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.


Geneva College Women’s Soccer vs SUNY-Delhi

Name: Sean Heilman

Hometown: Zelienople, PA

What is your full-time job outside of refereeing?

Accountant for Government Compliance with Michael Baker International. I was formerly a sports writer and copy editor for various newspapers and publications in the area. I covered and followed many of the area coaches and parents who once played.

How long have you been officiating? 16 years

What got you into the game?

I watched Pele play for the New York Cosmos, and then the 1982 World Cup final, both on TV. I was captivated by the passion of the fans. Soccer was hard to find back then, with no cable or internet.

What got you into officiating?

I started refereeing and assigning for a recreational youth league in Erie, for fun. Then I got certified. One thing led to another, as I signed up for tournaments and got higher-level games, as well as college games. It seemed there were opportunities everywhere.

As a result, I attended clinics and sought feedback to improve my game. Eventually, I earned my Regional badge, and got the privilege to work some Pittsburgh Riverhounds games as an assistant referee and fourth official.

Showcase games @ Ambrose Urbanic

What role do officials play in teaching the game?

Nothing replaces the coaches and parents. But we can be a guide on the field, especially for younger players. I try to help with the laws of the game, or even with something simple such as throw-ins and placement of free kicks, or how to do a drop ball.

Talking the players through the match seems to help let them know what you want from them, and what you don’t want.

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

We love the game. That’s why we are here. We are out there doing our best, just like the players and coaches. Hopefully, we aren’t noticed. We certainly want the players to be the stars. They keep me running.

I’ve seen the game grow in this area from very few clubs and high schools involved, to the numerous local and regional leagues that are being played every weekend. I am amazed at how far the game has come in Western Pennsylvania every time I step onto the pitch.