Improvements all round

remueraRemuera seem pretty stoked after their win

Tournament week is over, and well done to Easts – who won the Bill McLaren tournament; and Remuera – who won the Walter Dickson. Both very good teams who played consistently good rugby.

I had the same game today as I’d had on Tuesday, playing off for 5th and 6th, but what a difference. Both teams had figured out how to play together, and they played good rugby. I only had to speak to the captains once. It’s a pity there’s not another week, the teams would probably be unrecognisable.

Although the pain in my hips and knees is reminding me that I’ve been doing a lot of refereeing and I didn’t exactly treat my joints nicely in the past. Owwie.

The tournament saw some complaints about referees coaching teams, or blowing too many penalties. Two sides of the same coin really – coach a team too much and the opposition will get rightly irritated. Blow too many penalties in the hope the players will get a clue (Pro-tip: They won’t) then that team will get irritated.

No one wants to be on the whistle the whole game. At this level, the kids want to run with the ball and score tries – not take endless penalties. I kind of see my role as facilitating that desire to run and score – if there’s doubt, I’m always going to rule in favour of positive play.*

But if I do coach a team, I don’t want to sound like a coach. Coaching should be a collaborative process, but if I get too collaborative with one team, the other will (probably rightly) accuse me of bias. So I just try to make it sound like I’m telling a player off, rather than helping him. Kids this age can spot someone trying to be their friend a mile away, and it’s not going to happen. Instead I use ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ so it sounds like an obligation, and hope to work with mutual respect between me and the players.

(Aside: after uni, I very seriously considered going to teachers college to become an intermediate school teacher. I think kids this age are really cool.)

Personally, this tournament was much MUCH better than the last one. It was really great to get positive feedback from teams, organisers, and from the other referees there. I enjoy the feeling that I’m improving, even if I’m not refereeing higher grades than in the past, the games are still getting better.

Three trips to Oareki Park, plus one down to Dunkirk Road, and the kilometres traveled comes in at just over 100 for the week. I’m almost at 900 total, which is like 80% of the way from my flat to Christchurch.

*Note: This is at under 13 level – if you’re old enough to actually read the rules, I’m going to assume you understand them, and my tolerance for illegal play drops as your ability to play rises.



Tourney Time!

It’s that time again – school holidays, and under-13 zone tournament time. In Auckland there are two tournaments – Walter Dickson, which is weight-restricted and divides the city up into 8 zones, and Bill McLaren, which is not weight-restricted, divides the city into four, and features 12-year-olds who are bigger than I am. These two tournaments play simultaneously over five days, with 4-6 games on every day.

The kids in these tournaments are usually pretty okay. The adults involved as coaches and spectators… Not so much. Last year I copped plenty, and this year, while I’ve been mostly given a reprieve, there have still been some displays of terrible sideline behaviour.

And it affects the kids. In my game today I had one unbelievably irritating halfback, who was parroting all of the ‘advice’ I was receiving from a loud bloke on the sideline, only at a much higher pitch, much closer to my ear. Eventually I penalised him and told his captain if I heard him yell again (I resisted saying ‘squeal’ but that’s what it was) each time would be another penalty. Halfback eventually got the message.

And yesterday featured an absolute gem, from one coach to his team at half-time. He had them gathered round, all 22 boys, and was yelling* at them

“Do you want to shake hands with them knowing they dominated you? That they made you look like a bunch of girls?”

Gobsmacked, I tell you. Passed it on to the organisers today – Not impressed all round.

The games are good, fast, and mentally exhausting. The kids are SO fired up, and often their skills don’t match their enthusiasm or aggression – so it takes a lot of management to stop them from getting frustrated. I’m going okay so far, as well as working a full shift in the evenings, so lets hope the wheels don’t fall off immediately!

*Why are people who are inclined to yell a lot allowed to coach kids sports teams? Yelling is not an appropriate coaching technique at that age – these are kids, they should be learning positive behaviour, as well as rugby.