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Lance VanHaitsma FIFA Referee of the Week April 19th

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Lance in his own words:

My FIFA Panel colleague, Ted Unkel, stated in his Hollywood produced video, “Everyone’s path is different.”  Well, Ted’s statement couldn’t be any more accurate when describing my path.

My path started on the High School soccer fields of Kalamazoo, Michigan and later culminated in a sold out 10K arena at the FIFA Futsal World Cup in Colombia.

Along the way I achieved great success like multiple selections to youth & amateur nationals, part of the inaugural US Soccer Platinum Program, becoming a USSF National Referee, selected to represent the US as a FIFA Futsal Referee, taking charge of the 2015 & 2018 NCAA Women’s College Cup Final, and officiating the first ever Youth Olympic Games Futsal Gold Medal Game in 2018 hosted by Buenos Aires, Argentina.

But with success, comes adversity. Every referee, whether they are a Grade 8 or a FIFA Referee,faces adversity at some point in their officiating career. It could be a failed assessment, failed fitness test, injuries, wrong end of politics, or just plain bad luck.

We’ve all been there, but it’s our ability to bounce back from adversity that defines our character and makes us better officials for it. When faced with adversity, we can either quit or learn from it.  “Don’t let your failures define you, let them refine you.”

Having strong support from your mentor, peers, family will help your “bounce back” reach newfound heights.

When I moved from Kalamazoo, Michigan upon graduation, I was extremely fortunate to move to a state with such a strong reputation for Referee Development, led by our former State Referee Administrator Jozsef Michna. It was Jozsef’s vision of creating a State Referee Academy Program, led by John David McGee, that contributed to my growth as a referee. The Academy was divided into 4 areas. Living in Area A allowed me the chance to be mentored on a regular basis by Former MLS Officials Reggie Rutty, Robert Mann, and Greg Watson. In addition to these 3 outstanding mentors, I also had a local mentor in Juan Kalb.

When it came to my development for Futsal, nobody supported me like Herb Silva, Shane Butler and Sergio Cabrera. These three individuals were my most influential mentors and helped me reach goals that I never knew were attainable within my four years as a FIFA Futsal Referee.

These men, along with others, dedicated countless hours of their time to help me become the referee I am today.  They looked past the long hair, sun-dyed jersey, and the extra lbs to judge me on my potential as a referee because of commitment and dedication I exuded.

I was also very fortunate to have an amazing group of peers as I was climbing the officiating ranks in South Florida.  Mark Cahen, Jonathan Weiner, Caleb Mendez, and Randy Cook are just a few of my peers that I spent countless hours together both on and off the soccer field; growing from teammates into friendships. Each one played a major role in my development as a referee. Even though we’ve all gone our separate ways in life, we still share the common bond of growing as referees together and helping one another achieve success down each other’s unique path.

The final, and most important component is having family support. Not many spouses, siblings, and other family members support the referee lifestyle, let alone understand it.  Dedicating your weekends to youth and amateur matches, traveling for tournaments, and spending vacation days at out-of-state clinics are not part of your typical “hobby”. My wife, Veronica, has been my biggest supporter.  She has always been there for me through tough referee times and continues to push me to settle for nothing short of excellence. I wouldn’t be anywhere near the person, let alone the FIFA Futsal Referee, without her support.

The best part about being a referee is the fact that I get to share my passion with my brother, Trent VanHaitsma. Since taking the USSF Grade 8 entry level class together back in 2004, we’ve worked countless matches together, some more memorable than others. However, every time we step off the field, I can’t help but to look forward to our next match together. We challenge one another both physically and mentally to be at our best at all times.

Becoming a FIFA Panel member is never easy and it’s not for everyone. It takes the support from your mentors, peers, and family to just have a chance of wearing the white badge. But refereeing isn’t just about becoming a FIFA Panel member though, it’s about enjoying the journey along your unique pathway, helping others strive for excellence, and the lasting friendships you develop along the way.

Lance VanHaitsma
FIFA Futsal Referee
NISOA Director of Operations

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