Greg Brigman became a referee in 2009 to make some extra cash in college. He loved the game, and it seemed more fun than delivering pizzas. The referee job let Brigman stay involved in the sport he grew up with. Along the way, it gave him the opportunity to represent his country.
It was as a referee that Brigman discovered the Paralympic National Team. He has just wrapped up his second year with the team, a tenure that’s included trips to the 2016 Paralympics and this fall’s World Championships.
Brigman’s referee career led him to the PNT. Now it’s raising his game.
“Being a referee absolutely makes you a better player,” Brigman said. “You’re watching all the chess pieces move around. When I come to play, I feel like I’m always in the right place at the right time. You see all the moving pieces at once. As a referee, you have to grasp all those moving pieces, and account for everything.”
Brigman attributes his growth with the PNT to his background as a referee. Not only do referees need to know the Laws of the Game as second nature, they manage the game overall. They see the game differently, it’s critical to analyze information quickly to make the correct call on the fly. As a player, the blinders might be on towards the next objective, but as a referee, a holistic vision is necessary.
“With the PNT, you’re trying to find the next goal, next pass, next tackle,” Brigman said. “As a referee, it’s always managing the environment. You manage what needs to happen. Does this call need to happen? What do the laws say, what do other considerations say? And how does that impact what’s going on in this environment?”
His dedication to the craft has seen him rise through the referee ranks. While he worked high school games to start, he quickly rose to the prep sports pinnacle when he officiated a high school state championship game. He transitioned to ref for the Atlantic Coast Conference in the NCAA and now, just a few years later, has become a regular for professional USL and NWSL matches. Earlier this year, the highlight of his referee career came on the sideline for an international friendly between Atlas of Liga MX and USL’s North Carolina FC.
This month, he officiated at the Development Academy Winter Showcase, an invaluable opportunity to referee high-level youth games and receive feedback from some of the nations’ top referee coaches.
“I just want to keep advancing,” Brigman said. “Keep learning, keep being coachable and keep being around the elite referees in the U.S., learning from each one of them about their unique techniques.”
As Brigman advances as a referee, he’s also seen advancement on the pitch for the PNT. He saw the field at the World Championships, and last summer in Rio he almost knocked in a goal against global power Iran.
In the new year, Brigman hopes to advance in both of his on-field roles. He wants to keep his spot on the pro referee list and continue to grow. With the PNT, he has one goal in mind.
“I still haven’t scored a goal for the PNT,” Brigman said. “I’ve come close, I’ve hit the post and I just really would like to punch that ticket and be a goal scorer for the U.S.”