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Jennifer Garner and Karen Abt take charge of CONCACAF U-15 Championships

August 13, 2014

Karen Abt and Jennifer Jones in the Cayman Islands

The CONCACAF Girls’ Under-15 Championships kicked-off last week in the Cayman Islands and, after being recommended by PRO, US Soccer Officials Jennifer Garner and Karen Abt are flourishing at the tournament.

Having refereed some games in the early stages of the event, both Garner and Abt have been retained for the knockout stages, being assigned to the quarterfinal between Canada and Costa Rica - some achievement for the pair in their first competition outside the United States. 

For Abt, the wait to officiate away from the US comes 16 years after becoming a certified referee.

Needless to say, the 30-year-old from Colorado has been looking forward to her first CONCACAF competition and the intensity that comes with it. 

“It is fun to referee the U-15 age group,” Abt told “It is rewarding to see their zest to learn and excitement to perform on an international stage.

“The schedule is intense as we have daily field training, classroom sessions, games, debriefs and recovery training. You are constantly under a microscope so stress management and ensuring you get proper rest are really important.“

Like Abt, 36-year-old official Garner was also provided to CONCACAF by PRO for her first opportunity of taking charge of a soccer game on foreign soil. 

She believes tournaments like the U-15 Championships, which features 16 countries, are important for the development of referees, as well as the players.

The Texas native said: “The players are in a developmental stage and you have to stay focused and be prepared for situations that you may have never seen in a match. 

“I believe that it is very important to referee different age groups and ability levels to become a well-rounded official.”

Jennifer Jones at the Girls' Under-15 Championships in the Cayman Islands

Garner has been refereeing for 10 years and is also a teacher and soccer coach back home at Prosper High School.

With that in mind, she knows more than most what the players are going through and how to manage them effectively.

“These young ladies are very passionate about their country and are now being given the opportunity to represent their nation on the pitch. This creates a very emotional atmosphere.

“You can experience several different ability and maturity levels during the same match, plus the size difference between some girls at this age can make life tricky too. As a referee, you must find a way to manage all of these various personalities.”

PRO Women’s Referee Coach, Sandra Serafini, said: “We talk so much about fitness, player management, match analysis and adaptability and this will help both Karen and Jennifer develop those skills at an intense international event.

“It’s a great way to solidify the habits as they continue their development, and we’re very happy with how well they’ve come together to represent US Soccer and PRO.”

The inaugural Final of the CONCACAF Girls’ Under-15 Championships takes place on August 18.

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