10 Oct Longtime soccer official Randy Croteau winding down spectacular career
In 2007, longtime soccer referee Randy Croteau earned a plum assignment for the third round of the NCAA Division 1 men’s tournament. While some of his partners packed their bags to work games in warm climes like Virginia and North Carolina, Croteau headed to UMass for the Minutemen’s matchup with Central Connecticut State.
“It was a cold day in December,” Croteau, an Auburn resident, recalled last week.
Indeed, the temperature that day was below freezing, it was snowy and icy, and slippery field conditions delayed the game for more than an hour in the first half.
“The NCAA said we had to get the game in,” said Croteau, who ran the field in his uniform shorts, a number of upper-body layers, hand warmers and gloves. “It was scary, but it was very memorable, just one that stands out.”
Croteau, who attained his U.S. Soccer Federation referee badge in 1981 and has officiated Division 1, 2 and 3 men’s and women’s college games for the last 25 years, will retire from the college level at the end of this season.
Croteau, who celebrated his 72nd birthday last week, is one of the oldest college soccer referees in New England.
“Most of the time I’m the head referee and I’m doing a lot of running,” Croteau said. “The kids are young. I’m getting older. They’re getting faster. I’m getting slower. It’s time to bow out graciously.”
Croteau, who worked the Shrewsbury-Wachusett Regional girls’ game last Wednesday, will continue officiating boys’ and girls’ high school games for a couple of more years.
“I love the game,” he said, “and I just like working. I can’t just sit around and do nothing.”
Introduced to soccer when kids started playing
Croteau grew up in Worcester and graduated from North High in 1968. He raised his family in Oxford before moving to Auburn eight years ago. Croteau worked as a machinist at Norton Company in Worcester for 41 years.
As a youngster, Croteau played “all the other sports,” and had his first real introduction to soccer when his kids, Christy and Scott, began playing in youth leagues. He helped out coaching their teams, and a friend later suggested he become a referee.
Croteau passed the USSF exam, began at the youth level, worked his way up to referee state and regional tournaments, and officiated some A-League games, including the Worcester Wildfire, who played two seasons in the mid-1990s at Foley Stadium. He was a Central Mass. administrator for 15 years.
When he was in his 40s, Croteau joined a men’s league in Oxford and started playing soccer.
“I said, ‘I have to learn this game because if I don’t, I’m not going to go further in refereeing,’ ” Croteau said.
He said he also gained great insight from the international referees he worked with through the years.
Still maintains solid schedule of games
Croteau was a USSF referee from 1981-2016, and for the past five years has worked predominantly area college and high school games. Until recently, he would typically officiate 45 college games and 20 high school games a season.
“I used to hammer away,” Croteau said.
Last week’s schedule included two high school games (one was rained out) and college games at Fitchburg State and Westfield State.
During his career at Norton Company, Croteau’s shift ended at 2 in the afternoon, and many days he would get in his car and drive to work a 7 p.m. game, at, for instance, the University of Albany, and drive back to Oxford afterward.
His games the past few years have been closer to home.
“My assignors are good to me,” Croteau said.
Croteau refereed his last Division 1 college game in March at Central Connecticut State (the Blue Devils played a spring schedule due to the pandemic).
“I was going to (retire completely from college games) last year because of my age,” Croteau said, “but I’m still doing Division 2 and Division 3. I wanted to hang on one more year. I will have a hard time hanging up the cleats on college.”
Through the years, Croteau has earned recognition for his commitment, aptitude and longevity.
In 2015, the Central Mass. Soccer Coaches Association named Croteau its Official of the Year. He was the recipient of the of the Mass. State Referee Committee’s Flannery Award, which honors dedication, in 1997. The MIAA named Croteau its boys’ Official of the Year in 1995.
“I like the sport, I like the challenge, and I like the players and coaches,” Croteau said. “There’s a lot of running, and it keeps me healthy; I’m on no prescriptions at my age. I have a lot of good memories. I just love the game so much.”
Contact Jennifer Toland at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @JenTandG
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