Play. Inspire. Unite.
Ontario Match Official, Scott Bowman has officiated in some of the province's biggest stages including League1 Ontario, OPDL and various Ontario Soccer events.
This year he elevated his game to the Canadian Premier League, becoming the only non-Canada Soccer NextGen Program official to officiate in the Canadian first division game.
The NextGen program is a program designed to discover the next generation of officiating talent in the country. Bowman reflects on what his experience has been like in the past year, his personal achievements as a Match Official and the ongoing Long Term Officials Development project.
Scott Bowman is set to join the star-studded Match Officiating panel at the Ontario Soccer Summit 2020, including the likes of former keynote speaker Howard Webb, Bibiana Steinhaus, Joe Fletcher and Issac Raymond.
Certainly nervous! When I received the first appointment, I was happy to see that I had worked with everyone on the crew beforehand which meant I was familiar with their expectations from past games.
We met at Tim Hortons Field more than two hours before kickoff in order to inspect the field and complete the CPL pre-match requirements. When we went out for our warm-up, the stands were already starting to fill and there was definitely greater energy on the pitch even before kick-off.
I remember after the post-game debrief in the dressing room, looking at my phone and seeing messages from several local referees who had been at the game, congratulating me on the match. A lot of the referees I spoke to after were interested in knowing how the CPL game felt different compared to games in other leagues. The CPL players are training full-time so the play was faster than what I had seen before. I noticed how the counter attacks started immediately after teams lost possession and the margins for offside decisions felt much tighter.
I had similar thoughts about the increased pace of play when I started officiating in League1, compared to leagues I was familiar with at the time. League1 was my first exposure to more administrative responsibilities of officials, especially as a 4th official, and becoming comfortable with those added responsibilities can help keep the focus on the match itself. The biggest benefit to League1 though, I believe, was having every match recorded and posted on YouTube. Watching all my League1 games back has been very helpful in improving my officiating.
Opportunity is a huge part of progressing as a referee, and the more training sessions for referees to learn, show their skill and enthusiasm - the better.
The LTOD program has allowed officials from across the province to learn from instructors in the classroom and practice their skills on the field which will only benefit those officials on the field during matches. I very much enjoy meeting new officials and taking the chance to share my experiences, especially my mistakes, in hopes that Ontario referees are inspired to progress in their officiating careers. There are so many opportunities now for motivated referees to participate in higher-level soccer. For instance in Hamilton, young players are told they have a path from grassroots to professional soccer with the local CPL team. That's true of local referees too. New referees will begin officiating at the local club level and can progress straight up through regional and provincial leagues, and potentially into CPL matches, all in one city.
Stay fit. Teams are focusing more and more on player fitness, which means officials also need to keep improving fitness to improve performance. As officials progress, they will be required to run fitness tests to participate in certain leagues and sometimes opportunities come up without much warning and aspiring referees should be fit enough to not only pass the fitness tests but also excel for the duration of matches. Also, officials are expected to know the Laws of the Game and be up to date with law changes as well as league-specific requirements.
Obviously, there is so much more to officiating soccer than just fitness and knowing the Laws, but officials spend their career honing other skills such as positioning and match control; fitness and knowledge of the Laws provide an important base for beginning as an official and will give credibility with players, coaches and fellow officials.