Kim Oberle, inductee into the North Carolina Soccer Hall of Fame (class of 2020), got into her career soccer choice at a relatively early age. As she tells it, she was grousing about incompetent officials in her youth game when her mother said, “If it is so easy, you do it.” In this case, she chose to follow parental advice, first officiating in the Winston-Salem Optimist League at age 14 and gaining USSF certification in 1985. This league had provided her with her introduction to the game at age six during its inaugural year, and she continued to play in co-ed competition throughout the first half of the 1980’s. Her playing experience in the area would culminate at West Forsyth High School, where again she would be part of something new as a member of the first girls team.
After graduating from Appalachian State in 1994 with an M.A. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Kim would begin an officiating career that would eventually take her all over the world. But it started at home – in North Carolina. She was named NCYSA Adult Referee of the Year in 1997 and was the first woman to whistle the NCHSAA 4A Men’s Championship (1999). This was an outgrowth of her membership in three high school officials’ associations: Blue Ridge, Piedmont and Triangle. As a NISOA National Referee, she would also officiate hundreds of college matches, including four NCAA Women’s College cups and the final of the Division III Women’s Championship in 2004.
On the professional level, Oberle became involved with both WPS and NASL as a game official until 2007, with a high honor being her appointment to the FIFA Panel of Assistant Referees (2005-2007). In her experience here, she would go on to officiate in 26 international matches and accumulate a bevy of stories and memories, including a smoke bomb on the pitch in Vera Cruz, Mexico, the feeling of history in Estadio Azteca and the experience of eating in some strange places.
Kim’s so-called “retirement” in 2007 turned out to be only stepping away from working on actual soccer fields. Since that time, she has become a USSF National Referee Assessor and Instructor, a Professional Referee Organization Coach for matches in the MLS, NWSL and various other leagues and a CONCACAF referee inspector, serving at Women’s World Cup Qualifying tournaments in Grenada and Guatemala. Recently, she has been working with the USA Soccer Referee Education Work Group and the United States Soccer Referee Committee, as her goal remains to significantly upgrade training and certification requirements, especially for beginning officials.
And yes, she has a day job. She is manager of the Outdoor Recreation division of the Durham Parks and Recreation and she teaches Outdoor Recreation as an adjunct instructor in the department of Kinesiology at North Carolina Central University.
In a missive that Oberle writes about her experience in Vera Cruz, she says “Why do this thing that has no perceived glory in it? I guess it goes to the personality of referees… We’re competitive, driven and, most importantly, deeply passionate fans of the game…. The prime mover is the joy of being there, on the field in the best environment with the best players in the world.”
For the second year in a row the North Carolina Soccer Hall of Fame has chosen for membership a nationally known field official with a record of great service to the Tar Heel state. It speaks so well for our soccer program that we can present such quality individuals as Sandra Serafini (NC Soccer HOF 2019) and now Kim Oberle (NC Soccer HOF 2020) for membership. The game is in good hands.