• Tips to get the most out of your refereeing

    The reasons people plateau will vary; some may not even realize they never had "it", thought they did, and kept spinning their wheels in L5 forever, only to be finally "dropped" not b/c they've gotten worse, but b/c they're 35 and there's a 25 year old that's as good as them so they get moved aside due to a lack of resources. It probably would have been a lot fairer to tell him that, after 2 years on the squad, they were never going to progress any further, but due to the blazeratti fear of him leaving altogether and throwing his toys from the pram, they kept the illusion of promotion in front of him each year to keep him around so he could referee at L6/L7 as a SPOH. In that case, it's not entirely the referee's fault; part of the blame lies in the fools that toyed with him for so long!

    Here's some unsolicited advice for those trying to progress to what I would call a "Phook me, it's gettin' serious now" Level, so feel free to ignore all of it. Also recognize that there are some geographical limitations that exist outside the home unions that arent really dealt with as much in Europe.

    Never Burn your Bridges
    In the ever-increasing world of global travel, folks are now more mobile with their careers, work, etc. This has caused many folks to move around the world / country with work. The same is true of refereeing, with JPD, Andrew Small, Lyndon Bray, and Steve Walsh at one point in their careers wearing different "blazers" from international societies. Even within the UK folks move up and down the country for work/school.

    All that being said, it's important that you make the most of wherever you are, and try to become active ASAP in that local society. At the lower levels, this is especially difficult as you are essentially starting from scratch to "build the brand" of your refereeing again. Once you start moving higher, the transition is smoother and the only thing that changes is the mileage claim (recognizing that even this is cost-prohibitive with the exception of the Top 2 Levels in England). At the lower levels however, there's a whole new batch of clubs (and assessors) who have never seen you before so you've got to play the game again. Same goes for the blazeratti in the room who make grading decisions.

    Dont feel that, even if you are only somewhere short term e.g. for school, you can do SFA while you're there and then piss-off somewhere else. The baggage will follow you wherever you go, so maximize your time there and be a good "refereeing ambassador" to create a name for yourself.

    Find the Pathway and Stay There
    With the above being said, it's important that once you establish yourself somewhere, you do what you can to stay there. More resources will be used to develop someone that is there for the long term than the flash-in-the-pan referee who is there short term. It's simply a matter of maximizing their return on investment of resources. If you are nomadic, either keep the same "hat" on wherever you go and maintain strong ties to your society/union, or you can basically expect your development to get to a stand-still as you keep uprooting every 2-3 years and you have to start the whole process again!

    Understand Where Refereeing Fits In and Make Sure Others Know Too!
    I have been adamant for a number of years that refereeing development doesnt stop b/c someone becomes a shitty referee overnight. It's b/c of the lack of time able to devote to refereeing due to the rest of their life getting in the way. Wives (husbands), kids, work, etc all play a factor, and you need to understand the sacrifices required, especially when things get serious in any of these areas. The commitment to jump 4 levels from L9 to L5 is nowhere near the same as jumping from L5 to L1. At the top of the pyramid the competition is so fierce that you really need to commit the majority of your time to refereeing (away from work and family, and even that priority is debateable, more on that later), and ensure that the two aforementioned priorities understand your commitment to this "reffin gig" for the long term.

    This is a long term gig for you, your work, and your partner. Ensure that everyone understands that this isnt some fleeting, weekend gig but that you could be away for anniversaries, birthdays, and concerts! Oh, and all your vacation time is potentially going towards this refereeing gig when it comes to weeks away for IRB gigs.

    Control the Controllables
    Luck is simply where opportunity meets preparedness. Some referees are "fast-tracked" in a faster way than others b/c they were simply seen by the right guy who happened to be at this club b/c of such and such a cancellation, and if you're not one of the "anointed holy ones" then you really cant do anything other than try to improve your own refereeing ability. One of the recently-added Australian Rugby Union panel referees is +40, but he has been at this gig for awhile now. His coach is recently-retired referee Stu Dickinson so if you're going to put that kind of a resource behind someone, clearly there has been a potential for growth identified even this "late" in a career. All you can really do is make yourself a better referee, either through fitness, analysis, game reviews, law reviews, and "deliberate practice".

    Finally, at one point the rubber is going to meet the road and you are going to have to decide which of the priorities gets "reprioritized". Sometimes it's refereeing, and sometimes it's other things in life, but for most folks it's going to happen. When that happens is the big variable; some will start refereeing at 20, only to walk away at 35 b/c their family situation changes and they can no longer spend every other weekend away from the family. Others will start later at 30 and go for 20 years once that new job requires less time travelling and more time in the office. The shelf-life at the top end of the game is very short even for the full-time gigs, and frankly if you were that smart to get there that quickly there's probably more money for you to be made somewhere else (a la Wayne Barnes)!
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Four more years started by Robert Burns View original post
    Comments 7 Comments
    1. beckett50's Avatar
      beckett50 -
      well thought out and presented.
    1. crammond1964's Avatar
      crammond1964 -
      missed the point of ex players who retire after 20 years of playing and want to put something back into game ; however in this cycle it counts as nought which is totally stupid .
    1. Davet's Avatar
      Davet -
      Crammond1964 - the article is aimed at refs who are looking to climb the greasy pole. Those of us who spent over 35 years playing and then turned to reffing know that we will never make it to much more than level 7, age is agin us. But that doesn't mean we are any less valuable to the game. Indeed all that experience can be incredibly valuable when used in an environment where we don't have a heart attack every 10 minutes trying to keep up with an even time winger.

      So - not so much missed the point, as made a totally different one.
    1. sparky7371's Avatar
      sparky7371 -
      It does grind a bit to be looked over for the younger option, if you are over 40 still fit enough, fast enough and skilled enough to make it to the breakdown every time....why not be considered? If it was a job interview and you are overlooked for the younger person purely on age grounds then the employer could be sued!!!
    1. crossref's Avatar
      crossref -
      Quote Originally Posted by sparky7371 View Post
      It does grind a bit to be looked over for the younger option, if you are over 40 still fit enough, fast enough and skilled enough to make it to the breakdown every time....why not be considered? If it was a job interview and you are overlooked for the younger person purely on age grounds then the employer could be sued!!!
      depends on the job, actually.
      if the employer is recruiting trainees in who they are expecting to invest considerable time and money, then it IS legal for the firm to consider the likely length of career, and exclude people who will be unable to work long enough to get pay-back from the training.
    1. Simon Thomas's Avatar
      Simon Thomas -
      It is important to understand the context of Robbie's article, which is for those aspiring to get to the top 10% of refereing L6 and above through Federation, Group or National Panels.

      Hampshire Society Grade Splits 2011-12
      Level # %
      Panel 2 2%
      5 1 1%
      6 9 10%
      7 4 4%
      8 10 11%
      9 18 19%
      10 25 27%
      11 23 24%
      12 1 1%
      ELRA 1 1%

      Societies give any member (of whatever age) who is committed to progress as high as they can. Committed means taking appointments, putting yourself out, attending Training Meetings, doing regular personal fitness training as well as the wekeend matches, having a PDP, be proactive & do the RFU Continuous Referee Development Award and RFU Extended Referee Development Award. If a referee has the ability, potential, and dedication they can climb as high as they wish up to L6. After that selected to Federation, Group & Panel is based on both actual performance and a competitive selection process, as there are only so many matches at those levels as the RFU League pyramid narrows rapidly. The amount of time, support & actual financial investment invested by RFU, Group, Federations and Societies in those who have the ability and potential (and as said earlier the commitment) is enormous and so a 'return' on that investment over an extended period is needed.

      Starting after a long playing career in our late 30s or early 40s (as I did at 40) makes it very difficult to give that return at Group/Panel level. Even for those of younger ages in their mid 30s who get to Federation or Group level, the pathway gets more and more narrow and they may well plateau and not be competitive to make the next step up compared to others on the squad. That is evident after two or sometimes three seasons, and so why should they be a bottlenck and take a squad place preventing the next high potential referee from making the step up.

      To make the point it is essential to bear in mind that from 5,500 referees and 45 or so Societies, the National Panel is about 50 refs across the whole country, each of the four Groups at L5 has 10 or less members, and most Federations have four or five squad members at L6.

      The referee Pathway is for a sports volunteer and is based on continual assessment, and so not comparable to employment interviews.
    1. Simon Thomas's Avatar
      Simon Thomas -
      It is important to understand the context of Robbie's article, which is for those aspiring to get to the top 10% of refereeing at L6 and above through Federation, Group or National Panels.

      Hampshire Society Grade Splits 2011-12
      Level # %
      Panel 2 2%
      5 1 1%
      6 9 10%
      7 4 4%
      8 10 11%
      9 18 19%
      10 25 27%
      11 23 24%
      12 1 1%
      ELRA 1 1%

      Societies give any member (of whatever age) who is committed to progress as high as they can hopefiully support and encouragement. Committed means taking appointments, putting yourself out, attending Training Meetings, doing regular personal fitness training as well as the weekend matches, having a PDP, being proactive & doing the RFU Continuous Referee Development Award and RFU Extended Referee Development Award. If a referee has the ability, potential, and dedication they can climb as high as they wish up to L6. After that it is a selected Pathway through Federation, Group & Panel based on both actual performance and a competitive selection process, as there are only few matches at those levels as the RFU League pyramid narrows rapidly. The amount of time, support & actual financial resources invested by RFU, Group, Federations and Societies in those who have the ability and potential (and as said earlier the commitment) is enormous and so a 'return' on that investment over an extended period is needed.

      Starting after a long playing career in our late 30s or early 40s (as I did at 40) makes it very difficult to give that return at Group/Panel level. Even for those of younger ages in their mid 30s who get to Federation or Group level, the pathway gets more and more narrow and they may well plateau and not be competitive to make the next step up compared to others on the squad. That is evident after two or sometimes three seasons, and so why should they be a bottlenck and take a squad place preventing the next high potential referee from making the step up.

      To make the point it is essential to bear in mind that from 5,500 referees and 45 or so Societies, the National Panel is about 50 refs across the whole country, each of the four Groups at L5 has 10 or less members, and most Federations have four or five squad members at L6.

      The referee Pathway is for a sports volunteer and is based on continual assessment, and so not comparable to employment interviews.
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