Sutherland all over Niagara sporting map
Ron Sutherland is a 12-month-of-the-year fixture on Niagara’s sporting scene.
The 60-year-old Montreal native is the convenor for the Niagara Region High School Athletic Association’s boys and girls basketball and soccer leagues, is a soccer ref and the referee assignor for all soccer refs in Niagara, and also serves as an official with the Niagara District Basketball Referees Association.
Rina Rode, the NRHSAA’s athletic convenor, describes Sutherland as an amazing person.
“He is very patient and willing to work with all our coaches to find scheduling solutions for their sport that are convenient for them and their team,” she said. “He works hard and he learns quickly. Of course, becoming soccer convenor was a no brainer for him. He is the guru of soccer.
“But then he also had to fill some pretty big shoes (Larry Miller) to fill in taking on the basketball convenorship and he has done a terrific job.”
That being said, Sutherland is not without his flaws.
“Unfortunately, as a Maple Leafs fan, it’s not easy sharing the office with such a rabid Canadiens fan,” Rode said.
For the Niagara-on-the-Lake resident, his sporting endeavours are his full-time job.
“I love sports. In my previous life, I used to be an elementary school phys-ed teacher.”
Sutherland got started in soccer officiating when he was a young teenager and he also umpired baseball.
“I didn’t find baseball as exciting to umpire as I did refereeing soccer and basketball.”
He played soccer and basketball growing up and got into coaching early in his life. He was president of a basketball association in Montreal and coached travel basketball for several years for players 15 and older.
He officiates all levels of soccer and basketball and he’s passionate about his involvement.
“I found working with the youth in Montreal was a great challenge and I like to see the kids playing sports and I want to make sure they are well organized.”
His refereeing philosophy for soccer and basketball is the same but how it translates is different in each sport.
“I like to let the kids play. Soccer can be challenging because it is a body contact sport. You have to be a bit more strict in soccer, especially with men’s leagues. It gets rough and the boys can be rough too.
“Basketball is a lot easier because there’s not as much contact compared to soccer. And obviously basketball is a lot stricter in terms of language and what you can and cannot say to a referee. In soccer, players are always talking back to referees and in basketball it is really rare.”
Because of COVID-19, it has been a long time since Sutherland reffed a basketball game. But there is light at the end of the officiating tunnel for his other passion.
“We are hoping to get back on the soccer fields in July but we are very short of referees.”
Because of the pandemic, soccer refereeing courses are currently all online. Anyone interested in officiating soccer, can call the Niagara Soccer Association at 905-984-8411.
He is encouraging those interested to give it a try.
“You can get out on a summer night, run around, keep in shape and make a little bit of extra cash,” said Sutherland, who has lived in Niagara since 2000. “If you wanted to, you could referee soccer games seven days a week if you were available.”