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 investments in bringing you better prepared Referees. Heartland is committed to delivering a soccer community 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 to ensure 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 and our special fans.

The Referee Development Program leverages the investments of the Kansas State Youth Soccer Association to deliver programs for recruiting, developing/ improving Referee performance, and retaining Referees. The Referee Development Program is designed to accelerate the development of all 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 on the field. 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.


Referees must make quick decisions based on what they see on the field, must manage multiple players, need to remain unbiased, and must 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 Referee Coaches/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.

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 Coaching/Mentoring Program

The Coaching/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 officiate. The Coaching/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 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 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 Coaches/Mentors to work with the Referees either as a part of the match crew or as an observer of the match. As observers, the coaches/mentors watch the entire match, provide performance 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 mentoring results are used for:

  • Topics for Heartland Meetings (Training sessions)
  • Focus of the week recommendations to the Coaches/Mentors
  • Input to the State Education Committee for recertification clinic subjects
  • Identification of new candidate Referees for the Academy program

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.

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.

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.