Five years ago Cormac Southam took an errant bodycheck on the soccer field and ended up with a concussion.
“I got hit by a fellow teammate, so it wasn’t the most dramatic thing,” said the 19-year-old soccer referee, who had to stop playing for a few years to treat his injury.
“That gave me a real perspective on how valuable the opportunity to play soccer was.”
Though he could no longer play, Southam elected to pursue his passion for the game by training to become a referee. He’s been developing his skills for five years now, and has become a familiar presence on the Lakeside sidelines.
This year Southam was invited by BC Soccer, at the recommendation of Ken Sookro, the referee development officer of the Kootenays, to officiate at the BC Soccer Provincial A Cup Championships. He was thrilled by the opportunity, and accepted immediately.
“That’s the biggest game I’ve ever reffed,” said Southam. “You’re expected to be a lot more professional. If you make mistakes, it’s a bigger deal I suppose.”
While he was there, Southam attended technical and practical sessions with referees from across the province.
“You only have to referee one game a day, so you can really focus on it,” he said, adding that the sessions were an invaluable education experience.
“You get practical information as well as the opportunity to actually go and use it.”
Southam is headed to the University of Lethbridge in September, where he plans to study neuroscience. Since his concussion, Southam said he’s been fascinated by the inner workings of the brain.
He will also join fellow Nelson athlete Ethan Perkins on the University of Lethbridge’s soccer team, the Pronghorns. He plans to play centre back. At the same time, he wants to continue with his referee career.
“As a referee, I’d like to continue to progress, just like anything else in life,” he said.
His dream is to one day ref the FIFA World Cup like Canadian referee Joe Fletcher.
“I’ve played soccer for my whole life, started when I was five. It just makes sense to me,” said Southam.
Chuck Bennett, president of Nelson Youth Soccer, said he’s thrilled by the level of professionalism demonstrated by the referees coming through NYSA, and Southam is a great example of that development.
“I have seen Cormac both as a player and referee, and is very good at both. I am really happy for him that he got this opportunity. I think he earned it and I really think he will be a great role model for our younger referees,” said Bennett, adding that NYSA has done a very good job with its young referee program.
“If you’re down at Lakeside Park on any given day, you’re going to see a bunch of young players starting to take a leadership role as young referees,” said Bennett. “I’m really proud of these young referees and what we’ve done as an association. My own kids have gone through this program and it has been a great learning experience for them on so many levels.”