SACKVILLE, N.B. – Any young person considering officiating, especially in soccer, would be advised to first take a few psychology courses to be better prepared to meet the challenges ahead.
That is the word from Sackville’s Sam Bliss, just one of three top-of-the-line officials in New Brunswick, who said such training would help in dealing with various personalities.
“Our biggest problems in officiating at the minor level comes from coaches who simply don’t know or simply don’t understand the rules,” he said during a recent interview.
Meanwhile, he added the issues with coaches at the more senior level of play are simply about ego.
Bliss can be seen on soccer pitches anywhere in the country – from working games in the Sackville minor system to regional, national and even international competition.
The 28-year old TRHS graduate and former Mount Allison commerce student was an outstanding player at both schools and took up officiating as a means of earning extra pocket money. But he cautions, soccer officials should never give up their day jobs as the remuneration is not that great.
While toiling away at the sport for a few years, Bliss got a call to work at the U19 nationals in 2009.
“The national director of officiating gave me a call and after conducting an assessment, set me to work,” he says.
Since then, Bliss has been officiating at all levels, doing most home games for both Mount Allison and Université de Moncton and has been called on to work USport championship events.
While he does a good many high-profile contests, he never forgets his beginning and works high school games in the province. He can be found as many as four nights a week on local pitches.
It isn’t rare for Bliss to be called on to umpire a national level senior competition and the very next night be working with 10-year-old boys.
He is often called upon to mentor newcomers to the profession and always cautions them about the perils presented by some coaches. It isn’t the players who complain, shout and rant, it’s more likely to be an adult who should know better.
There are three officials in the province with a “provincial” rating. He is heading for a national rating, the highest available, so he should soon be reaching the very top and be called on regularly to work international matches.
Meanwhile, he’s employed by Anderson’s Greenhouse and the Sackville Golf Club to supplement his income. He comes from an active family – father Douglas, who was a soccer player, and mother Diane Michaud, who has offered leadership in a wide variety of events.
While accepting legitimate complaints from coaches, he says in many cases they don’t fully understand the rule book. They hope to gain some advantage by badgering the referee – but that rarely works as a provincial level official must know the book from cover to cover.
In other cases, a coach attacks the integrity of the official and it becomes egotistical rather than logical. Both situations must he handled delicately so as not to infringe on the game of soccer itself.
Gregor MacAskill, president of the local youth soccer association, describes Bliss as “the best soccer official in New Brunswick.”
Quite a compliment indeed and one that not only Bliss but the entire community should be proud of. Expect to see him working games in the Canadian professional soccer league, especially if Halifax gains a franchise.