Refereeing At 90

PLAYSOCCER Spring 2018 – Ruben Diaz

Can you picture yourself as a 90-year-old referee? Marvin Kleinberg can – in fact, he is one.

In addition to working full-time as a patent lawyer, Kleinberg volunteers as a referee for AYSO Region 58, which covers Van Nuys and Sherman Oaks in California. He says he doesn’t see himself stopping anytime soon.

“I’m still volunteering because I enjoy doing it and the kids need me,” Kleinberg says. “If it wasn’t for us referees, then the kids would be unable to play, and that’s what really keeps me going.”

Kleinberg started his AYSO volunteer journey around 1985, which is the time his son had the desire to play soccer. After searching around for soccer programs, Kleinberg came across AYSO Region 33, located in Encino, California.

When it came time to register in the Region, Kleinberg and other parents were told that they must sign up as coaches or referees in order to register their kids. Kleinberg was practicing law by then, so he naturally chose to become a referee, a position that requires one to know and enforce soccer’s Laws of the Game. His son eventually aged out of the  AYSO program, but Kleinberg continued volunteering because he enjoyed the service he was giving to the community.

During his time in Region 33, Kleinberg was able to meet Marty, a volunteer referee who was able to serve as Kleinberg’s mentor.

“As time went on, I learned that Region 58 was starting up and that Marty was moving over there,” Kleinberg says. “He asked me if I wanted to join him, and I said sure since it was closer to home.”

In the days that Kleinberg was refereeing with Marty, having assistant referees, also known as ARs, wasn’t something his Region practiced at the time, Kleinberg says.

“We did it all with two referees on the field – a leading referee and a trailing referee,” Kleinberg says. “With this way, the trailing referee took care of what was going on in the back and the leading referee looked out for offside. We did that for many years.”

Kleinberg added that the Region decided one year that “we’re going to do it like the pros do” by using ARs during games. So instead of having two referees on the field, there would be one center referee and two ARs on the side of the field, which he says made refereeing “a lot easier.”

After about three to four years of refereeing with Marty in Region 58, Marty decided to retire from AYSO and asked Kleinberg if he’d like to be chief referee. Kleinberg said yes, and was now in charge of training referees and scheduling games.

“Most of my referees were coaches, so I would call them up and ask, ‘Can you do the game right after yours?’” Kleinberg says. “I made sure that no one was refereeing either before or during their kids’ game. However, thanks to the advances of technology, the scheduling portion of this role can be accomplished through automation, like having a computer to automatically figure out what times are available.”

Years came and went, and although Kleinberg doesn’t serve as chief referee anymore, he still finds himself refereeing Saturday morning games during Region 58’s soccer season.

“Depending on how many games one decides to ref, being a referee only requires a few hours of the week,” Kleinberg says. “I encourage everyone to consider refereeing. It’s not a question of drive; it’s realizing that the community needs you and that the kids need you. And what’s a better way to spend your Saturday morning?”