When we checked with Brett Metzger in May 2014, the 16-year-old sophomore at Collinsville High School had made a name for himself as an area soccer referee with four years of experience under his cleats.
He worked up to 50 games a season, refereeing teams with players from 6 to 18 years old and learning to keep a cool head on the field — and on the sidelines with parents.
In January, the now 18-year-old senior went to Baltimore with his parents, Bill and Dana, to collect an honor: He was named one of the four best young male referees in the country for 2015.
“I knew I had a decent chance” to take the No. 1 spot, he said of being a finalist. “But I was excited. It’s still an honor to get this and the other awards.”
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To get to Baltimore, where the US Youth Soccer Awards Gala and Workshop were, Brett was named Illinois Male Young Referee of the Year late last fall, beating out about 20 other referees. In December, he won the Region 2 top spot, which covered youth referees from 14 states.
His adult assignors, Dan Lusicic and Jane Raede, part of the Southern Illinois Soccer League, got the ball rolling by nominating him.
“They’re like my local boss; they’re in charge of (assigning me) games,” Brett said.
The national Young Referee of the Year awards — ones for male and one for female — are given “for a referee’s dedication to the game, his outstanding personal accomplishments, serving as a role model to other youth referees and players, and for his excellence as recognized by adult referee peers and mentors,” says US Youth Soccer’s website.
Brett is a Grade 8 referee, “working toward 7,” which refers to how qualified someone is to referee at various levels of soccer competition. A Grade 1 referee officiates World Cup and international matches, according to the U.S. Soccer Federation.
Soccer matches typically have a center referee and two sideline referees. Now that Brett is 18, he is reffing higher level games, “more Select and older teams — and more center jobs.” He figures he runs 2 to 3 miles a game.
The money from refereeing is not bad: $20 to $50 a match, depending on age, type of league and whether he is a sideline or center judge.
He works two soccer seasons, March to late May and August to late November. He referees indoor as well as outdoor soccer.
Brett believes he’s matured and become a better referee in the past two years.
“I think it’s a matter of sharpness and getting more knowledge of the game.”
His goal in 2014 was to save enough money working as a referee to buy a car. Check that off his list.
“Yeah, I’ve got a 2005 Mustang. It’s red.”
Brett gave up playing soccer — “I got burned out” — and has been on the high school golf team for two years. He’s still on student council and is a member of the National Honor Society.
Refereeing won’t stop when he graduates this spring. He’s likely headed to the University of Missouri at Columbia to study biology with the long view of attending medical school.
Plans include refereeing games in that area.
“It’s a job and I do like it,” he said. “It’s something I’m good at.”
He also admits responsibility “a little bit” for two more soccer referees in the family: Brother Cole, 16, and sister Darci, 13, who started last fall.