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U.S. Referee Kari Seitz Relishes Olympics Experience


Country’s Most Experienced Women’s Referee Prepares for Third Olympiad in London

Country’s Most Experienced Women’s Referee Prepares for Third Olympiad in London

California-based referee Kari Seitz continues to set the standard among U.S. women’s officials as she gears up for her third Olympiad in London. The 41-year-old Seitz has also worked in four World Cups, but in her mind the Olympics experience is the dream she has always longed for.

“The Olympics is a special event,” Seitz said. “The World Cup is considered the biggest global event, but as an American, the Olympics are what people understand. I remember being a child and watching the Olympics on TV and dreaming about being there. We didn’t have the World Cup on TV. It’s so unique and it’s a celebration of the world. It’s hard to believe the Olympics are next week.”

As always with soccer in the Olympics, the games will actually kick off before the Opening Ceremonies. Seitz and the officials will know their assignments within a day or two of each game.

Seitz also worked the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and the 2004 Olympics in Athens, her first Olympics being one of her favorite experiences as an official.

“In my first Olympics, we had the opening game and were back in time for the Opening Ceremonies,” Seitz said. “The officials don’t walk in the event, but they do have seats for us. A small select group of us went, and here we are in the birthplace of the Olympics and you’re sitting there realizing how you’ve accomplished what you saw on TV. You’re surrounded by people from all different countries, and it was a moving moment when the music started, the drummer came out and walked across the stage and they played clips on the video screen. I let it all sink in and breathed in that moment. That’s one of the things that I reflect on whenever I’m working hard at training, or I’m battling through an injury and want to continue to be at that level. I use that moment as motivation, because for some people you only get one chance, and I’ve been fortunate to get three.”

Also joining Seitz to work the women’s soccer games in London are U.S. assistant referees Veronica Perez and Marlene Duffy, who will be making their second Olympic appearances following their 2008 Beijing Olympics experience.

“Before the Olympics in China, we hadn’t worked much at all together,” Seitz said. “But since then, we have spent a lot of time together, and I’m really fortunate to have them with me at the Olympics.”

The trio worked together during the U.S. Women’s National Team’s 2-1 victory against Canada on June 30 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.

Preparing for an international game and a series of big-stage matches certainly requires a heightened approach, and Seitz has her formula down pat.

“I ramp up the fitness even more to continue to stay focused,” Seitz said. “I spent additional time on strength training to compliment the field training, and we receive sessions from a FIFA referee coach in Belgium. I’ll take my own cones to the field for some speed drills in the afternoons and up the ante on that. I’ll also critically watch my own matches and evaluate clips from other peoples’ matches, go back through a number of old games and look for things to improve on, things that went well, review those and take them with me to the event.”

Seitz recognizes her role not just as an experienced official, but as a woman in a profession that has made strides since her start as a referee. Seitz regularly receives requests to speak at events and talk about her experiences both inside soccer and away from the game.

“I only knew one other woman official when I started, and it didn’t occur to me and I didn’t even think about it,” Seitz said. “When I saw the World Cup in 1994, I knew this was what I was going to do. There are more women referees now who are starting younger and have potential, but we have a long way to go. Looking back about 15 years ago, there were five or six people [on an international level] as opposed to probably 25 people now. We’ve made progress, and the people coming through understand the commitments to make.”

Quick Hits:
Most Critical Call in a World Cup or Olympics: “In the third-place match of the 2011 World Cup, we had a situation in that match where we had to send off a player. It was great teamwork to make sure that was the correct call. In the end, the team that had a player sent off won the match. That could be seen as critical, but ultimately we were just responding to the behavior of the players.”

Expecting the Unexpected: “In Athens, we had a situation where the Iraqi team had qualified and a fan – not a streaker – was so excited about the national team making the Olympics. The fan just wanted to hug and kiss the players, but you imagine situations where you have to deal with an outside agent like that.”

Goal-Line Technology: “I think that the questions of evaluating to make the use of technology have all been the right ones, as long as it means you can improve the game without impacting the match itself in a negative way. One goal can make an enormous difference, obviously, so if they make improvements in a way where the referee has the final decision and it doesn’t interrupt the play, I think that goal-line technology would work and I’d fully support it.”

Distance Referees Run in a Match: “It’s pretty comparable to a midfielder – anywhere between 8-12 miles.”

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