How to Become a Football Referee



Football officials have a challenging job. Football is a sport where the intensity is high and the emotion is raw. With twenty-two players moving in different directions during play, the football referee must be completely focused on and aware of the play around him. Over one million boys participate in football each year, making it our popular high school sport.


There are generally five officials working a high school football game: the referee, umpire, linesman, line judge and back judge. Each has primary responsibility for different player positions and different areas of the field. To become a competent high school football official you must learn the area of responsibility for each of these positions.

In recent years, by far the main point of emphasis of high school football officiating has become player safety. As we have become increasingly aware of the long term effects of concussions, head injury risk in football at all levels is taken more seriously than ever. To minimize this risk, additional rules have been put in place.

These new rules deal with acts of targeting (contacting an opponent above the shoulders) and spearing (initiating contact with another player using the top portion of the helmet). Both are illegal and penalized as unsportsmanlike. Other rule changes address excessive contact and making contact at the blind side of a player.

Our job as football officials is clearly one of calling a fair game which emphasizes sportsmanship and player safety.

Football Referee Training

The best way to become a football referee is through state approved boards which educate officials to work high school and youth games. These local associations generally offer classes and clinics to certify and prepare football referees for at all pre-college levels. A good understanding of football rules is esstential to becoming a top football official. Select your state from the Choose a State page to find links to the association in your own area.

With the strength of organizations such as American Youth Football and Pop Warner Football, the demand for football officials has never been greater. Area youth football organizations can provide information about obtaining work for officials.

An excellent resource for high school football rules can be found here: 2014 NFHS High School Football Rules Simplifed & Illustrated

Football Referee Equipment and Uniform

  • Black football shoes with black laces
  • Striped stockings
  • Black and white vertically striped shirt, both long and short sleeved
  • All white tapered knickers
  • Black belt
  • Fitted black football cap with white piping
  • Fox 40 whistle with lanyard
  • Bean bag
  • Stop watch

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