Sandra Serafini, originally from Hamilton, Ontario, came to North Carolina in 2000 after receiving referee certification (USSF and NCAA) in the state of Washington in 1998 and 1999. Since that time she has officiated college conference finals, NCAA Final Fours, men’s and women’s domestic leagues and international events. And while it is certainly safe to say that she has had a tremendous impact on the game everywhere as an official and supervisor, our state has wound up being one of the biggest beneficiaries of her extraordinary service. She is a gift to soccer in North Carolina.
First, there is the matter of her day job. Serafini has worked as a PhD neuroscientist at
Duke University Medical Center since 2000, specializing in functional intraoperative and extraoperative mapping for neurosurgical patients. She is the author of several publications on multimodality language processing and is currently an Adjunct Assistant Professor with the DUMC Department of Neurosurgery.
Sandra began officiating in order “to pay the college rent,” and by the time she got here she had done some two-thousand games.
Becoming a state referee was a logical step in her progression and by 2005 she had become a national official. A year later she became the first person from North Carolina to serve on the FIFA Panel of Women Referees, a post she held until 2009. She is a National Referee Coach for USSF and Elite Assessor/Instructor for CONCACAF, has instructed officiating courses for FIFA and has recently completed a four-year term leading the National Association of Sports Officials (NASO).
Serafini is currently Strategic Initiatives Manager and Co-Manager of the Development Group of the Professional Referee Organization (PRO), helping to promote a youth program that provides instruction to young officials at tournaments across the country, including McDonald’s-Wrangler in Greensboro.
In 2004, Sandra received the NCYSA/NCSRA Adult Referee of the Year Award for service in officiating youth soccer. She has also been awarded the William Utter Service Award from the Triangle Intercollegiate Soccer Officials Association (TISOA) and NISOA’s Regional Referee of the Year Award. For several years she was a TISOA board member and Director of Education. She has conducted instructional clinics all across the state and has served as mentor and assessor for youth, high school and collegiate officials in tournaments across the country. In addition, there was her leadership for senior officials in managing North Carolina Special Olympic games in Winston-Salem.
Suffice it to say that she has a been a groundbreaker in terms of enhancing positive relationships between coaches, players and officials in North Carolina. But for someone with her extraordinary background, it is quite reassuring to note her understanding of the human element in the game. In a 2013 interview in a Duke publication called Soccer Politics, she touches on gender issues and challenges that women officials, for whom she passionately supports, face. For her, a player out of control falls under her “no screaming” policy (“let’s have adult conversation.”). As a fourth official, she would tell an angry coach to “whisper what you want to me. I’m your therapist.” (“It works.”) . And she fondly recalls, as an official, signing autographs in Mexico, drinking post-game beers with fans in Holland and working with an all-Chinese crew that had very little knowledge of English.
Sandra Serafini is a pioneer in our sport and much of her energy has been directed at the afore mentioned advancement and equality for women in the game. Prepare to hear much more from this outstanding inductee into the North Carolina Soccer Hall of Fame.