Story of a… Referee

Major League Soccer Assistant Referee Kermit Quisenberry says for 22 years he’s had a “front-row view of the game.”

Getting in the right position. When Quisenberry was a teenager, “my coach had our soccer team take the referee class because more refs were needed. I stuck with it because it was easier than working at McDonald’s and it paid more.” He tried working the center field but felt more comfortable on the sidelines. “My main focus is offsides, out of bounds and assisting the head ref.”

Bells and whistles. His day starts with the first bell at T. Dewitt Taylor Middle-High School in Volusia County. “I teach first aid/safety and personal fitness. Teaching gave me flexibility to referee throughout the U.S. and the world. There have been many times when my red-eye flight landed, and I drove directly from MCO [Orlando International Airport] to school.” At the end of the school day, Quisenberry either coaches the school’s soccer team or referees an MLS game.

Dressed to impress. “Every two years, Adidas changes our MLS uniforms, so my closet is a rainbow. Actually, I outfit the goalkeepers of my school team with my old referee jerseys.”

Changing lineup. “The Professional Referee Organization [PRO] uses a formula to balance out referee assignments to be geographic-neutral. I could be in Orlando one weekend and Vancouver the next. Each game brings a new crew of referees together, so you have to adjust a bit to each other’s style.”

Skill drills. “We meet with the PRO three times a year face-to-face, but every week we watch online offside clips, look at fouls and misconduct, and review situations from the week before to improve our decision-making process.”

Exercise is a job requirement. “PRO’s sports scientists help us to maintain our bodies. We have a weekly exercise program, plus an annual fitness test.”

Fandemonium. “Fans scream at you. They forget it’s a game, and we’re human beings who make mistakes. You have to learn to focus.” Stadium crowds can give him pregame jitters, though. “I get nervous. I’ve come close to having anxiety attacks. Sports psychologists have taught me ways to put myself in a good place.”

No playing favorites… except one. “I don’t have a favorite team because, if you get assigned to them, that fan element could mess up your decisions.” Quisenberry admits, however, that Orlando Pride’s Marta is his favorite National Women’s Soccer player.

High-tech pros and cons. MLS now uses “video assistant referee” review technology. “I’m somebody that says we need that extra benefit because, with the speed of the game, the human eye can miss something. But the purest part of me says it disrupts the game.”

Big wins. With both FIFA and U.S. Soccer Federation experience, Quisenberry’s career highs include the 2008 Beijing Olympics, 2004 and 2008 MLS Cup Finals, 2008 World Cup Qualifiers and twice being named Assistant Referee of the Year (2008 and 2013).

Lucky charm. “Kermit is a family name. I have a lucky frog toy my nephew gave me that I keep in my referee gear bag. Since 1998, it’s traveled with me to every soccer game and been all over the world.”

Categories: People