Michael Ryan: “Use every challenge and disappointment as a spring board to future success”

“Use every challenge and disappointment as a spring board to future success”. A great lesson from Michael Ryan. He is a 24 years old from England currently registered with the Sussex County FA and operating as a Level 3 National List Contributory League Referee. He got some great news last week: “I have recently been promoted as an assistant referee and shall join the Panel Select List for 2016/2017 season.”

In interview with Michael Ryan on Dutch Referee Blog.

Referee Michael Ryan (right)

Referee Michael Ryan (right)

When and why did you decide to become a referee? Why do you love it?

I qualified as a referee in 2008 at the age of 16, at the time I was playing youth football for a local club in the Worthing area and three members of our team were keen to take our refereeing qualifications. My first couple of matches consisted of youth football on the Arun and Chichester Football League and thoroughly enjoyed my new experiences! I love refereeing for a large number reasons, socially I have met lifelong friends through football and refereeing has provided me with the impetus to live a healthy active lifestyle where training regularly, eating and drinking the right things simply a routine. I love the physical and psychological challenges that refereeing poses me and I have been very fortunate to have embarked upon some amazing experiences officiating both in the UK and abroad.

How was your last season?

This season has been my first year as a Level 3 match official; my goal at the start of the year was to become accustomed with the new challenges posed at a higher level and to leave positive first impressions with the new clubs, players and colleagues who I would be encountering. In terms of successes I have overseen a number of interesting appointments, as a referee I have taken charge of my first Isthmian League Premier Division fixture and as an assistant referee I have supported on two important appointments. The first was Maidstone United v Sutton United in the Vanarama National League South which coincided with Maidstone United’s club record attendance of 3,030, the second was more recent in the Premier League U21 International Cup Final between PSV Eindhoven v Villarreal CF.

You work as a Children & Young People Football Development Officer. What do you do?

One of my biggest passions in life is the personal development of young people, through my job role at the Sussex County Football Association my core support age groups primarily focus upon 11-25 year olds. The projects and programmes I oversee can range from simple participation based initiatives which aim to increase the number of players playing football in clubs, schools, colleges, universities and community programmes to leadership development through the introduction of qualifications and work experience placements as part of our Football Futures programme. In the past 12 months I have led upon the development of our Sussex County FA Young Person Workforce Strategy, designed to provide a clear pathway for young people to grow and develop through numerous engagement such as our Young Coach Development Programme. We are currently the only County FA to offer our own independent International Placement Programme, working in partnership with Tackle Africa I am able to provide my registered young people the opportunity to work internationally and I have 5 young leaders set to be deployed to Ghana in July this year. Alongside my employment I also sit upon the FA’s National Youth Council as a South East Regional Officer and have recently returned from working in Japan delivering a Youth Leadershi Programme in partnership with the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace.

Michael Ryan in action.

Michael Ryan in action. Photo provided by referee.

What do you tell the kids about referees and refereeing?

During my engagement with young people I always try to develop a culture of respect between fellow team mates, opposition players and players. I am a firm believer that football is by far a better place when that culture of respect is practised and we are far more likely to retain players and referees within the game if we continue to do this. Refereeing has provided me endless amounts of enjoyment and opportunity, I actively encourage young people to experience refereeing in some capacity, be it as a tool to increase their education and understanding of the Laws of the Game or to actively embark upon a career as a match official, who knows, they may be a future FIFA World Cup Final referee!

What does your training look like? How important is your local RA for you?

Prior to qualifying as a referee, physical activity and training regularly was always embedded within my lifestyle. I have always designed my own personal training plans and my current programme consists of a mixture of aerobic and anaerobic training exercises both on the track and on the treadmill, I enjoy weight training so I also try to incorporate two weekly conditioning sessions with shall consist of compound lifts and core work. Positive recovery is also a priority for me and I ensure that my weekly programme varies based upon the number of matches I am officiating that week.

My local Referees Association has been critical in the support and development provided to me. I have been a member of the Worthing RA since I qualified and have progressed from being a junior referee within the group to now one of the more senior members at the society. I feel it is important to repay the time dedicated to me by my RA for my personal development and I now sit as a committee member supporting the next generation of new referees joining our group. Last season I officiated on our County Senior Cup Final and as a sign of respect I gave my two guests tickets to my instructor who delivered my qualification course and to our Worthing RA President who has supported me since the beginning of my journey and remain good friends of mine.


The tweet that is pinned to the top of your profile says: “If you have discipline, drive and determination … nothing is impossible”. How important is that for you? And how is that for a referee’s career?

One of my personal values is that hard work breed’s success; I believe that true in refereeing and also in life. It is inevitable that during our careers we shall face challenges and experience disappointments, it is how we reflect upon those experiences and use the learning to become a better referee and ultimately a better person that defines who we are. When I work with young people I try to install a belief system that nothing is impossible and encourage them to aim high and follow their dreams.

What are your goals as a referee?

My goal as a referee is to become the very best match official I can be. On the field of play I have aspirations to reach the highest levels of the game officiating on the English Premier League and to secure FIFA status providing me with the opportunity to officiate internationally. Off the field of play my goal is to be a role model for other referees, using my experience to boost the next generation of match officials and be respected by my colleagues worldwide.

What are the best tips you got so far in your career? And how did they help you?

  • Use every challenge and disappointment as a spring board to future success, learning in such a powerful tool and we can only become better referees by learning from our mistakes.
  • Work hard, have self-belief and dare to dream, never let anybody tell you that you can’t achieve a goal. If you want something badly enough, devise a strategy, stay dedicated and always be the hardest working person in the room.
  • Consider becoming a mentor, working with a mentor or a coach is great but actively becoming a mentor yourself for a less experienced referee helps to develop your personal skills and refines your mind when you are providing support and guidance, particularly when it comes to staying up to date with refereeing good practice.

Share your view in an interview

I am always looking for interesting views, stories and interviews for my referee. Have something to share? Please contact me on jan@dutchreferee.com. Happy refereeing!

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