Teenagers serve as referees for youth sports

Allows for involvement beyond team participation


Ethan Meisler

Sophomore Elliot Salmon looks to make a call while reffing a Stars & Stripes game at Braemar Arena in Edina. Stars & Stripes is an AAA hockey tournament for top youth players of every age.

Yonit Krebs

Knowing he wouldn’t be able to play hockey on Park’s high school team, sophomore Elliot Salmon said he searched for other ways to maintain a connection to the sport.

“I ended up asking the players’ dads and they said to try reffing hockey as a way to stay involved and they ended up giving me the contact information,” Salmon said. “I ended up applying through USA Hockey to become a referee and attended a class and was registered to become a referee.”

According to Salmon, he attended a day-long training to become a referee.

“They demonstrated certain things on the sidewalk and then they had a painted portrait of the ice rink and basically it was moving around and knowing where to be when and then there was also a lot of textbook and rule stuff as well,” Salmon said.

Salmon said he is one of the youngest referees as few are in high school.

“Most of them were older, people probably in their 50s,” Salmon said. “For the more higher-paced games, a lot of guys or girls were in their 20s, 30s.”

After playing little league baseball for many years, junior David Khabie decided to serve as an umpire and is now spending his third summer officiating youth games.

“I wanted to find a job and I thought this was a perfect opportunity for me because I was like an expert in baseball and the rules,” Khabie said.

Khabie said he was anxious before his first game as an umpire, but his co-worker helped him succeed.

“Usually there’s two umpires on the field, and I remember my first game I was super nervous and the other umpire just told me, ‘Do your best. We’re going to make mistakes but you just have to try to do your best,’” Khabie said. “That really gave me the confidence to successfully officiate.”

Since he serves as a referee for youth games, Salmon said he works to act as a mentor to the young hockey players.

“One of the key things that they do is ask you to be a leader out there because the kids are young and are still learning the game of hockey,” Salmon said. “They ask you to instead of being a referee, be more of a coach to them and help them if they committed a penalty or they went offsides to help them know what they did wrong.”

I think (refereeing) really helped me grow as a leader because I was able to help these kids. I also love staying on ice, it was a great way for me to stay involved and help out because I know they need referees.

— Elliot Salmon, sophomore

According to Khabie, one of the biggest challenges when umpiring is dealing with the little league players and coaches.

“There was a coach last year who just got on my nerves and he would argue with most of my calls,” Khabie said. “I would just say, ‘Listen man, you’ve got to go back to your bench and coach. You’re not making this fun anymore.’”

Salmon said looking at being a referee as an opportunity to help the players develop their hockey skills allowed for his own development.

“I think (refereeing) really helped me grow as a leader because I was able to help these kids,” Salmon said. “I also love staying on ice, it was a great way for me to stay involved and help out because I know they need referees.”

Salmon said he enjoys refereeing as a way to remain a part of the hockey community.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to lead and make some money, of course. If you love to skate, if you don’t want to play hockey, and you’re interested in the game, reffing is a great idea,” Salmon said. “It’s a great way to stay on the ice, maybe get some exercise and a great way to spend time.”