U.S. Soccer Referee Andrew Kirst Trailblazed Path for Deaf American Referees at 2023 DIFA Deaf World Cup | U.S. Soccer Official Website

Andrew Kirst wants you to know he was a bad ref.

Don’t worry.

After a 19-year career of working soccer matches as small as JV high school to as large as a world championship semifinal, Kirst has spent his entire career working relentlessly to get better. That mindset and the support of U.S. Soccer’s referee training program have helped him get to where he is today.

But yeah, when he started, he wasn’t great.

“For the first year or two, I knew I was bad. I was lousy,” Kirst said. “And the parents were blowing up at me. But hey, I’m deaf. It didn’t affect me. It was an advantage for me. I’m sure if I could’ve heard, I would’ve quit.”

Kirst credits U.S. Soccer, specifically Rick Eddy, Esse Baharmast, Deanna Duncan-Allen, and Neal Fausset, for helping him develop into the referee he has become today and for his opportunities.

He also highlighted U.S. Soccer’s commitment to increased accessibility for its referee training. Without it, he may not have been able to reach some of the highest levels of the sport.

“When they recognized that I was deaf and was aspiring to be the best referee possible, they started to create more opportunities and provided sign language interpreters for training, video discussions, meetings, workshops, webinars, tournaments and showcases I attended,” Kirst said. “This gave me full accessibility to what was being spoken, talked about, and discussed, and I could comprehend, understand, and apply all that was being discussed onto the pitch during matches. With what U.S. Soccer provided, it really helped and accelerated my development as a referee.”

That growth eventually led to Kirst representing U.S. Soccer as a referee for the 2023 World Deaf Football Championships (WDFC) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The honor wasn’t something he thought about from the moment he became a referee. He didn’t even know it was possible until he participated in two U.S. Deaf Soccer training camps ahead of the 2020 Deaf World Championships.

At those camps, Kirst built up his skills as a referee. He also met and got to know the players and staff of the U.S. Men’s Deaf Soccer Team and, through those relationships, learned who he should speak to and how to apply to become a referee for the WDFC.

“These two camps opened my eyes to other opportunities I could try for and take advantage of,” he said. “They were a huge springboard to the WDFC for me. U.S. Soccer now overseeing those teams under the Extended National Teams program has given a big boost to the visibility and potential for all players under U.S. Soccer. It’ll extend to everyone who is involved in this program in any shape or form. This exposure will only lead to further awareness and understanding of what is out there and allow for hopes, dreams, and goals to be developed and let the future generations be motivated to strive for excellence and further success on the pitch and in life.”

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