Over 700 games will be organized/hosted at Steel City FC sites this year. 

Along with the hours the players spend on and off the pitch developing their skills, the time coaches devote to planning, training, and working with each player, and the parents’ efforts in organizing all logistics to get their young stars where they need to be, all season long, comes another pivotal group in the beautiful game—the referees. 

In partnership with Lawrenceville Vision Care, we’re bringing you a closer look at those seeing the game and making the calls on the field, as well as the decision to take their love of the game and ensure our players can compete.

2023 season college game

Name: Ashley Smyda

Hometown: Penn Township, PA

How long have you been officiating? This is my 18th year.

What got you into the game? 

I started playing peewee soccer at age four with my sisters Bethany and Christy (we are triplets). We played together throughout club and college, and I think soccer is a big reason we have all stayed close.

What got you into officiating?

My mom signed me up for a class when I turned 14. Initially, it was a way to make money as a youth without getting a ‘real’ job. Although I am still not sure why, I find it rewarding and a way to give back to the game that has been a part of me my whole life. I enjoy the challenging games and appreciate the friendships I have made along the way.

What role do officials play in teaching the game?

I believe we can play a part in teaching the game to players if we choose to. We see the game from a different point of view than coaches and parents, and contrary to what many believe, we are unbiased. 

Smyda at Disney Soccer tournament (2016) with local official Taylor Bombalski

When I officiate, I try to let players know why I am calling fouls and what I am seeing, but that does not mean every player is receptive to me as an official. I try to learn from every game too. Soccer is an evolving game and I learn from the new generations of players over the years just as much as I hope they can learn from me.

What’s one thing you wished spectators would know about your role officiating the game?

First, we are humans, we do make mistakes. 

Second, player safety is and always will be our first priority. We give up a lot of our weekends to referee these games, and believe me, the pay is not enough for us to get unnecessarily yelled at for hours. We are not ‘out to get’ anybody, we probably don’t even hear you! 

Lastly, we need more officials and parents/spectators are a big factor in why many youth quit refereeing – just ask my sisters. Those of us that have been around long enough are actively mentoring the younger officials at half time and after or between games. It’s a learning process and we need to work together to keep younger officials wanting to be involved for years to come.