Things have definitely changed in the last decade for 2003 Scappoose High School graduate Andy Deuker. Eleven years ago, he was playing with the high school boys' team on the field behind the middle school, devoid of a national anthem, an announcer for starting lineups and a scoreboard. They played on the hallowed football field once or twice a year for senior night or an especially big game, but spent most of their time out of the local limelight.
Fast forward, and Deuker's soccer world has taken a drastically different turn. Next week, he'll travel to Maryland for the US Youth Soccer Championships for the third year in a row, putting himself on a short list of Oregon soccer officials to have received the honor and responsibility.
The path to the championships is as difficult for the referees as it is for the teams who play there, according to Deuker, who has been officiating since 1997 when he was just 12 years old. A handful of officials are selected from each state and sent to regionals, and the list is pared down after regionals have been completed. An even smaller group is chosen to attend the national championships, and referees are given games based off of experience, personality and how well they've stacked up in past evaluations.
Young referees begin at the level of grade nine, and work their way up over time. Deuker followed the same pattern, beginning with what he called micro soccer' with players around six or seven years old.
It was like watching ants play with a ball, he remembered.
Even then, he got flak from parents of the players, but learned to dissolve difficult situations with spectators and coaches so well that he moved on to full-field games soon afterward. It became a point of emphasis, and his skill at handling tense confrontations led to him moving up the ladder.
Once he started to oversee bigger games with older kids, he had his eyes set on a fairly local goal, so to speak. Officiating a high school championship was the pinnacle of his career – but after having been a referee for three state title games, things have moved a little higher.
Five years ago, the ever-competitive nature that made his years in Scappoose so memorable finally came alive once again. Refereeing countless youth games and indoor soccer matches wasn't enough anymore, and Deuker began to raise his expectations.
He moved from a class eight license, which is the lowest class that allows an individual to referee full 11 on 11 matches, and started to pursue the next level. He was still refereeing for fun, but the reasoning went considerably deeper and the opportunities began to grow.
Now, it's about taking on the next new challenge. With bigger games comes more money, for sure, but they also bring a host of difficulties. Instead of a handful of parents, it could be several thousand fans, with more watching at home on television.
Deuker was selected as an official for an Oregon State womens' game against a team from Canada, and things went well enough that he picked up 30 more games that season. A few years down the road, and he's one of the busiest officials in the state, overseeing somewhere between 45 and 60 big-time games in a season.
He's had the opportunity to manage games in the Pac-12 up and down the west coast, refereed Portland Pilot games and seen Scappoose soccer alum Ariel Viera up close. He's officiated matches for the Portland Thorns and other franchises in the National Women's Soccer League as well as countless amateur tournaments around the country.
Bumping shoulders with some of the area's biggest soccer names has become somewhat normal. The first time stepping out on to the field in front of TV cameras, though, was a surreal experience, according to Deuker. It was just as strange to watch a replay and finally notice the thousands of spectators, getting a broader perspective than simply 22 players and a handful of coaches on a field. Since then, he's begun to relish the challenge of big games and tough decisions.
Long gone are the days where his mother – the referee assigner for the Scappoose Soccer Club at the time – would back him up against the more unruly parents or coaches at peewee matches. Building off his experience as a youth official back in the late 1990s, the run-ins now stretch from wound up Latina players to academy and club coaches at the Major League Soccer level.
His circle of friends has widened as well, including coaches, players and fellow officials from all over the country.
I've met some amazing people, said Deuker, The community of refs has definitely motivated me, the camaraderie is huge.
The long-term plan is still unclear, but Deuker hopes to continue to see time in big games, searching for the best competition and the chance to move up in his profession. A few years ago, scheduling was a game of Tetris as he attempted to balance work with special needs students at Scappoose High School along with his officiating pursuits. Now that he's moved to a school in the North Clackamas district, things have simplified. There's far less of the indoor soccer and peewee matches, clearing the schedule for the big games – University of Washington men and Gonzaga, for example, or a game at the University of Portland's Merlo Field.
And by contrast to Deuker's humble little old Scappoose beginnings, Merlo Field holds nearly 5,000 spectators.
One thing, though, has stayed constant as he scales the many levels of officiating in soccer: the support of his parents. Deuker said he appreciates their willingness to watch his dog – which his mother refers to as her grand-woof – during the month-long trips to regional and national tournaments like the national championships coming up from July 20-27. He has yet to receive his game assignments, which he expects to be in the upper divisions with a chance to referee the finals, but let on that he might have a slightly underhanded agenda.
I'm hoping for the U13s, he said jokingly. They only have 35 minute halves. Less running.