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How fit do you need to be

Back to Referee Fitness

There are three kinds of fitness that are of concern to a soccer referee endurancespeed and agility. Endurance allows you to keep going throughout the game; speed allows you to cover ground when the play moves away from you sharply; and agility allows you to change direction quickly.

Here we give some suggestions for measures and targets for each of these for referees in the various Divisions of AYSO. If you test yourself against these, please take it easy and don't hurt yourself. Especially if you have not been running regularly recently, do the drills gently at first and slowly increase the effort level. If you decide you want to improve your results, start a regular exercise routine (e.g. as described in Get fit!) and just occasionally measure yourself again (rather than running the drills over and over). A more balanced workout regime is safer, more fun and will still produce a rapid improvement when you measure yourself again. Although When you're fit gives estimates of total distance covered in a game for games of different age levels, most soccer organizations measure a referee's fitness by the distance the referee can run in 12 minutes. Here are the recommended targets for folks ranging from FIFA international referees on down.

Referee fitness targets by Division
Division Metres run in 12 min Comments
FIFA 2700 FIFA / USSF National requirement
1 2000 AYSO National 1 requirement
2 1600 AYSO National 2 requirement
3 1400 Section recommendation
4 1200 Region suggestion
5 1200 Region suggestion
6 1000 Region suggestion

The target distances are given in metres: 1 mile is 1600m; 400m is one lap of any normal running track.

The targets for Divisions 3 on down are very undemanding. Younger referees, or those who aspire to very tight coverage of play, should shoot for 2000m or better. If we consider targets for referees of different ages, David Ager, in The soccer referee's manual, gives the following guidelines for an "in condition" referee for the 12 minute run.

Referee fitness targets by age of referee
Age 18-29 30-39 40-49 50+
Metres 2250-2750 2000-2550 1750-2250 1500-2000


Being able to jog 2000m in 12 mins is a good foundation, and you will spend a lot of time following play at this relaxed pace. However, as we all know, referees also have to be able to sprint to catch up with breakaways, or when the play suddenly moves in an unexpected direction. Here are some recommended targets for AYSO referees.

Referee speed targets by Division
Division 50 yds 100 yds Comments
1 -- 17 sec AYSO National 1 requirement
2 -- 18 sec AYSO National 2 requirement
3 10 sec -- AYSO Section requirement
4 11 sec -- Region suggestion
5 12 sec -- Region suggestion
6 No recommendation


Agility is important for when you have to stop or change direction quickly, and for running sidewards and backwards. This is probably even more important for assistant referees (linesfolk), since side stepping and sudden starts and stops are so frequent on the line. There are two drills used to test agility.

  1. Agility run: A square 10m on a side is laid out. The referee begins at one corner and runs backwards along one side, side steps right along the next, runs forward along the third and side steps right along the fourth (arriving back at the start point). The referee then returns around the square, side stepping left, backwards, left and forwards in turn. The time is the total time around the square twice.
  2. Staggered run: Marks are placed in a straight line at 5, 10, 15, 20 and 25 metres from a start point. The referee runs from the start point to the 5m mark, back to the start, to the 10m mark, back, etc. until each mark has been visited and returned from (a total of 150m).

Here are some recommended targets for those drills for AYSO referees.

Referee agility run targets by Division
Division Agility run Staggered run Comments
1 32 sec 48 sec AYSO National 1 requirement
2 32 sec 49 sec AYSO National 2 requirement
3 36 sec 50 sec AYSO Section requirement
4 38 sec 52 sec Region suggestion
5 40 sec 54 sec Region suggestion
6 No recommendation

Be careful running these drills! These are exactly the kind of movements that will strain or pull muscles if you overdo it before you are used to them. Take them slowly until they feel comfortable.

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