Ajani Straughn (right) receiving his certificate of completion from Referees' Instructor Trevor Taylor.
Sixteen-year-old Ajani Straughn is exploring every aspect of the game of football, and recently completed the five-week-long Barbados Football Association’s (BFA) Schools’ Referee Development Program.
“It was a fun and learning experience for me as a player. I was able to learn the second aspect of the game; first, it was the playing and now it is the refereeing. We got to see how the referee feels before, during and after a game so I feel this experience now will help me as a player because I will know how to treat the referees during the game and how they feel,” he said.
The fifth form Combermerian, who topped the Program, said he always wanted to learn the other side of the game.
“I for one always give referees a bit of stick during the game. I always wanted to see how hard it was to make these split-second decisions during the game and now I know. We did a couple of the assistant referee drills, going up and down the line, making the calls and we did some on-field play with the refereeing to see how the referees blow the whistle, the hand signals which would indicate which way the play would go,” he said.
The teenager, who plays for Mavericks Under-17s, noted that refereeing could take an individual a lot of places.
“Playing in Barbados can’t take us as far as refereeing, but we’ll all have to see where it goes from here. We all know how hard it is to get out of Barbados as a football player, and I’ve learnt it’s easier to get out as a referee. So even if you don’t make it at playing, it’s always a better option to have something else to do if the playing doesn’t work out,” he said.
Additionally, the St Michael resident, had the opportunity to commentate at the finals of the Guardian Group Youth Competition last Saturday.
“It was a busy day Saturday, but in all it was easy. I had a lot of time in between doing certain stuff. After refereeing early in the morning, I got into the commentating about an hour or two later and I still had an hour and a half to rest before my game, so it wasn’t particularly hard during that day,” he said.
He noted that he saw his brother Corey Worrell, who now lives in Atlanta, play football while they were growing up and he decided to follow the same path.
“Football was my life for years now. Going on nine to ten years I’ve been playing football and it will always be a part of me. I think the course is always a good option because it always puts a backup plan in place obviously if playing doesn’t work. My first choice will always be playing because I love to have the ball under my foot, but refereeing will be a very close second.
“I think I can balance both for the time being. Maybe later on I will have to make the decision but until that day comes I will balance both. At school in the Under-19 right now, we’re top of the table in the knockout competition, but I think we have a strong chance of winning the League. I will mostly be at the Under-16 games to give my support and so they will have somebody there to help them do the games,” he said.