Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Interested in Refereeing?

The North Toronto Referee Development Program Cycle


The structure of the referee program at North Toronto is dependent on the time of year. In order to maximize the development of our officials while ensuring our recreation and competitive program needs are met, each season has its own specific structure. On a whole, there are 3 main seasons:

  • Spring (highest volume of matches)
  • Summer (moderate volume of matches)
  • Fall/Winter (lowest volume of matches)

The busy seasons, in terms of volume of matches, are spring and summer, with fall/winter being more quiet due to field/venue availability.

End of Winter

Just after the turn of the new year (approximately February to April), the club conducts our recreational program hiring process for referees (as well as for game leaders/coaches). We don’t limit referee hiring to specifically this time of year, but due to the large volume of spring applicants, it can be difficult for us to take on more officials later in the year.


During the spring, officials are encouraged to consistently self-reflect on their recreational officiating performances alongside occasional mentorship, seeking help when needed. Referees looking to reach the competitive level and express so to program management may have a match official-specific plan prepared for them at this time. This plan can then be followed through the outdoor season, preparing an official for either small-sided or full field competitive games the following season. Officials, particularly those refereeing 11v11 games, may be assessed mid-season, with new referees looking to get insight into their officiating skills having the opportunity to be assessed pending approval from the Club Head Referee.


In the summer, where there is a slightly lower number of games, a great emphasis is placed on 1-on-1 referee mentorship. Program management and senior club referees will work with individual referees, targeting a match official’s strengths for fine tuning, and weaknesses for improvement. Referees can all expect to be assessed at least once during the summer season, serving to provide all club referees with a formal idea of where they are in terms of refereeing ability.

Fall & Winter

The volume of club recreational games are considerably reduced in fall and winter, with both seasons taking place indoors at turf field venues, and in a 7v7 or 9v9 format. As a result of limited game assignments, match official space is highly competitive, with the most driven and reliable officials from the outdoor season being given priority.

Referee development in this half of the year primarily shifts towards using alternative methods of educating referees. These methods include law and skill reviews taking place both virtually and in-person on a field, as well as independent study that involves referees reviewing club designed officiating educational material.

Referee Assessment & Mentorship

The referee program at North Toronto takes a different approach to the evaluation of club referees. Rather than assessing referees on an evaluation-basis, which often raises an official’s level of anxiety during a match, we assess a referee’s officiating abilities through a marking mechanism. This works to highlight areas officials are successful or not so successful in (e.g. positioning, communication, signaling, etc.), and why or why not.

Alongside mechanics used to assess club referee’s officiating skills, the club uses referee mentors to help officials get comfortable on the field. Club referee mentors not only observe a referee’s performance, but also work to deter match official abuse that can be all too common when a new official is on the field.

With the majority of our club referees being young officials in their high school and university years, this balanced approach to referee development ensures that North Toronto provides a social and professional environment, serving to create knowledgeable officials and confident leaders within the community. Therefore, our referees not only grow as officials, but as people too.

Unique Opportunities

At the beginning of spring and end of fall, competitive (TSA and iModel) and high-performance (OPDL and League 1) exhibition matches are organized by North Toronto. Club referees will be prioritized for assignments to these games wherever possible, often serving as a way to prepare club referees for referee upgrading. However, they are also a great way to get a feel for officiating at the competitive level under referee mentorship. New referees will begin on the line as an assistant referee, observing the middle/centre referee’s technique.

While many clubs host exhibition matches, North Toronto’s talented player base helps attract many of the best teams in Ontario to play against. By officiating matches with higher quality play, the more targeted development a referee can receive, especially when the real nuances of the laws of the game come into question. Furthermore, the referee program maintains connections with external referees who officiate at the regional and provincial competitive levels. This means there are opportunities to referee in full crews with these officials, allowing for greater focus on pre-match routine (i.e. warmup and coin-toss ritual).

External connections also mean North Toronto club referees can put their skills on show outside of exhibition games. Spring, summer, and fall competitive tournaments are held every year across the city and province. Senior club referees often get together to form full crews, and express interest to external assignors about officiating a handful of games across a weekend. This is a great way for our officials to further develop their refereeing and teamwork skills, but also to keep building relationships amongst themselves. Besides which, nothing beats a well earned meal with colleagues and friends after a long day of officiating.

Monday–Friday: 10 am - 6 pm

North Toronto Soccer Club
1041 Avenue Rd. Suite 5
Toronto, Ontario
M5N 2C5