The effort being put into Rankin Inlet’s youth soccer program received high recognition at the CG&S Sport and Recreation Division’s annual awards ceremony in Iqaluit on Oct. 14.
The Rankin Wolves soccer program won the Community Organization of the Year, while Paul Stroeder and Chad Graham of Rankin were named co-winners of the Official of the Year award.
Stroeder, 53, has been involved with soccer for almost 20 years. He said he and Graham got officially certified as soccer refs two years ago to boost the soccer program a bit more in Rankin.
He said he was very surprised to learn they had been named co-winners of the award.
“Chad (Graham) and I do this because we love the game,” said Stroeder.
“As a ref, you certainly see the game differently than you do as a coach. It has actually helped me to become a better coach, because now I know what the referees are going through and how they see the play.
“I’m not too quick to jump on a ref now, or yell that they missed a call, because I understand officiating so much more and I’m in the same boat as them now.”
Stroeder said he and Graham have already officiated championship tournaments since they started reffing.
He said he simply goes out and does his best as an official and he doesn’t worry about making a bad call that may cost someone a match.
“If I make a mistake, I live up to it because we’re only human,” he said.
“The one thing about officiating that people have to understand is that we’re not perfect and we will make mistakes. It’s how we handle those mistakes and learn from them, so we can eliminate them during the next game or tournament, that’s important.”
Stroeder said people are becoming more interested in the Rankin soccer program these days and some have asked him how they can get more involved.
He said that’s a positive step because he can forward their names to the Nunavut Soccer Association and, hopefully, they’ll want to become the next group to take the referee certification course in Rankin.
“Nunavut Soccer is very pro-active, so we’ll see that take place in Rankin sometime in the not-too-distant future I hope,” Stroeder said.
“Becoming an official is also nice as a coach because you can explain to the players why a certain call was made so they can properly understand it.
“Futsal is going to get bigger and bigger and, by having certified referees in every community, or at least in the regional centres of Rankin Inlet, Iqaluit and Cambridge Bay, it gives us the chance to grow the game and also give something back to the community.”
Co-winner Graham, who has been playing soccer his whole life, said it felt good to be recognized and share the award with Stroeder, since they started reffing at the same time.
“Paul’s been involved with soccer for a long time as a coach and I help him with the boys in his program from time to time, so he does mentor me a bit,” said Graham.
“I also went to SuperSoccer with him and his Under-12 boys two years in a row.”
Graham said he jumped at the chance to become a referee.
“I find the most-challenging part of reffing is just stressing yourself on always trying to make the right call and not missing anything,” he said.
“You’re trying to stay invisible while reffing, and you don’t want to make a bad call to cost someone the game, so, that’s really the only stress I feel while I’m out there.”
Graham said he and Stroeder have applied to referee at the Arctic Winter Games and hope to hear back soon.