Dallas Cup referee Leigh Doughty speaks to soccer teams at Forest Meadow Junior High

You might think students would be sheepish about sharing their soccer transgressions with a referee, but when Dallas Cup official Leigh Doughty visited Forest Meadow Junior High Thursday and asked members of the boys’ and girls’ soccer teams if they’d ever received a red or yellow card, lots of hands shot up.

“I got one for slide-tackling a kid,” said one. “I called someone a name,” admitted another. “I got carded for fighting.”

Doughty has seen it all. The PGMOL (Professional Game Match Officials Limited) referee, who also visited with Lake Highlands Junior High P.E. classes Tuesday, said the offenses committed by professional players aren’t much different.

“Fouls happen in a game,” he told the 7th and 8th graders. “It’s rare to go through 90 minutes without someone committing a foul.”

He had advice, though, about how to handle one’s self afterward.

“Extend your hand and help the player back up. If you’ve done something more reckless and received a yellow card for a bad tackle or talking back to a referee, you’ve got to take that warning, calm yourself down, refocus and reset. If you make another mistake like that, you’re out of the game. You’re not just letting yourself down, you’re letting down your team and your coach.”

The students asked Doughty about Champions League games they’d watched the day before on television – especially where new rules permitting video assistant referee (VAR) made an impact on the outcome. VAR will be used in the top English Premier League next season, he told them.

The kids wondered how Doughty became a ref, and he shared how he began by playing for his hometown team, Blackpool FC. He later played for nearby Liverpool FC.

“I knew I didn’t have the talent to take it all the way as a professional player,” he told them, “so I thought, ‘what other way could I get involved in the sport I love at the highest level?’”

Doughty pursued his referee qualification at 16 and, since then, he’s been officiating games each week. He first came to Dallas to call matches at the Dallas Cup international youth soccer tournament nine years ago.

“Don’t think you can’t be involved in the game you love – basketball, baseball, football. You can be a physiotherapist, a coach, a match official, a club administrator who handles social media duties. You can still be involved.”

Students shared their experiences hosting, not referees, but Dallas Cup players from other countries, including Costa Rica, Mexico and Brazil. And they had questions. Lots of questions.

“How long was your flight? Do you think I can make it in the pros? Do you believe dance is a sport?”

Doughty answered their questions and had some closing advice.

“Hard work and humility will get you a long way,” he told them. “Work hard in everything you do, whether it is sports or academics. Show humility. Admit you were wrong. Learn from your mistakes. Show up. Be humble. Be polite. You will go far.”

Dallas Cup wraps up with championship matches Easter Sunday. You may purchase tickets online here or at the gate for Toyota Stadium matches, but games at Richland College or MoneyGram Soccer Park are free. A schedule of events is here.

Leigh Doughty speaks to P.E. classes at Lake Highlands Junior High

Leigh Doughty speaks to students at Forest Meadow

Leigh Doughty and Coach Antonio Perez with students at Lake Highlands Junior High