Sports Officials (Umpires & Referees) Career

“Your job is to umpire for the ball and not the player” – Bill Klem

Are you willing to make your career in sports as Umpire or Referee?
Check it out!!
  • Do you have a good vision?
  • Do you have interest in sports?
  • Is your communication skill good?
  • Do you enjoy studying rules and pass judgements accordingly?
  • Are you a good observer?
If answer is yes to all the above questions, then this gig may prove to be a cushy job for you and makes you a good applicant for the position of Umpire or Referee with a few add-ons. Are you still dicey about your decision? Let us give you a brief about “Sports Officials Career”.

Umpires and referees are a part of the sports team. They monitor and implement the games rules and regulations, so that the game is played fairly. They are mostly unnoticed and face pressure according to the level and type of the game. In major leagues or professional sports the use of technology like instant replay or hawk eye or computer software like team beep test, body byte helps reduce the pressure on umpires, referees or sports officials to make decisions. This job involves more of dealing with data and details with predefined procedure and rules. Example of few baseball umpires who started their career with minor leagues and high school baseball matches are - Mitch Johnson, Lenny Weg, Jarid Putman, John Rogers and Mike Pesca.

Role of Umpires, Referees and Sport Officials

  • Umpires, referees and sport officials, officiate sporting events or games or competitions by maintaining the rules and regulation of the game, so that the game is played fairly.
  • They need to observe the performance of the players and pass their judgment to give scores, points, penalties accordingly.
  • They need to signal the players or other sports officials against any infractions, settle claims and complains.
  • They inspect the equipment and examine players to ensure safety.
  • Schedule work activities, control and track the game start, stop and break time.
  • Enforce the rules of the game, penalize the players who violate the rules, etc.
  • Resolving conflicts between players and negotiating with others.
  • Using data and knowledge to make decisions.
  • Need to develop cooperative working environment.
  • Communicate with supervisors, peers or subordinates.
  • Provide consultation and advice to players, peers, other sports officials.
  • They are responsible for developing strategies.
  • They have to undergo drugs and general tests also need to observe the players physical and drug test reports.   

Skills of Umpires, Referees and Sport Officials

  • Communication Skills: Good communication skills are required in-order to give instructions to athletes, to solve controversy, to settle disputes between players.
  • Decision making skills: Umpires, referees and sport officials should be able to pass decision regarding fouls, score, penalties, points.
  • Good Observer: Should be able to observe keenly and clearly every action of players on the field to pass decision.
  • Good Vision:  A good eye to let the players play justified game as per the rules.
  • Good Stamina: An umpire or referee job includes more of standing in the field, running or walking for which one need to have good stamina.
  • Teamwork:  To make decisions, Umpires, referees and sport officials work as a team.
  • Good Listener:  Should hear others and provide justification at the time of controversy on the decision passed by him/her.
  • Critical Thinking:  Should be able to judge or decide, provide solutions or conclusions with proper logic and reason.
  • Good Learner: Should be able to learn, understand and implement new techniques of decision making or judging.
  • Leadership: Should be able to lead, offer opinions and directions to a team.
  • Stress Tolerance:  Should be able to tolerate comments made by critics.

Pros & Cons


  • Use of technology like instant replay in professional sports helps reduce human error and eases the work.
  • Less boring as every game is different.
  • Good way to be the part of the game that you like.
  • A lifelong job as the demand of experienced umpires, referees, sports officials is more.
  • Full payment is received by umpires, referees or sports officials even if match doesn’t take place due to unforeseen situations like, rain or bad weather.
  • Officiating school sports events can be taken as a part time work.


  • Irregular working hours.
  • Everyone either appreciates your decision or yells at you.
  • You need to stand for yourself as no one will take your side.
  • No breaks for umpires, referees or sport officials during the game.
  • No substitute of umpire, referee or sport official in a game.
  • Work on weekends, evenings, and holidays.
  • Include regular traveling.
  • You may have to face controversy on the decision passed.
  • The field job requires attentiveness and standing during the game hours.

Some related job titles

  • Baseball Umpire
  • Basketball Referee
  • Clocker
  • Football Referee
  • Hockey Referee
  • Hoof and Shoe Inspector
  • Race Starter
  • Judge
  • Umpire
  • Softball Umpire
  • Sports Officials
  • Sports Statistician

How to become Sports Officials (Umpires & Referees)

In general no formal qualification required; Umpires & Referees need to possess very high level of on field experience. To make career in this field you need to be active member of your school's sport team and perform at each level. Also you can enroll in a sport's school of your choice. Once a player is selected to play at state / national / international level, in general post retirement services are taken in the position of Umpires & Referees. Pay and Perks varies depending upon sports, location and your experience etc. For more details check sports ministry’s official website of your local government.

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