Referee Development Program

The Heartland Soccer Association creates a unique playing experience for its member clubs by providing the highest levels of competition, access to the best fields, and making investments in bringing you better prepared Referees. Heartland is committed to delivering an ecosystem that expands these keys to a successful soccer experience.

More teams mean increased competition. The higher level of play develops stronger players who are led by some of the best and most knowledgeable coaches in the area. Heartland has access to some of the finest fields in the country further increasing the level of play. With the Referee Development Program Heartland is developing higher quality Referees. Heartland is creating a complete soccer ecosystem.

The Referee Development Program is charged with creating an environment and process where Referees are assisted in developing their knowledge and skills to contribute to a safe, fair and enjoyable soccer experience for our many teams.

The Referee Development Program delivers this with programs for recruiting, developing/ improving Referee performance, and retaining Referees. The Referee Development Program is designed to accelerate the development of all of our Referees by providing increased levels of training and multiple levels of on-field mentoring. Currently, Heartland Soccer uses over 1,200 referees to manage your league and tournament matches.

Each season, the Referee Development Program team mentors Referees both on the field and in Monthly Continuing Education meetings. The staff works with Referees to help them to develop their skills, to perform at a higher and more consistent level, and to better enforce the Laws of the Game. The goal with these programs is to provide your players safer and fairer matches. The Referee Development Program delivers on this program’s mission through two primary programs: Peer Mentoring and Monthly Continuing Education Meetings.



Referees have to make quick decisions based on what they see on the field, have to manage multiple players, need to remain unbiased, and have to deal with the emotions of the sidelines. This is a big responsibility for any official, but especially for new Referees. To help these Referees be more successful, the Referee Development Program staff recruits and trains mentors to assist these Referees to build effective habits and skills to better enable them to deliver the safe and fair matches that the players, coaches and fans demand. The mentoring component is described later on this page.

Monthly Continuing Education Meetings:

The USSF has defined the Certification/ Recertification Process for Referees. This process focuses on the Laws of the Game. To deliver a better qualified Referee, the Referee Development Program hosts monthly education meetings where your Referees are presented with practical topics based on situations that happen in their matches. This additional continuing education is in addition to the USSF requirements. Referees that participate are showing an interest in getting better.


Heartland Soccer Association is an ecosystem that includes the players, coaches, parents/fans/ spectators, the clubs and the Referees. It is important to understand that our young referees are learning and developing much like the youth players on the field. To help them develop and stay engaged so that they become more experienced, we have created a code of conduct for referees, coaches and players.

Referee Development Mentoring Program

The Mentoring Program starts with the completion of the Referee Certification process. We recognize that our Referees need to develop basic and advanced skills to address the different requirements of the level of matches they are assigned to officiate. The Mentoring Program was developed with several stages to better build the skills the Referees will need to officiate at different levels of competition.


Program for Newer Referees:

This Program is delivered as “peer” mentoring. The Mentors are selected based on experience, performance, and completion of Mentor Training.


The focus is on Key Performance Indicators that are the foundation for new Referee effectiveness, including:

  1. Appearance/First Impression
  2. Signals/Mechanics
  3. Work Rate/Positioning
  4. Enforcing the Laws of the Game


How it works:

The Mentor Assignor, working with the Referee Assignor, arranges for Mentors to work with the newer Referees either as a part of the match crew or as an observer of the match. As observers, the mentors watch the entire match, provide skills suggestions at half-time, and then complete a report on Referee Performance (the Mentor’s ratings will be shared with the Referee immediately following the match and in writing). The goal of the Mentoring Program for Newer Referees is to build the performance skills that will result in SAFE and FAIR games.


The mentoring results are used for:

Referee Development Program Staff

Each of the staff members of the Referee Development Program have game-experience as a Referee and as an Assistant Referee. They have worked across multiple levels of competition (Recreational, Premier, State Cup, Adults, and Regionals and Nationals). Their experience helps to accelerate the development of the Heartland Referees.

Gordon Crape – Heartland Director of Officials and Assignment
Email: [email protected]

Gordon started as a soccer player at Lehigh University. He started his Referee career in 2002 and has worked USSF, KSHAA and Intercollegiate matches. He is also a certified USSF Assignor, starting this role in 2004. Gordon also serves on the Kansas State Referee Committee as the representative for Futsal.

Gordon is the overall Director for the Referee Programs at Heartland for all league and tournament activities.

Sean Overton – Mentor Assignor
Email: [email protected]

After spending many years as a Soccer parent and a soccer coach Sean, wanting to remain engaged with the game, became certified as a Referee in 2015. Because he is an adult and worked hard to be the best he could be, he was given the opportunity to be in the Center in several Tournament finals early in his career. Sean understood the challenge of this kind of assignment and recognized that his success was assisted by those people who helped mentor him. Because of this, he stepped forward when the opportunity to assist the Referee family was presented. Sean works with Gordon to coordinate mentor assignments to help the Heartland Referee family.

Rick Zuzenak – Mentor Program Implementation Consultant
Email: [email protected]

Rick is a long-time contributor to soccer in the Kansas City area. In his playing career, he was a defender who excelled in frustrating the other team’s attackers. After his playing career he became a Referee, achieving the grade of a State Referee. Rick worked youth and college matches. With his business background he also contributed as an executive with the local NISOA chapter.

In addition to being an active Referee, Rick is a certified Instructor and Assessor. Rick works with the Mentor Program to evaluate its effectiveness and to provide suggestions for expanding the value of the program. Rick introduced the concept of advanced mentoring categories and was instrumental in the concept of Mentors being a part of a game officiating team.

Rich Kaminsky – Director Referee Programs and Operations
Email: [email protected]

Rich first certified as a USSF Referee in 1990 and became a State Referee Emeritus in 2005. In addition to being a Referee, he is a certified State Instructor, State Assessor, and Assignor. Rich is a member of the Kansas State Referee Committee.

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