Occupation Thesaurus Entry: Referee

Jobs are as important for our characters as they are for real people. A character’s career might be their dream job or one they’ve chosen due to necessity. In your story, they might be trying to get that job or are already working in the field. Whatever the situation, as with any defining aspect for your character, you’ll need to do the proper research to be able to write that career knowledgeably.

Enter the Occupation Thesaurus. Here, you’ll find important background information on a variety of career options for your character. In addition to the basics, we’ll also be covering related info that relates to character arc and story planning, such as sources of conflict (internal and external) and how the job might impact basic human needs, thereby affecting the character’s goals. It’s our hope that this thesaurus will share some of your research burden while also giving you ideas about your character’s occupation that you might not have considered before.

Looking for the perfect occupation for your main character, antagonist, or other cast member? Check out the Occupation Thesaurus.Occupation: Referee

Overview: Referees oversee sporting events to ensure the rules are being followed, good sportsmanship is upheld, and the players are kept safe. Officials are needed at various levels, from professional sports to college to high school and intramurals. Those refereeing intramural sports and community games for kids may be relatively untrained—high school or college students with knowledge of the particular sport—making this a viable job option not only for adults but for young people as well.

Necessary Training: A high-school diploma or equivalent is required to ref in most official capacities. Specific training is also necessary and might be offered through a college or sports organization. Certain registrations and certifications often have to be met as well. Candidates tend to start out at the lower level—overseeing high school or minor league sporting events, for instance, before moving upward.

Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: Enhanced hearing, exceptional memory, multitasking, predicting the weather, swift-footedness

Helpful Character Traits:

POSITIVE: Alert, calm, cooperative, decisive, disciplined, honest, honorable, just, objective, observant, professional, responsible

NEGATIVE: Confrontational, humorless, perfectionist

Sources of Friction: Being injured on the job, making a mistake that determines the outcome of a game, being threatened or stalked by an angry fan, working the field with an incompetent referee, difficulty remembering certain rules or consequences, not staying up-to-date on new rules and regulations, personal bias that leads to prejudicial decisions, losing one’s cool with a perturbed player, difficult work hours that make it hard to develop romantic relationship, frequent travel taking one away from family, getting used to calling the shots at work and struggling to turn that off at home, a diagnosis of chronic illness or pain that makes it difficult to work, loving one’s job but struggling financially, being unable to move upward and reach one’s preferred level, lacking discipline and losing the physical fitness necessary to do the job well

People They Might Interact With: players, coaches, other referees, facilities personnel (groundskeepers, maintenance people, stadium managers, janitorial staff), parents (at the lower levels)

How This Occupation Might Impact One’s Basic Needs:

  • Self-Actualization: This need might take a hit for a referee who is unable to coach their desired sport or at the level they would like.
  • Esteem and Recognition: Refs are typically pursuing a passion, which makes the job worthwhile despite the lower compensation. But those for whom financial status is important may struggle with their esteem when they compare themselves with others.
  • Love and Belonging: Refs work evenings and weekends, and many of them travel to do so. This kind of schedule can put a strain on one’s closest relationships, making it difficult to find love and belonging.
  • Safety and Security: Referees get hit in contact sports all the time, making it a career where injuries are more likely to happen. If an incident makes it impossible for the referee to work and provide for himself and his family, this need may become compromised.
  • Physiological Needs: Sports fans are some of the most passionate people out there. If one of them believes that the official threw a game or was the cause of their team’s loss and comes after him or her, their very life could be endangered.

Common Work-Related Settings: Airplane, airport, community center, dorm room, fitness center, gymnasium, hotel room, sporting event stands

Twisting the Fictional Stereotype: 

  • This career is definitely male-centric; while women are making their way slowly into the field, they’re very rare. A female ref could provide the twist you’re looking for.
  • Refs also tend to be straight-laced and by-the-book. One who was flamboyant, mischievous, or overly nervous would stand out.
  • Instead of falling back on the traditionally popular sports for your ref, consider one with less visibility, such as rugby, lacrosse, roller derby, or wrestling.

Visit the other Occupations in our collection HERE.


Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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