, Kiuchi reflected: “I am extremely fortunate to be able to remain engaged in the sport not only in general but also at the highest level domestically.
“I am very grateful that immediately after I retired from the Japan Football Association (JFA), U.S. Soccer invited me to become a National Referee Coach and PRO invited me to go through the training to become an assessor.
“I miss camaraderie with JFA referees but now I’m very excited about replicating that with PRO staff, officials, and assessors. The transition has been very exciting. Injuries and a few other personal reasons led me to retire from officiating earlier than expected, so there was a sense of sadness about retiring. But I’m now very excited about various opportunities ahead of me.”
Kiuchi is not going into his new role with his eyes closed: “Having the experience of being a top-level referee is undoubtedly helpful to become a top-level assessor, but is far from enough in itself.
“Assessing officials who are working at the highest level is never easy. Referees already know what they are doing well without being told by an assessor. The errors they make tend to be less conspicuous. They are also expected to analyze their own performances without an assessor.
“If I were to simply assess an official from a technical point of view, I may be able to do it well without such a holistic view on refereeing, but I would like to be more than that. I aspire to be someone referees genuinely feel understands them and gives them sincere and truly helpful advice. For this to happen, I will have to remain relevant in the game beyond technical knowledge.”