Mike Syrotiak is a senior at Ridgefield High School, a member of the varsity soccer team and takes the game one step further by refereeing games around the state. Here's what he had to say about this unique job.
How did you get started refereeing?
When I was 12, going to be 13, I really wanted to make money – that was the first thing – and the first thing that came to mind was soccer, so at that age, really the only job you can do it reffing. So that’s what I turned to. I pretty much knew the game already, had to go take the course, get certified and now I just keep moving up.
What’s involved in the course?
The course was, at that time, two four-hour courses and then a test at the end. You learn all the rules, all the jobs of the center referee and the assistant referee, and then you learn player management, what to do when certain things happen. That first year they focused on the rules; when I started they still had the grade nine program going and now they changed that to grade eight, so you start more advanced. Grade nine you stay on the sideline, but now when you start you can go anywhere you want.
Has this made you better at soccer?
Yes. And it made me respect the referees more. So now, when I knew the referees were doing something wrong, I could say something. If they said an indirect kick when it’s a direct kick, I can kind of correct them on that. But it made me a better player – you can see another standpoint of the game, like when I go back and talk to my refereeing friends, we see the referee’s standpoint, the player’s standpoint, and then you see the coach’s standpoint. And that’s where I want to be when I get older is to see all three areas.
Do you want to continue this?
Yes. Playing is probably going to die down after this year – I’m going to play club in college and see where that takes me. I’m looking at either Sacred Heart (University) or Quinnipiac (University), both in Connecticut, so I’ll get to work with some of the same people. Quinnipiac’s in Hamden, which is pretty close to the center of refereeing, so all the people in charge are there, and that’ll help me keep going. My sophomore year, playing in college was still a goal for me, but that’s a little out of my range now. I’m a good player, but refereeing is where I’m headed. I’m working on getting to level seven now, and then I’ll be upgraded to level six, which is state level.
What does each level mean?
Eight is a basic referee, pretty much what everyone here is – you can do that at 13 years old. When you turn 17, you can become a grade seven with a certain amount of experience and a fitness test for more competitive games. Grade six is a state referee, and it’s a little harder to get. Grade five is still state, and grade four turns to national referee, where you start getting into the (Major League Soccer) games and stuff like that.
What have you learned?
How to interact with people. Between kids, coaches and adults, how to act in a professional way, it all ties together with reffing – I bring it to school and wherever else I go with my friends. It kind of helped teach me what was right and wrong, also, when I was growing up. It helped me mature a lot through the years. My dad helped me get into it – when I got my badge when I was 13, he started, too, so it was a family thing. We did our games together, and now I’m starting to move up higher than him, and he’s helping my sister, Nicole, who’s doing the same thing I did.
What’s your favorite part?
There are so many different parts that are so great about it, but I like just being able to get out and earn money with it, and I enjoy dealing with the people. I go out of Ridgefield now with men’s games, so players from 25 years old to 55 years old, they don’t like hearing it from me, but it’s fun dealing with that. Some referees don’t like it but I think it’s fun to have the power at some points.
So when do you expect to ref the world cup?