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Like Father Like Son

Maryland Youth Referee of the Year award makes dad proud

“When you’re a kid, you always think I want to be like my dad,” says 17-year-old Griffin Tucker. As a kid, Griffin ran around his house, blowing his dad’s whistle and throwing yellow and red penalty cards left and right. Dad Garrett Tucker loved soccer, so son Griffin did, too.

            Griffin began playing soccer at five years old. At 12, when he became eligible to referee youth soccer, he went out and got his reffing certificate right away. It was only natural that Griffin try out what his dad had loved to do for so many years.

            As a referee, Griffin gets a new perspective on the sport.

            “There are four perspectives at a soccer game,” the rising Southern High School senior explains. “There is the perspective of the soccer players, that of the parents and bystanders, the perspective of the coaches and then there’s me. As a ref, I see a completely different game.”

            In an average game, he runs between five and seven miles. If the physical challenge was the greatest one, almost any athlete could complete the job. But what Griffin finds most demanding as a referee is the mental investment. A ref has many heads turning to look at what he is going to call.

            With 22 players on the field, double that number in parents and observers and two sets of coaches all depending on one person to make the correct call, a lot of pressure resides on the referee.

            In less than a half-second, Griffin must make a call that can determine the outcome of the rest of the game. “I am not perfect,” he says, “but I try to make the correct calls to the best of my ability.”

            Getting paid $25 to $50 a game is an added bonus, he says, because soccer is a sport “you either like or you love.”

            Stepping onto the field for a game a few Saturdays back, Griffin knew his job would not be an easy one. One organization had split into two teams after a disagreement, and the rend was not mended. What Griffin didn’t know was that more was at stake than two semifinal teams competing for the state championship.

            Tensions were high, and emotions were even higher as former teammates competed against one another for this important win. After 90 minutes, two winners emerged. Griffin had performed so well in that game that Maryland’s Youth Referee Administrator, Jeff Gontarek, awarded him the title of Maryland Young Male Referee of the Year.

            Next month Griffin referees the Youth Regionals — with maybe even the nationals in his near future.

            Dad Garrett Tucker understand the responsibility this carries. “The referee has the game in his hands.”