Plymouth Meeting—Kevin Lock considers himself just another referee. Others have higher opinions. In December, Lock received the prestigious Young Male Referee of the Year Award from Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer. That distinction earned him a spot at the National Awards Gala as part of the NSCAA Convention/US Youth Soccer Workshop.
Lock was just happy to be there.
“The whole convention was awesome,” Lock told Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer during a phone interview. “I did not think I had a shot at the national award. I figured I’d get recognized for my regional award and that would be it.”
The Temple University freshman was shocked to hear his name called when the representative from US Youth Soccer announced his name as the winner of the Male Referee of the Year.
“It was just an awesome feeling and an excellent experience,” Lock recalled. “So many people have helped me along the way.”
He began his career as an official as so many others do: on a whim. When he was a freshman in high school at Great Valley, Lock enrolled in a refereeing course. His mom suggested he pursue the opportunity. A friend encouraged him as well. That was enough convincing for the Malvern native.
But making that cross from player—Lock had played soccer from a young age—to referee had its challenges.
“It was different,” said Lock. “You’re seeing the game from a different point of view. When you’re playing, you follow the ball. You see the play develop. As a ref, you have to see possible problems away from the play.”
All in all, Lock termed it a “fairly easy transition.” He now prepares for games like one might approach an interview. “I’ll do some research—see where the teams are in the standings, what each team needs to do. I’ll talk to other referees to get an idea of how the coaches are as well.”
Still, some incidents can’t be prepared for. The toughest job for any young referee is sending off a player. Lock learned the hard way.
On Game Day 3 of the 2013 Regional Finals, Lock served as the center ref for a match between U15 boys teams. Lock, now 18, was barely older than the players he was charged with officiating. The game got off to a rough start.
“At halftime my crew came over to me and told me I should have sent a player off for denying a clear, goal-scoring opportunity,” Lock remembered. “I missed it.”
He faced the same situation, a player committing a red card offense, in the second half. As unpleasant as it was, Lock sent the offending player off.
“I got a lot out of it,” he said of the game. “It was my first-ever red card. I wish I could go back and do the whole thing over, because I know now I would’ve handled everything better. But it was a great learning experience.”
Lock turned that experience—and others in his early days with the whistle—into an impressive career. The label of “Award-winning Referee” will follow him onto whatever pitch he steps. Of course, that has its drawbacks.
“There’s more pressure now,” Lock joked. “’Oh, he must be the best.’ I’m not. I’m just another referee.”