Man pushes for defense training after Michigan soccer referee's death


NOVI, Mich. – With a background in boxing, John Lepak is doing what he can to help after soccer referee John Bieniewicz's tragic death.

"We set up the fundraiser to raise money for his family and then at the same time I said we need to take some action to do something for the future," he said.

Lepak has a training background. He has worked with high-profile boxers in the past, but what he has in mind has nothing to do with fighting. In fact, it's quite the opposite.

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He has reached out to the Michigan Soccer Referee Committee in the hopes of hosting a clinic to teach referees how to recognize volatile situations and to give them the techniques to defuse them.

Lepak's plan is to bring in several experts to help with the process. Joe Odam has 12 years of military experience. He is one of the people Lepak has tapped for help.

"There is a big difference between self-defense and preparedness," said Odam, who owns the PowerHouse Gym in Novi. "In this day and age, nobody knows what's happening next, whether it's on the soccer field, whether it's at a grocery store, on the highway or anything for that matter."

It's all in its infancy stage. The Soccer Referee Committee says they hope to host Lepak's clinics for their members in August.

"A gentleman tragically lost his life recently and two families are going to be forever affected by this senseless act of violence that didn't need to occur," said Lepak.

The message is not necessarily new to referees, but they hope a new voice with Lepak's credentials can make an impact.

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