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Joe Fawcett — Making a good call

If it’s soccer season, Joe Fawcett is likely out on the field working as a referee.
October 29, 2019
  • Joe Fawcett
  • Joe Fawcett
  • Joe Fawcett
  • Joe Fawcett
  • Joe Fawcett
  • Joe Fawcett
For Joe, a successful game is as follows: “You leave the field knowing the game was decided by the players, not by the referee. That’s a good and satisfying feeling.”
Referee Joe Fawcett runs across a soccer field to keep a close eye on the ball and the players.

Referee Joe Fawcett runs across a soccer field to keep a close eye on the ball and the players.

Making a good call

It’s an early afternoon on an overcast autumn day, making it a perfect time to play a robust game of soccer. Running about on a rectangular field known as a pitch, two high-school teams of 11 players vie to score goals by kicking the ball past a team’s last line of defense, the goalkeeper.

Running along with these healthy youths is referee John Joseph Fawcett of the Bioscience Division Office (B-DO). Joe’s been a soccer referee for more than 25 years. He refs an average of 70 games each year, working with adult and high-school teams.

“I’ve never really played soccer, except in high school as part of physical education class,” says Joe with a sheepish grin. “I don’t think I ever ran a mile in my life until I became a soccer referee after the age of 40.”

Joe’s principal job as a referee is to make sure games are played safely and within the rules. Something few people think about is that a referee must also be in great physical shape, as they remain on the field for the full length of the game.

“You don’t get subbed out for a breather,” explains Joe. “I’m constantly on the run, keeping up with the ball and the players contending for it. Refereeing has turned out to be a great activity for me to stay healthy.”

(From left to right) Referees Dane Spearing (National Security & Defense Program Office), Joe Fawcett and John Ullmann (Los Alamos Neutron Science Center Weapons Physics) leave the field after an exciting high school soccer match.(From left to right) Referees John Ullmann (Los Alamos Neutron Science Center Weapons Physics), Joe Fawcett and Dane Spearing (National Security & Defense Program Office) leave the field after an exciting high school soccer match.

Getting into the game

Joe didn’t give much thought to sports or refereeing until his sons joined soccer teams. “For me it seemed like the natural thing to do, to participate with my sons in games by working as a referee. My youngest son, not only did he play soccer but he too eventually became a referee at age 11. He and I refereed games for a number of years together. It was a great bonding experience for him and me.”

Joe has received the appropriate training to work as an official for the U.S. Soccer Federation and the National Federation of State High School Associations. Both organizations have their own rules and regulations.

“Once you’ve learned the ins and outs of soccer and the rules and regulations designed to oversee game-play, you’re assigned to an experienced referee for on-the-field training,” says Joe. “The organizations want you to have a positive experience during your first games, as officiating can get stressful at times.”

Fast forward more than 25 years and Joe is now a referee veteran, holding a Regional Emeritus Referee License as a former State Referee. “I now serve as an associate instructor under state instructor Kim Thomas, who also works at the Lab and mentored me throughout my officiating career. As I grow older and find it more difficult physically to referee games, I am transitioning to teaching up-and-coming referees to learn from my years of experience. It’s another way to give back to the game I’ve enjoyed for so many years.”

Staying cool under the collar



“Staying cool comes with experience. I like to stand by a person’s side instead of in front of them, so that we are on an even playing field. We discuss the issue at hand; my voice never raises and my body remains relaxed. The idea is to diffuse the tension and get back to playing the game.”



One thing that needs to be learned but is not typically taught to become a successful referee is appropriately handling people and their emotions.

“Things can get heated during the game between players,” notes Joe. “Add to the mix coaches, parents and other spectators, and you can imagine the level of excitement and passion during these games.”

Caught up in any encounter is a referee who often has to make a difficult call on one of the team’s players for a foul. “It’s important to calm things down before they escalate,” explains Joe. “I do this by letting everyone know that I advocate for fair play and for the safety of all players. I acknowledge different points of view but remind them that the best possible outcome is for me to remain impartial. My overall goal on the field is that everyone enjoys the game.”

This approach to officiating games has translated successfully to Joe’s day job. “I find that I can’t be judgmental about a person’s attitude on some days because of what may be going on in that person’s life. I give them the benefit of the doubt and try my best to understand their point of view. As with soccer, I remain fair and advocate for differing points of view.”

For Joe, a successful game is as follows: “You leave the field knowing the game was decided by the players, not by the referee. That’s a good and satisfying feeling.”

Joe Fawcett works as a staff operations manager for the Bioscience Division Office (B-DO).up.


Resources

U.S. Soccer Referee Program

National Federation of High School Associations



Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the Employee Spotlight articles are solely those of the featured employees and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Los Alamos National Laboratory.