Referee Margaret Domka admits that when she initially started down this path, she didn’t see refereeing in her long-term future. At first, it was merely a combination of interests and a convenient side gig, but it turned into much more.
“When I was 13, I started refereeing just as a summer job that I could have while I was in high school – a way to play soccer but have a flexible job with some money on the side,” Domka said. “I never dreamed for a moment that it would take me to where it has. Initially, when I first started, I didn’t even know there were different levels of refereeing. The first time I found out about that, I thought to myself that anybody who does that has to be crazy. But over time I’ve had different mentors, kept progressing and after a while I saw the big picture.”
That has led her to a second straight international call for the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup. Domka, who worked the 2012 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Japan, is heading back to this year’s tournament, which takes place this summer in Canada.
“It’s exciting to get the invitation, and it’s an honor getting the opportunity to work a tournament such as this,” Domka said. “These players are soon to be some of the best in the world, so it’s exciting to be a part of this whole process, and hopefully we’ll see some of them at the full Women’s World Cup.”
Originally from Oak Creek, Wisconsin, Domka graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and works as a Spanish teacher at Union Grove High School in Union Grove, Wisconsin. Domka was a FIFA international assistant referee in 2007 and 2008, and she has been a FIFA referee since 2009, becoming the 10th FIFA-certified international referee and third female in the U.S.
The 2014 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup is a great opportunity for Domka, not only to showcase her skills as a veteran referee but also improve them. High-profile tournaments provide the referees ample opportunities to work closely with other high-quality professionals and soak in important feedback.
“I’m always thinking that I am only as good as my last game,” Domka said. “There are many ways to improve at different levels, so even though I am part of a small group, I never want to put myself at the pinnacle. I really think of refereeing from a team aspect and work to get better.”
Domka feels lucky to be able to have refereeing as part of her life while maintaining a full-time job as an educator. She realizes the benefits and is also grateful for those who help her with a hectic schedule.
“I’ve been fortunate,” Domka said. “I think that refereeing is always a very good job to have with the teaching. At the international level, though, that is not always the case because events are scheduled through the year. I’m very fortunate to have administrators who have allowed me to continue on this journey.”
Sharing this experience with Domka will be Marlene Duffy and Veronica Perez, both of whom have also been invited to officiate this summer in Canada as assistant referees. The trio has rubbed shoulders for some years now and grown close through shared experiences.
“It’s great because all three of us have developed together and have gone to events for a long time,” Domka said. “We’ve worked together regularly, so it’s fantastic to have the support of each other and carry these similar dreams and goals.”
What started as a summer job for a high school teenager has now turned into a journey that has taken Domka to new heights.
In addition to this U-20 opportunity, Domka continues to bolster her resume as a referee in the National Women’s Soccer League, as well as the renowned Portugal-based Algarve Cup in 2012 and 2013.
Despite the already grand exposure at the international level, Domka knows there still is room to grow as she would love to earn the opportunity to work an Olympic event or Women’s World Cup at the senior level.
“Overall, when you go to a tournament such as this, it’s a positive atmosphere and you’re working together as a team, whether you’re on the field or not,” Domka said. “You always find ways to improve, and the feedback is positive. You look at the things you do right and the things you can do better. I’m always trying to gain more and more confidence, because you need to trust that your decisions are the right ones.”