Referees Recruiting Referees – by Pat McNally

Posted by SCRRS Website Committee on April 2nd, 2010

National Sevens Referee Manager Pat McNally gives us an insight into why refs do what they do.

By Pat McNally

Whenever friends and family learn I am still refereeing, they generally respond in one of three ways: (1) “What the hell are you thinking?” (2) “Are you nuts?” or (3) “Have you tried sobriety?”

I answer patiently by explaining that I love my sport and that I want to give back to something that has given me so much.

After the empty nods and the thousand-yard stares, I make my solemn confession. Refereeing is a lot of fun, I’m lucky to have all these other referees as friends and I LIKE it.

There it is, the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God!

Not that all of it is enjoyable and there are days when it is decidedly not. However, to be in charge and responsible for the character and tone of a rugby match, to share in the intensity and emotion with which players compete, and to see the unbridled joy that a well-contested match brings, is a high no drug can ever match.

We want our sport to grow (especially youth) and become more popular, but that can only happen if the infrastructure is there—informed coaching, respectable facilities and competent refereeing—to direct that growth in a positive direction.

So how do we let others in on our big secret and convince them of the importance of adding to our refereeing ranks? First and foremost, they need to understand that the health of our sport depends on it.

Our ability to consistently compete locally, nationally and internationally demands a deep and wide pool of qualified referees. Our entire rugby community of men and women, and the fifteens, sevens, and youth programs need to feel confident when they step on the pitch that the referee recognizes the difference between a mediocre, uninformed stop-start affair and a fair, well-contested competition, and can knowingly manage that difference.

We can start with the referee organizations. They need to identify individuals who will focus solely on recruitment, and who will give recruits their undivided attention.

Too often only a few people carry the administrative load in referee societies and some individuals are wearing too many hats (e.g., society officer, national committee member, union liaison, etc.)

There also has to be a commitment to follow through with mentors who will help new referees find their feet and provide that vital support system which will enable them to climb the ladder to the next level.

Ultimately, we need to target young athletes that have the physical abilities and the time to commit, and instill in them the confidence that allows them to develop.

We recognize the growth and development of collegiate rugby in the United States and that many of those players choose not to play after graduation, but we largely neglect to tap that large pool of potential talent.

These skilled, highly educated and energetic young men and women could be directed to refereeing rugby as a natural extension of their attraction to our sport.

They have the rugby background, the proven self-discipline and the love of the game to succeed at officiating. The opportunities for advancement have never been greater.

Most importantly, we must be open and realistic about what becoming a referee involves. All potential referees must be clearly aware that, as in all worthwhile endeavors, they must work hard and pay their dues as they work their way up the ladder.

Refereeing can be isolating (if you allow it to be) and you must have the self-assurance to interact with people both on and off the pitch and not crawl into a corner or disappear after the match.

The future livelihood of our sport depends on a healthy infusion of new blood into the referee ranks and a functioning support system. Refereeing can be a satisfying, lifelong career (present company included).

The sooner we convince athletes to commit to refereeing, the longer they can enjoy it and the more we can all benefit from their abilities and enthusiasm.

And, it might help if we let everybody know how much fun it really is.

Upcoming Level 1 Referee Course in San Diego:

Click here for the course webpage


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