A number of secondary school students are involved in officiating sport throughout New Zealand, sometimes refereeing or umpiring to a high level within school sport or higher up in the senior or representative ranks. New Plymouth Boys’ High School Year 13 rugby Andrew Hood is one such person.
What sport and competitions are you are officiating in?
Rugby - Taranaki Colts (U20s) and First XV.
When did you start refereeing and how did you get involved?
Aged 12, in 2012. One of my dad’s colleagues encouraged me to give rugby refereeing a go as I was never that good as a player; however, I wanted to stay involved with the sport I love.
When did you referee your first game on your own at any level?
The first game I refereed was an U10s match in Southland between Woodlands and Marist. I don’t remember much about the game apart from the fact that I got drenched in rain from the typical Invercargill weather.
Do you also play rugby or other sports?
During the summer I play competitive tennis for Pukekura Park in the Soffe Cup (Premier) Competition and travel quite often for tournaments. On a more social level, I still continueto play a range of sports including senior thirds cricket for Merrilands, Basketball, Squash and the occasional game of rugby for the NPBHS 6th XV Magpies. However, rugby refereeing is my primary focus for the future.
Do you have a refereeing highlight?
Being part of the 2016 Roller Mills rugby tournament was a highlight for me. Being able to see some of the future stars in New Zealand rugby and referee some amazing games of U13 rugby. Some of these games (including the 9 v 10 playoff which I was lucky enough to referee) had a similar atmosphere to games you would find a premier level. Other highlights include several final at age group level and more recently, the chance to referee the Tai Mitchell U13 tournament, held in Mt Maunganui. My favourite game would be the First XV semifinal last year between Inglewood High School and Hawera High School.
Do you have any special pre-game routines?
I like to stick to the same routine once I arrive at the venue where I am refereeing. Eg: I try and keep the times where I talk coaches, front row, and captains consistent and also warm-up at the same time and length each week.
What are some of the challenges of rugby refereeing?
As referees, there are several challenges that we face. This includes dealing with players, coaches and spectators as well as being fit enough to last a whole game and then often having to run touch for the Premier referees immediately afterwards. Over the years, I have had to grow a thicker skin in order to deal with the comments at aimed me from various groups of people. Fitness is also key and I will regularly train in my own time to keep up with the fast pace of the game.
Do you think you have a good handle on the rulebook - how much is there to learn?
Rugby is a very complicated sport as there are many different laws in rulebook and also many different interpretations on these laws. Understanding the rulebook is important but it is just as, if not more important, to be able to bring this understanding to every game. Players will respect a referee with a clear, decisive understanding of the rules of the game. For me, my law knowledge is growing with each game I referee, however I am far from understanding all of them.
Have you ever had negative comments and abuse directed at you from players or from the sideline and how have you dealt with these?
Negative comments and abuse from the players and the sideline is almost a given for any referee of any sport. However, it it is critical to understand that these ‘comments’ are not personal, however they are directed at the game itself. Any abuse directed at you will most likely be as a result of one team not getting the outcome they wanted from a particular call not going their way. Although referee abuse is definately not okay, it is key to understand that they are not attacking you personally, only the game itself.
Do you use video analysis or the help of a mentor or coach to improve your performance?
In the Taranaki Rugby Referees Association, there are several people who give me feedback in order to improve. As I receive a variance of feedback, it is important to only filter in the feedback that you believe can help improve your overall ability. My mentor, Max, who is a Premier referee in Taranaki has been working very hard this season to help me improve, which I am very grateful for.
What are your goals in officiating your sport?
The ultimate goal for me since I started refereeing would be to make it my profession, where I am able to get paid to travel the world doing something that I love. Of course, I am not the only one with this dream but I believe that this is very achievable for me. I alsohave smaller goals, there are certain levels I want to reach by a certain age. It is crucial for me to keep pushing myself otherwise I will just remain where I am in terms of my refereeing.
Are there other people your age in your area/school/club also refereeing rugby?
When I first shifted to the Taranaki region, I was the only rugby referee my age. Everyone else was older. However, now the number of junior referees is increasing rapidly. We had one junior referee join last year and two new junior referees join this year. Hopefully this number will continue to increase.
What advice do you have for someone your age considering joining you in officiating your sport?
Becoming a referee ignited my passion for rugby. It gave me goals to work towards and a way to meet new people and a way to better increase relationships between myself, players and various other roles in the rugby community. The feeling of refereeing a great game of rugby is extremely satisfying and has has helped better many of my traits including increasing confidence and decreasing my self-consciousness. Plus, if you aren’t the world’s greatest rugby player , you still have the chance to be involved with the game at the highest level. I would strongly recommend giving refereeing a go.
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