Referee in Focus – Casey Reibelt

Casey Reibelt has been a Westfield W-League referee since 2008 and a FIFA listed referee since 2014.

Casey was named the Westfield W-League Referee of the Year in 2014 and has refereed at a host of international tournaments including the 2014 Algarve Cup.  She shares some of her insights on being an elite referee in the Westfield W-League.

How did you become involved in refereeing?
My brother and I both played football, and I would sometimes fill in as an assistant referee on my brother's matches. My cousin, who was also a footballer, had started refereeing to earn some pocket money. I had enjoyed being involved as an assistant, and liked the idea of earning pocket money by being involved in the sport I loved, so at age fifteen I completed a referee's course. I fell in love with refereeing, and eventually gave away playing, as the matches I played in clashed with the ones I was refereeing.

Can you describe a week in the life of a W-League referee?
My week starts with finding out what match I have for the weekend, and working backwards from there. For example, if it is a Sunday away match, Saturday night/Sunday morning will usually involve traveling. On the Saturday I will have a pre-match training session, which is usually a short, sharp speed session. Friday is a rest day, while Tuesday to Thursday will involve a mix of high intensity, speed endurance, strength and injury prevention as well as any practical refereeing exercises. Monday will be recovery and injury prevention. Throughout the week we will also have coaching sessions where we review and discuss incidents from our matches as well as preparing for the match the following weekend. Many people are often surprised when I explain the preparation that goes into refereeing.

What do you do to keep a balance between your personal, professional and refereeing life?
It's difficult, and I'm not sure I've got the balance right just yet. I think I'm incredibly fortunate to have very understanding and supportive people around me in each of the different areas of my life, and I wouldn't be where I am without them. I try to be very open and communicate the things I am able to commit to.    

How do you keep focused during a match and not let emotions influence decisions?
A coach of mine always says you need to think of yourself like a duck. On the surface, a duck swims around effortlessly, however underneath the water, the legs are working like crazy. It can be the same as referee. When everyone else on the field is getting caught up in the moment, you have to remember to take a deep breath and use your body language to appear as calm and confident as possible, even if on the inside you're feeling a little more than stressed! It's not always easy. 

In your opinion, what has been the biggest change in football in recent years?
One of the biggest changes I believe, which has also had an impact on referees is the speed of the game. Teams are now looking to always catch their opposition off guard which can result in very quick counterattacks. This has meant that the level of fitness, in particular speed and agility has had to improve.

What is the key to building positive relationships with players and coaches?
This will sound very cliché, but I do believe it's about just being yourself.  I think if you are honest, genuine and consistent in your interactions with players, they will know what to expect from you and will trust you. Referees can be strong, but also in my opinion always need to remain professional and respectful.

What do you consider to be the most important characteristic of an elite referee?
This is a difficult question to answer, so I will give more than one. I believe you need to have courage, self-belief and a strong work ethic to be at the highest level.

What match or moment stands out as a highlight in your refereeing career?
Refereeing my first international match between Sweden and Denmark.