For a century now, spectators and players have criticized referees and umpires if they feel they have missed a call. Right or wrong, those who complain do not realized that officials are trying their best. That said, with many unique rules, power soccer has to be one of the toughest sports to judge. It takes eye coordination and patience. Doug Wolff has that and more, as he brings the fun to the sport.
Growing up in Miami Beach, Florida, Wolff would dream big about being able to officiate soccer someday. He did not need to wait long, as he refereed a game when he was twelve-years-old for cash. “I loved the energy and passion from the game,” said Wolff.
Years passed, and when he graduated from Fontbonne University in St. Louis in 1998, Wolff was drafted by the Mississippi Beach Kings of the Eastern Indoor Soccer League. That stint lasted just one year as the EISL went under after the 1999 season.
Wolff was at a loss, but not for long. He has been an official for able-bodied soccer for thirty years, working for various leagues. Starting in 1993, Wolff got his first experience in working with athletes who have disabilities when he was employed with Special Olympics for three years. He found out about power soccer when Herb Silva and Chris Mullholland asked him to check the sport out. “I fell in love the first second I saw it,” explained Wolff. Since that encounter, he has worked power soccer matches for over 15 years.
Wolff has had the privilege of officiating three large events. He was present at the 2011 and 2017 FIPFA World Cups and was out on the court for the 2012 International Tour in Vancouver, Canada. He also refs between 25 and 35 power soccer games per year and you will definitely see him each year at the USPSA National Conference Cups.
Out on the court, Wolff is loose and energetic. He allows the athletes to showcase their skills and be the deciding factor in the match. “My biggest weapon is my personality and being able to read people,” Wolff explains. During matches, he sometimes tries to pump up the crowd in hopes of encouraging the players to play harder.
“I love the camaraderie with the refs and how we can interact throughout the games,” says Wolff. He also tries really hard to light up the athletes faces. Wolff provided an example: “A simple pat on the back or thumbs up can go a long way to the athletes during a competition.”
Wolff’s most memorable moment came in 2011 when he officiated the opening match at the FIPFA World Cup in Paris, France. The attendance for that match was around 2,500 spectators. “I remember trying to blow my whistle to call a foul, but the stadium was so loud no one heard me,” he said. Wolff will never forget the feeling he had after he officiated that match.
Wolff said he would like power soccer to implement a two referee system as it would create more space for wheelchairs to maneuver on the court. “This game has evolved and is very dynamic with quick passing and movements in transition and the refs can get in the way the progression of the match,” Wolff added.
When not blowing his whistle on the pitch, Wolff is busy with family life in St. Louis, Missouri. His wife, Heather, and two daughters, Audrey and Lillian, are all involved in soccer. So much so, they officiated a friendly a few years back together.
Heather attends every one of Wolff’s games that he refs. “My wife is in love with power soccer and attends every event with me! She loves the moms, refs and coaches that make it all possible,” says Wolff. He currently coaches his daughters’ soccer team. Besides soccer, Wolff likes to go exploring and being silly.
He is looking forward to the possibility of being one of the American refs represented at the 2021 FIPFA World Cup, held in Sydney, Australia. “There’s nothing close to the enjoyment and excitement I have about the sport,” concluded Wolff.