KINGSTON, R.I. – June 14, 2012 – Don’t be surprised if you see Cumberland’s Krista McCann someday refereeing a Major League Soccer match or even an international match between the American women’s national team and Brazil.
The junior University of Rhode Island nursing student has already cracked the Women’s Professional Soccer League-Elite by officiating a late May contest between the Boston Breakers and the Western New York Flash. The WPSL-Elite is the top women’s league in the country.
“I was shocked to be selected as a referee for that match,” said McCann, who began officiating soccer games when she was 12. “It was a great atmosphere with 2,500 excited fans jammed into Dilboy Stadium” in Somerville, Mass.
McCann served as one of the two assistant referees, who run the sidelines in support of the center (lead) referee, who is the crew chief.
“I was nervous, but it was awesome,” McCann said. “I felt our crew did a great job. Sure, I got some grief from the fans, but you have to expect that.”
A member of Cumberland High School’s class of 2009 where she earned membership in the National Honor Society, McCann has a 3.3 grade point average at URI and is a member of Phi Eta Sigma, the national honor society for college freshmen, and the National Society of Scholars.
She has remained a strong academic performer even as she has traveled to numerous states for the past two years refereeing some of the biggest youth and amateur soccer tournaments in the country.
“My goal is to become a FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association, soccer’s world governing body) referee,” McCann said. “But I have to do many more games and get extensive training.”
She is a Grade 6 referee, but FIFA requires Grade 1 status. If she reaches the top level, she would be eligible to referee top pro and international matches.
But don’t put such an achievement past her. Her love of the game began with the Cumberland Youth Soccer Association and continued with Club Lusitana, one of the state’s storied ethnic soccer clubs, and Tidal Wave in Rehoboth, Mass.
During those early days with Cumberland, the former president, Joseph Carreiro, was McCann’s first coach. He noticed that she was always at the fields and asked if she wanted to be a referee. He told her she could make some money.
Donning her referee’s uniform at age 12, she worked three kids’ games a day on weekends and made $7 for each contest.
“Most people are afraid to be a referee because players and fans yell at them,” said McCann, who was also captain and a star on the Cumberland High School track team. “But I liked being a leader, and I always had a thick skin. Plus, as a 12-year-old, I liked the money.”
As she wound down her soccer playing commitment in high school to focus on track, she also became very busy in her refereeing role. She called games in the Massachusetts Premier League and the Rhode Island Super Liga.
Since coming to URI, she has been officiating Rhode Island high school girls soccer. And now she is also assigned to the U.S.A. Men’s Amateur League in Rhode Island.
“I have to thank Mike Forte, a referee assigner for taking me under his wing and getting me these great opportunities. I have done hundreds of matches since I was a girl, and I think I have been on every field in the state.”
When she is on the road with other referees, they’ll often gather at a local restaurant to catch an international or premier club match on television. “We don’t watch the players. We watch the refs, because that is how you learn different tactics and how to manage a game. The referee community is like a big family.”
At the end of her high school year, she was asked to attend the Pro Clinic as part of the U.S. Soccer Training Seminar at Stonehill College. Before she even started, she had to pass a fitness test, and then it was on to two days of intense referee education.
“At 17, I was the youngest one there and one of only six girls,” McCann said. “By attending these each year, you get put in a national referee data base.”
After that clinic, she was assigned her first men’s Premier Development League game with the now-defunct Rhode Island Stingrays.
Late that spring as a high school senior, she worked the Olympic Development Program’s Ryder Cup in New Jersey.
That summer, she was assigned the U.S. Youth Soccer Under 17 championships, an all-expense-paid trip to West Virginia.
“I started branching out more and more,” McCann said. “And as I did more tournaments, coaches and other soccer folks started saying, ‘I remember that girl.’
“One of my biggest accomplishments was being selected to attend the U.S. Development Academy Showcase in Frisco, Texas in June 2011. This is the highest level of youth soccer in the country.”
Perhaps she is recognized not only for her refereeing skills, but her attitude. McCann always walks onto the field with a smile and eagerly greets coaches and talks casually with them. It never looks like a chore for McCann even when she has to get tough with players, fans and parents.
When she arrived at URI, she thought about trying out for track, but with the rigors of the nursing program, she didn’t think she could keep up with her studies, track and soccer refereeing.
As she aims to become a FIFA-certified official, she knows it will never pay enough to be a full-time career. So she is focusing on her nursing program, in which she is now in the midst of her clinical rotations. So far, she has completed geriatric, medical-surgical and maternity rotations.
“I saw my first baby being born, and it took my breath away,” McCann said. “It was an amazing privilege. It was so special that the mom allowed me to be part of it.”
EAGLE EYE: Assistant referee Krista McCann patrols the field during a recent Boston Breakers Boston-Western New York Flash soccer match in Somerville, Mass. URI photo by Stew Milne/Giblin & company
OFFSIDE: Cumberland’s Krista McCann, makes and offside call during a recent Boston Breaks match. URI photo by Stew Milne/Giblin & company
EYE ON THE BALL: Krista McCann, a University of Rhode Island nursing student, focuses on the action in her first appearance as a referee in the Women’s Professional Soccer League-Elite. URI photo by Stew Milne/Giblin & company
DECIDING WHO KICKS OFF: Assistant referee Krista McCann, at left among the referees, participates in the coin flip to decide whether the Boston Breakers or the Western New York Flash kick off. URI photo by Stew Milne/Giblin & company