New Online Referee Training Program Set to Increase Candidates for 2017

Princeton, N.J. — Since launching in January of 2017, the new USRowing Online Referee Training Program has already doubled the number of referee candidates in the online system and is on pace to increase the number of new Assistant Referees for 2017.

According to John Wik, USRowing Director of Referee Programs, the number of new referees added to the Referee Corps, which includes all currently certified referees, could be up to 60 by the end of this summer. By creating a standardized online training system, the process has become smoother and more accessible for candidates.

The new online training program is a significant upgrade to the process. Previously, there was no standard written training for all new trainees; the information would be explained and taught differently depending on geography and training staff. Over the past year, Wik has rebuilt the course to educate candidates on the nuts-and-bolts of a referee’s job in a more streamlined way.

It is a step-by-step process that includes both reading and informational video sections, followed by short quizzes, with a final test at the end. After completing the online training, the candidate must complete in-person observational training. This training involves going out on a launch with certified referees to apply what they learned in the online training program to a real life racing situation.

The in-person observation process is the only holdover from the old training program. Sharon Collins, Candidate Referee Recruiter, argues the new online training program has actually made the observations a more valuable experience for the referee candidates, “[The online program] helps people feel more confident about the basic information so that they aren’t going into the observations blind…It makes people more comfortable with what it is that we do, beginning with what role the refs play at the start of the race all the way through to the end.”

By taking the informational portion of the application online, the application process shortened significantly. “Under the old system, it used to take up to two years for candidates to get through the application process. We found that candidates would start to lose interest. It would just take too long in some instances to move through the process,” said Wik.

In addition to attracting and maintaining more referees, Wik also hopes that the program will attract a wider, more diverse audience of candidates. “Typically the lifecycle of a referee is between two to five years.  They come in as parents of rowers, hoping to get more involved with their child in the sport,”  said Wik. He explained that many of these individuals continue to referee after their child’s rowing career ends, but many only hang on for a few more years until they leave to explore other interests. “I’m hoping that by using a more aggressive teaching style, we will be able to attract a younger group of refs, and by getting younger folks into the program, that we will be able to extend the life of the refs.”

Some of the new success is the result of a more active recruiting strategy the referee corps has employed since launching the online training program in January. Alluding to the level of excitement the referees feel about this new training program, Wik stated, “the Referee Corps has embraced the recruiting of new candidates, and have been more aggressively seeking out potential candidates for the program.”  

A simpler process, better teaching techniques and more aggressive recruiting have all added up to a significant boost for the referee population –much needed growth to support this fast growing sport! Sharon Collins summed this up, saying “Everyone who has taken the online training program, has passed with just about flying colors! I think that combining the online training program with the real world observing is preparing everyone really well and they are becoming successful in a very short period of time.”

Interested in becoming a referee? Apply today! If you would like more information or have any questions, please e-mail USRowing Member Services at or call 1-800-314-4769.

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