Carol Anne Chenard: great lessons from Canadian top referee

Carol Anne Chenard is doing really well, she says in an interview with Dutch Referee Blog. In 2019 she suddenly had to withdraw from the Women’s World Cup due to breast cancer. She’s not active on the field any more, but wants to stay involved in the game as video referee or instructor. In this interview she shares some valuable lessons for you as a referee about her competitive attitude, working on your progress and how to manage your time between personal and refereeing life. 

Carol Anne Chenard, Source: FIFA TV.

Time to move on

When I speak with Carol Anne Chenard she says that she can train. “Maybe i’m not at the same level as 18 months ago, but I feel really well.” After she heard from the doctor about her breast cancer, she had to cancel her Women’s World Cup participation. She needed treatment and then worked on her recovery. 

Her initial goal was to get back into refereeing and be at the Olympics in 2020. At the time, she didn’t know the full details of her treatment or recovery path, but “needed a goal” she could focus on. In October 2020 she decided not to continue as an on-field referee. “It wasn’t just because of covid, or cancer. Everything combined together made the time right to step away from the field. I had always thought maybe France might be my last World Cup. And it’s time to move on now.” 

But moving on doesn’t mean stepping away from the game. In her recovery period FIFA, Concacaf and Canada Soccer allowed her to stay involved in football by participating in instructor and observer courses. What she misses the most are match days. Off to a game with the team. She hopes that she can fulfill a role as VAR in the future. 

Mentoring referees 

Getting experience is crucial for young referees, says Chenard. And to keep these referees in the game, you need someone who understands them. Someone who can help them. “There’s so much that happens around the game. Not just what happens on the field, but you have the coaches and the parents.” It takes some courage to take up the whistle, she says. “These referees can hear everything the parents say, everything becomes very personal.” 

Chenard’s parents were both international officials for short-track speed skating. “When I came home after a game, I had my mom to comfort me and my dad who said to suck it up. You need a balance like that. It helps when people understand where you’re coming from.”

Lots of experienced Canadian referees are giving back  to help younger referees: Michelle Pye, Joe Fletcher, Hector Vergara. “That can only benefit our young and upcoming referees.” This support is important to retain young referees, who often quit in their mid-teens because of a job or abuse they suffer.

Carol Anne Chenard during Women’s World Cup in Canada. Source: FIFA TV.

Staying at the top as referee

Chenard continued and was on the FIFA list for 15 years. During that period she officiated at 2 Olympic tournaments (1 final), 2 World Cups and many youth World Cups (including finals). Plus she got appointed as one of the female officials for the u17 men’s World Cup in India. 

Reaching the top is difficult, but what about staying there? Carol Anne Chenard says one of her biggest achievements is staying near the top. “That’s what I’m most proud of. I am competitive.” She used to tell  new referees at Concacaf: “If you want to be one of the top  referees in Concacaf, come and take it. I’m not going to give it to you. If you’re waiting for me to retire, it’s going to be a long time.”

When training Chenard always visualises training with other refs or officiating a difficult game or adapting to a difficult counter attack. “And I’d say: I’m the one out there training here at 6 in the morning.  And of course others were there too, but it was a positive competition in my mind. I wasn’t competing against a specific person.”

Competitive attitude from Carol Anne Chenard

At her first tournaments for FIFA and CONCACAF Chenard thought she did well. She got appointed to many games, but still felt really nervous. She always wondered how she could show that she was learning and improving. That was her goal for every tournament. “And at the top level, these are small things that are hard to get. They are not easy. But little things can make a big difference and they might not always come naturally.”

Her competitive attitude shows how eager she was to become a better referee. Always asking how she’s going to keep the progression going in her referee career. “That’s how I approached every year. Was I always successful? Probably not, but that’s how I approached the goals. I want to improve all of the time. Every time I want to be the best referee in that game. It makes it maybe a bit difficult, as you’ll feel the pressure you put on yourself, but it served me well in my career.”

Time for training and family

The planning for fitness was important for Carol Anne Chenard. Sometimes she went off to work early or stayed in the office too late. And yes, she has to work to pay the bills. “But refereeing is a priority, so I needed it to make a priority.” She changed her routines and woke up early to get a proper training session done. Then the training was done. It didn’t matter if I was tired, had to stay longer at work or friends were visiting. 

And sometimes it takes sacrifices. She joined a  track club for  2 sessions a week and she decided she would never miss those sessions. Even if friends were going out for supper, she went to the session and met them afterwards. Prioritizing and planning. “When it’s a priority for you, you’ll find time for it. Family, work, training.” 

She also knew which parts of her fitness were crucial. “You need to get your speed endurance, your high-intensity running and your speed in. If you can get three good sessions at a track, I knew I needed to get out of my house for them. And the other 2 sessions you might be able to do at home. 

Carol Anne Chenard could combine refereeing and family when the Women’s World Cup was hosted in Canada. She was refereeing the games in the Eastern part of Canada, near the place where she lived. Her mom was even the referee liaison officer for the Ottawa games. A great way for  family and friends to see her live in the stadium, but also a nice opportunity to show what you work so hard for. 

Surround yourself with great people

These people who support you are crucial, says Carol Anne Chenard. Her advice is to surround yourself with great people. You’ll get the tip via the video below. 

And in the upcoming weeks you’ll read more from Carol Anne Chenard on the blog. She’ll share why you should get involved in a referee community. Plus she talks about referee development and will share tips and techniques to improve as a referee.

Carol Anne Chenard’s tip for you

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