By Guy Beale
Back in May, referees all around England got to hear about the results of all their hard work and commitment, in respect to their endeavours to reach the next level on the Refereeing Pyramid, if they had applied for promotion.
You Are The Ref were delighted to be able to congratulate both Shane Mansfield and Stacey Pearson for each achieving their goals.
Stacey’s enrolment into the You Are The Ref Scholarship took a different route than Shane’s, as YATR contacted her following a press release that the former Yeovil Town player had decided to make the jump from player to official, and focus on reaching as high as she could in both the men’s and women’s game in the middle, having qualified as a referee two years before.
We were delighted to take Stacey, a PE teacher at Merchants Academy in Bristol, on-board at the start of season 15/16. I was allocated as her coach straight away and right from the start of our working relationship, Stacey impressed me immediately with the way she had adapted from being a player to a referee, by using her excellent reading of the game and empathy with the players which enhanced her match control.
The one thing we needed to concentrate on, however, was to maximise her presence on the field of play and increase her profile when she communicated with the players, so that they were in no doubt whatsoever that she was not the type of referee to shirk her responsibilities.
As a first year Level 4 last season, Stacey was under no illusions as to the task we had set together back in August 2016, to make the grade as a Level 3 by the end of March 2017. And to have accomplished this achievement in such a short space of time has been truly astonishing. Like every referee’s journey, there have been high and low points along the way, but this lady’s tenacity and resolve, coupled with hard work and commitment, resulted in her being the only referee to be promoted to Level 3 from Somerset FA this season.
Not only that, but her season was capped off with the appointment to a very tough Somerset Senior Cup Final as referee, in the same season as she finally bowed out from her playing career with a winners medal for the Women’s County Senior Cup Final, with an appearance for Keynsham Town. A feat which is unlikely to ever be achieved again!
Stacey has since settled into the rigours of performing at Level 3 really well, and YATR were delighted to hear recently that she has been selected to officiate as Assistant Referee in her first international match in an U19 Tournament in Switzerland later this month.
“If I didn’t have the support of Guy and YATR I personally don’t think I would have achieved this as soon as I have,” she said.
“The coaching points, having someone there at the end of the phone, coming to watch me referee, without that support I wouldn’t have got promoted as quick as I did.
“Attending this year’s Youdan Trophy helped my pre-season because I was able to receive instant feedback and which I was able to put that into practice straightaway with games of a high standard being played every day.
“It’s allowed me to get into the rhythm of things and hit the ground running at the start of the season which has led me to this amazing opportunity.”
Everyone at You Are The Ref wishes her all the best in what I hope will be the first of many overseas appointments for this truly dedicated official.
Shane was granted the first membership of the You Are The Ref Scholarship scheme following his application in 2014, having not long passed his initial training course.
The window of opportunity to apply for promotion in his first season had already passed, but I focussed on getting him ready to hit the ground running for the following season. Right from the start, I saw that there was “something different” about this chap, as I had never before met a new referee as focussed on getting as high as he could on the referee’s ladder right from his very first game.
At the end of his first season, Shane had already impressed his Local League Clubs and administrators sufficiently to be awarded the middle for one of the Junior League Cup Finals, and he has never looked back since.
During his second season, I encouraged Shane to canvass his County FA to consider him for a “double jump” from Level 7 to Level 5, which they were very supportive of, provided he showed the commitment and potential to deliver. With excellent assessments and a total of over 80 fixtures completed in the allotted period, he matched all the criteria required and was rewarded by achieving the goal set for that season.
Starting only his second full marking season as a Level 5, with the full endorsement of Wiltshire County FA, Shane was appointed to over 10 games in the Western Pool, which is normally just for Level 4 referees.
Shane himself was grateful of the 2016 Youdan Trophy to help him prepare for the following season: “In the weeks preceding the start of the season the tournament really was priceless for me. I was exposed to tournament football, high level coaching, interaction with international officials & experience of neutral assistants with 4th Officials.
“Plus very professional coaching staff who expected high standards. You are dealing with the youth set ups for the likes of Everton, Rangers, Celtic, Seattle Sounders, Newcastle United and a whole host of other domestic & international teams. Expectations on officials – maybe unfairly – are high. And of course we put pressure on ourselves to deliver.”
In only his 2nd full season Shane rose to the challenge superbly and following regular assessments in the higher leagues, he was subsequently rewarded with his third promotion, which saw him start this season as a Level 4 in the Western Pool in his own right!
I have found Shane to be an ideal student to work with as he is always willing to learn from his mistakes and immediately implement suggested improvement actions without contention. By the end of last season, the best complement I could give him was that he was now beginning to “look like a referee” as well as “act like one”. This reflected the main focus of the goals we had set together to supplement his obvious confidence and raw ability in the middle, with an air of maturity and experience which he had yet to attain in the short time since he had taken up the whistle. My comments were meant to emphasise how far we had come in such a short time.
Over the past 3 seasons I have attended numerous games in person for Shane and Stacey, as well as providing detailed analysis of all their Observer’s Reports when I have not been there. These “at the game sessions” have been supplemented by regular “coach calls” before and after games, and the trust and honesty which has grown over the years has been one of the most rewarding things which I have experienced in my personal career in refereeing over the past 39 years.
Setting goals is something regularly talked about on our website and is a subject which is covered in great detail in the new Academy area.
Working with these two officials over the last few years has provided some excellent examples of precisely how this process can be measured and ultimately achieved. As a coach, there is nothing more rewarding in this profession than to read through the areas of advice received in an Observer’s Report, which are echoed by the coach at a particular game, and then seeing that precisely the same criteria appears in the strengths section the next time out, because action has been taken.
As I have said numerous times to Shane and Stacey “That’s what makes all the effort worthwhile”!