Unplugged: When soccer isn’t just for kicks

By on June 15, 2016

Lane Burris is like any other dad. He let his kids try a little bit of everything until they found their calling. For his two boys, and for thousands of other kids over the last decade or two, soccer became their calling – their sport of choice. Over the years, Lane served as a team dad, a coach, and everything else that goes along with supporting your kids and sports.

Lane and his boys reaped the rewards – both went on to college to play the game they loved. However, by that time, dad had fallen in love with the game as much as his kids. When his boys went off to college to pursue their soccer dreams, Lane needed a way to fill his soccer void. Before long, he found himself back on the field, following the action as a referee.

In less than four years, Lane has quickly earned his stripes. Nearly every week he can be found on a soccer field. From high school tournaments to semi-pro games – even a San Antonio FC or other United Soccer League game – Lane is upholding the rules of the game he loves.

“Every game is something new, no matter what level,” Lane says. “You can’t take it for granted. You have to be ready for it. Some of the worst experiences I’ve had as a referee have been those where I went out and let myself think this was just another game.”

Burris

Burris

Up to the task

Serving as an official can be a mentally and physically demanding task. Lane, a programmer in Enterprise Information Technology here at CPS Energy, primarily serves as an assistant referee. Sure, he only has to cover one end of the 120×80-yard field. But he says he can run as much as four miles in one 90-minute game – just covering half of the field.

“It’s a very muscle-strenuous job,” he says. “We run more than any other official in any other sport. Soccer is rigorous and the training (for referees) is crazy.”

Serving as a referee is not a mail-it-in gig and an easy extra paycheck. Soccer referees, whether they work high school, San Antonio FC, or World Cup games, are governed by a sophisticated organization that frequently assesses their game performance, monitors their training regimens, and tests them for their game intellect.

“You can make one bad decision on the field and that can blow your career,” Lane says. “Once you get to the end of a game, you may have to make that last-second call that may decide the game. All of the parents and fans that are yelling at you don’t realize that it takes a lot of mental and physical preparation to keep yourself under control and make a decision. You have to have guts to make that call.”

Making his way

Lane has quickly made his way through the ranks. He started officiating youth games but has quickly earned the respect of his colleagues. He was named a top 25 referee after his first year. He also has been selected as one of 15 candidates, out of more than 4,000 in Texas, for the National Referee Academy. With higher levels of training, a referee can improve his status and officiate a higher level of competitive soccer.

Ironically, Lane never played soccer competitively. In fact, as a kid growing up in McAllen, he only watched soccer when there was nothing else on TV and he caught a game on the Spanish channel. He knew little about the sport until his kids started playing.

“I was one of those dads that sat on the sideline and yelled at the referee and told them they didn’t know what they were doing,” he remembers.

Today, he sees the game in a whole new way. For Lane, becoming a soccer referee was the right call.

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