One of the main focuses of every Development Academy event is referee training and development. From seminars to on-field training from professional referees, the Academy games are used to identify promising referees and put them on the track to reaching the elite levels.
The focal point for the operations is the Referee Center, where the 165 referees from 40 different state associations spend the tournament from start to finish. It's here where they begin the day by checking their assignments and going over last minute planning with their respective referee teams.
During the day they are able to rest and rehydrate there, and also use the time to share their experiences from the field throughout the competition.
"The other referees in this group are high level refs coming up as well," said referee Marc Lawrence from Michigan. "You're inundated with ideas that you don't normally get yourself."
In many cases those ideas are coming from professional referees or former professionals who have officiated games at the highest level.
After each match, the referees head to the Referee Center to input all the game statistics, including lineups, goal scorers, misconduct summaries, and any additional notes. From there, they meet with a U.S. Soccer referee assessor who provides immediate feedback on their performance."When you get feedback from the caliber of guys who are assessing us, it definitely helps," said Patrick O'Brien, who is from Florida. "This is a huge stepping stone for all of these guys who are here and trying to get to the next level."
The environment is designed around improvement. The referees experience that first hand through their assessments and the day-to-day happenings of an event like the one at the Development Academy Winter Showcase.
"For me personally, my movement on the field has improved and I've learned the most about the small things I can do to make myself more polished," said Lawrence, who is participating in his fifth Showcase. "I think I get better every year and that's a credit to the people who are here."