Referee in Focus – Kate Jacewicz

Kate Jacewicz has been a Westfield W-League referee since 2008 and a FIFA listed referee since 2011.

Kate has been named the Westfield W-League Referee of the Year six times and is the Australia’s most experienced female referee. She shares some of her insights on being an elite referee in the Westfield W-League.

How did you become involved in refereeing?
I started playing at Mudgeeraba Junior Soccer Club from the age of eight-years-old. My mum was basically Mrs Mudgeeraba Soccer, so consequently my brother and I spent every weekend down the club. She encouraged me to take the referee introductory course alongside her. Refereeing games also got me out of doing chores!

Can you describe a week in the life of an W-League referee?
My average week involves three strength sessions in the gym, three fitness training sessions, all while trying to fit in full time study and some form of socialising with what little time I have left. Then comes match day on either the Saturday or Sunday where we become personally acquainted with airports. On the Monday proceeding the match, we phone in for a debrief of the round involving the officials from both the Hyundai A-League and Westfield W-League who had matches.

What do you do to keep a balance between your personal, professional and refereeing life?
For me, balance comes naturally when I enjoy what I do. However, an element of elite refereeing is being selfish and making sacrifices.  Juggling international appointments and full time work began to prove difficult, so I decided to go back to university to study sports psychology, which allows me time to train and travel to tournaments while also shaping a career post refereeing. Fortunately I have incredibly understanding, patient and supportive people in my life. They not only want to share in my achievements, they also push me through the hard times and keep me grounded. And they know a post training Pho or coffee is a strong motivator!

How do you keep focused during a match and not let emotions influence decisions?
At times, a match can be quite isolating. You have to make multiple decisions at once, which can lead you to internalising your thoughts and actions. I’ve had to learn to stay out of my head in a sense, especially pre-game, in order not to fatigue mentally during the match. This may involve a bit of T Swift! During the match my team is my most important asset. Having the ability to talk to each other allows you to keep your concentration in check and raises your awareness levels so you are switched on for those unexpected situations. I wouldn’t say I am an overtly emotional person in general, however, during a match emotions can become heightened in response to the emotional levels of those around you, and the situations that arise. The key for me is to disengage from my emotions so I remain composed in order to make clear decisions with reason and logic.

In your opinion, what has been the biggest change in football in recent years?
Being involved in women’s football, it has been brilliant to witness the change first hand over the last ten years or so. The female game is growing quickly with tactics and styles of play, I mean just look at the revolution of the Japanese. What has always made it appealing to me is that it’s pure and honest, female footballers are intelligent, athletic, skilful, and possess a level of integrity that can often get lost in professional male football.

What is the key to building positive relationships with players and coaches?
Respect, honesty and humility. Communicating with the players on a personal level builds a certain level of trust and familiarity. Listen to and acknowledge a players frustration, more often than not there is a reason for it. There is nothing wrong with admitting you were wrong.

What do you consider to be the most important characteristic of an elite referee?
A good friend once told me that good people make good referees. Personally I believe integrity, self-belief and a good sense of humour to be the most important.

What match or moment stands out as a highlight in your refereeing career?
It’s not so much an achievement, but sitting in the stands of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada, seeing the Matildas earn the respect of the world, was a reaffirmation for me that I want to be there to officiate in 2019.  Achieving that will be the highlight of my career!