Written by Katie Wright
Chet Wright has been an AYSO referee in Madison County, Alabama, for the past 21 years, and he recently refereed his last game, his 925th.
He started referring over two decades ago when my sister and I were young players ourselves, as he saw a need for volunteer refs in the area. He believes very strongly in the AYSO philosophy that every child deserves the chance to play in an environment that is fair and safe and fun. He saw his role as being the guy on the field looking out for the kids – doing everything he could to make the game safe, as well as fair and fun. He would head to the park an hour before every game to walk the field and make sure it was safe to play on. He filled in holes with sand and made sure goals were anchored. His favorite story from almost every weekend was about that kid who did something kind or selfless or just encouraging to a teammate who was down. His favorite thing to do was to give out good sport pins from the stash he carried around.
Beyond just reffing the games, though, Chet invested hours of his time to train other refs, so that even more kids would have qualified referees on their games. He taught countless classes, but he also acted as a mentor, providing (when asked) both formal and informal assessments of other refs. He also looked out for the youth refs and the new refs – trying to make sure they wouldn’t ever feel like they were out there by themselves before they were ready. He had their back. There can’t be many AYSO referees in the area who haven’t worked with, been taught by or been mentored by my dad. And he didn’t stop there. He also took on roles on the boards of both the Madison region and the 5C Area and worked tirelessly to improve referee instruction and participation however he could.
As he stepped away on his last weekend, I’m not even sure how many of his fellow AYSO volunteers knew about his decision. Typical of my dad, he wanted the tournament to be about the kids, not about him.
On behalf of AYSO, thank you Chet, for your years of dedication and for all that you’ve done to help spread the joy of the game!