iCanRef: Sam Barrott
Tell us about how and why you got involved in refereeing?
I became a referee due to an injury playing football. I was playing football at a decent standard for Halifax Town Youth Team and always dreamed I’d have a chance of making it. My injury left me unable to do contact sport for 9 months. My Grandad caught me and told me I should take the referees course. It’s good for your CV and will keep you fit whilst you’re injured. I was only 15 when I completed the course so I still had playing football at a decent standard in my head. I completed the course at Hipperholme in Brighouse, ran by David Fuller and Bobby Madley. I then went on to referee in the Huddersfield Junior Football League, a great stomping ground for any young referees. I then moved through when I was 16 to the Yorkshire Old Boys League, where I began to really learn what it was like to be a referee. My final season at Level 5 was done in the Huddersfield District League, a year that tested me but one I thoroughly enjoyed.
What do you enjoy about refereeing?
A variety of different reasons. There is no buzz like it on a matchday. The excitement, the nerves, the noise, the feeling, there is literally nothing like it. I get just as excited for a Sunday Cup game as I do for a National League game. It’s a buzz, I can’t describe. The rewards are endless. Every single refereeing appointment is a reward. Monday’s are now spent waiting on the email informing me of my Saturday fixture. Refereeing has allowed me to travel to different places of the country, watch other referees officiate whilst also developing incredible friendships. Refereeing is now part of my life and lifestyle, a phrase I never ever expected to say when I first took my course.
Who are your role models in refereeing?
All referees are role models to me for a variety of different reasons. Anybody who gives up their time to pick up the whistle is well worth a mention. In terms of people I aspire to, I have been lucky through refereeing to have met some great people and become friends with them. They show me positive examples week in, week out of how to carry yourself and remain professional regardless of how a game has gone.
In terms of the biggest influence on my refereeing career, there has been a few. Neil Simpson and Ronnie Cushing from Huddersfield got me on the bandwagon and pushed me through local football offering advice on games and incidents. I was then lucky enough to be selected to referee as part of the West Riding School of Excellence. Whilst on that both Bobby and Andy Madley had a huge impact on my refereeing. David Fuller was also there with a vast array of knowledge and ideas. Since then I have been privileged to work alongside Michael Naylor and now Graham Laws. Their knowledge and understanding of the game are incredible. The hardest job I’ve had is taking all the learning on board and trying to implement it in my game.
What are your greatest achievements in refereeing and why?
There have been a few so far in my career. Refereeing the County Cup Final in 2018 was a massive honour and an achievement, I will always be proud of. Refereeing the National League North Play off final is also up there. A prestigious appointment that came after a long season. This accompanied by promotions through the refereeing pyramid have been great.
What is your best memory of refereeing?
Memories are made every single game. My best memory of refereeing, would have to be either the County Cup Final of 2018 held at Woodlesford or my promotion to the Panel 2A list this year. Both are good memories for different reasons, one being the honour of the appointment, the other being a reward for a huge amount of hard work throughout a season.
What are your goals in the sport?
A tough question. My goals change every season, dependant on whether they have been achieved or not. When I first started refereeing my goal was to officiate on the Contributory Leagues, Level 3. I have been fortunate enough to achieve that. I feel that my goal now is just to continue to improve. Make them marginal gains that can make my game better and more seamless. I am currently a CORE coach for the WRCFA and I constantly try to give back to referees. I appreciated just how valuable it was for somebody to be on the end of a phone or to come and watch me.
What are the biggest obstacles you have faced in refereeing?
Belief. More so self-belief. As a referee, I have become my own worst enemy. I sit down and watch every single one of my performances from start to finish and make notes on things I could have done differently.
The game at any level is a pressured environment. You naturally put pressure on yourself to deliver and perform to your best. I think the biggest challenge is when you see a decline in performances. When things are going well, you feel untouchable. Like nothing can go wrong. When you have a few bad games, your confidence goes and your mindset changes. Confidence and belief is key. Parking decisions regardless of whether they are correct or incorrect is important and developing a mental toughness towards the down times is vital.
The tip I have to overcoming these strategies is to not change. You’ve got to the level of football you have by being you and refereeing how you referee. Maintain that position. It will take you through more good times than bad.
What advice would you give to people wishing to get involved in refereeing?
If I could give one bit of advice to people considering becoming a referee, it would be to take the plunge. It is by far one of the best decisions I have made so far. To newly qualified referees, it would be to believe in yourself. You are beginning to partake in a hobby which develops every aspect of your life, not just on the field of play. You become a better communicator, you learn more about different personalities and how to man-manage these, you become fitter. You are the leader of your own destiny! Regardless of whether you aim to be refereeing the FA Cup final or whether you are wanting to help your child’s team out on a Sunday morning, the rewards are huge and they only increase throughout your career.