Just before I started studying my masters at Durham University, I went to the clubs and societies fair and there was a stand advertising rugby refereeing. The people running it said they would subsidise the ELRA [Entry Level Refereeing Award] and that I could earn £20 a match if I passed the course and refereed college fixtures. I gave it a go and enjoyed it so much that I decided to join the Sussex society when I returned home.
What’s the most rewarding thing about being a referee?
There are lots of rewarding things about refereeing. The first is the mental toughness it creates; you have to learn to cope under pressure and deal with high-stress situations, and if you don’t develop a mechanism to use that pressure to your advantage then it can overwhelm you. Going through the process of identifying what works for you is very beneficial, especially if you can use those frameworks in your professional life.
Linked to that is developing ways to help progress your performances. Being honest with yourself and identifying areas to improve (especially when there’s video footage of your mistakes!) is both a test of character as well as an opportunity to examine what you need to change. Refereeing has opened up a fresh way of appreciating the sport as well, which I didn’t expect. It has enabled me to look at the laws in different ways and through various refereeing philosophies.
Being able to travel and visit clubs I hadn’t heard of before and to find that same camaraderie for the sport is great to experience. It’s testament to why the ‘rugby family’ is such a great fraternity in which to be a part.
Show us your favourite photo
The coaches taught us certain values through the sport which not only brought the team together as players, but helped enabled me to make friends for life. Although I don’t play anymore, trying to embody those same values as a referee is something that can be attributed to this club and the teammates I had. Some of those in the photo still play, others are coaches, and I think I’m the only referee!
Tell us about your local refereeing society?
The Sussex Society of RFU Referees (SSRFUR) has been a brilliant society since the very first e-mail I sent asking about how I could get involved. They have all been very supportive and have shown their generosity in providing kit, a seemingly endless amount of enthusiasm for the game, and plenty of laughs along the way.
There are many individuals who have helped to lay a foundation on which to build my own development (through assessments, advice, video analysis etc.), but as a group they provide a warm and friendly environment for anyone to enter into refereeing. Other people should join or connect with a society, whether as a referee, a coach, or someone who wants to understand the laws, as there is much to benefit from the communities that exist within them. I am always very proud to represent the Sussex society whenever I can, and am very grateful for the help they have given me.
What’s refereeing done for you personally?
Being involved as a referee has enabled me to develop skills that I think are impossible to refine in any other setting. For example, being a player taught me the basics of putting yourself second to the success of a team, but refereeing has taught me how to be decisive and think correctly under pressure in highly demanding situations.
When a game goes well, this is incredibly satisfying; yet the nature of the role means that you have to defend and explain your decision making process with authority and a varying degree of diplomacy, while being willing to accept responsibility if you’ve made any mistakes. This is not only the basis of good leadership, but it is essential in a professional environment.