Let’s be honest for now

Be warned… INTENSE NAVEL-GAZING IS FORTHCOMING

There are approximately seventeen reasons I haven’t been making with the blogging, and all of them would be fair – I’ve been working obscene amounts, haven’t had a Saturday off in six weeks, haven’t been sleeping, am stressed as hell, and the depression that I live with has made a renewed showing in my life.

But no. The reason I have been eschewing blog posts to play hand after hand of Cards Against Humanity is because I don’t want to write about refereeing. Because the truth is – I’m not enjoying it.

That’s the first, unwritten rule of reffing. Enjoy Yourself. And I’m not.

All of the above reasons hold for why what is usually an excellent diversion from reality is turning in to something which is draining me. There are others – I’m carrying a couple of injuries, my washing machine has been broken for almost two months and nothing has been done about it, which makes washing my kit something of a mission. And I can’t handle any more abuse.

Yeah, I know, softcock, get over it, it’s just words. But it’s not. It’s anger which feeds into the knot in your stomach that has tied itself up knowing you’re going to cop more abuse this game. Self-perpetuating cycle.

I have depression. It’s been a particularly shitty time to have depression of late (if you want you can read why here) and so the parts of my personality that hate me have been particularly loud. I go into games beating myself up – and I’m less able to block out all that reinforcement.

I wonder if parents and coaches ever think about that. The idea that your referee might not just have his own shit going on, but have enough abuse going through his head that you’re actually doing damage.

I’ve apparently still been refereeing well – which is great. I can’t tell at the moment, because the depression is getting to my judgement first and filling it with crap.

Part of me wants to quit. I’m not moving up the grades, not being assigned to club matches, not getting any better. So if it’s all going to be more of the same why am I doing this?

I love the game. But I can’t keep battling this ball of stress and anger and hate that builds up in my stomach before and during games.

I leave for the Bingham Cup next Tuesday. I’m stressed out trying to work out all the details, trying to get enough kit together, trying to talk down my stupid brain which keeps telling me it’s all going to go badly and no one will like me and it’ll be just like fourth form camp. I’m not exactly in the ideal mood to referee at what will be a huge, and probably awesome event.

After that? Well, we’ll see. I’m getting my weekends back, I might get my Saturday morning mojo back too.

And just to prove I did try and blog, here’s a half finished blog post from three weeks ago.

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Why is this a winter sport again?

Ignore how dorky I look

Check that positioning. Beauty.

Hi everyone, long time no blog, I know. This is approximately 95% due to exhaustion and 5% due to writing blog posts in my head which makes me think I’ve updated when I haven’t. Possibly because of the exhaustion.

Anyways, there has been a couple of games I’ve refereed, though way less than my usual number, which is good because my knees are not happy. The right knee in particular, which I’ve dislocated multiple times, is at a low-level grumble most days now. I don’t think it takes a psychic to see arthritis in my future.

A couple of weeks ago, I was again roped into chasing after the Falcons, in what may be both the epitome of how rugby can embrace all comers – and the most improbable game to ever happen ever.

On one side were the gays. On the other side was half a dozen guys with special needs, plus a number of ring-ins. It was a blast. The score was a predictable blowout in favour of the team with fewest cognitive impairments (or at least, as few as you get in a bunch of rugby players) but that hardly matters. Rugby was definitely the winner on the day.

Fast forward a week, and I was determined to not referee. I’d had a week of earlies, terrible sleep, and the weather was utterly pants. It was really really cold, and raining, and blowing a howling wind. The kind of wind which drives straight through my boney ribcage and chilled me from the inside out. I have a big down jacket, and I wasn’t getting out of it. The other team had to provide a ref and they could damn well provide it.

Of course I ended up doing the game. It was a good one even – but really, blue fingers are no. Can’t remember the score because I didn’t take it, I have previously had the joy of attempting to take score on a freezing day, and the only thing worse than not feeling your fingers is trying to write while you can’t feel your fingers.

This afternoon I’m set to referee some Japanese girls playing sevens. One of them is billeted with one of my neighbours. The weather appears to be both cold and miserable.

Once more unto the breach, my friends!

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.

A wild referee appears!

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Look at it. It’s so beautiful.

Sorry, it’s been a while. Blame my ridiculous insides.

Firstly, thank you to everyone who pledged on my pledge drive. Thank you so much. You have enabled me to pay my flights and book my registration, so I will definitely be at the Bingham Cup. I’m excited, I’m nervous, and I’m totally humbled.

I’m also going to be travelling in a unicorn onesie. The people have spoken!

Anyway, rugby.

It’s always bad when you sleep in a bit and you can’t have a shower before your game. It’s REALLY bad when your game is at 4:00pm.

But I still made it to Mount Roskill Grammar to referee their girls team against Epsom Girls Grammar. While Roskill ended up winning 40-19, the game was a lot closer than that, and were it not for two converted tries in the last five minutes, EGGS could have won. Great game, played in excellent spirit though – even if neither team knew when it was scrum time.

Having been out for two weeks, lost a bunch of weight, and having just finished anti-biotics, I was worried about my fitness. I needn’t have been. By 20 minutes in both teams were walking. It’s kind of disappointing, as the games would be even better if the teams could run a bit more.

Though I’ll be in for a shock this weekend – three whole games! I’ll let you know if I survive.

Oh, and Mummy visited. She gave me a get-well gift. That lovely full tank of petrol there.

Round trip from home to Mt Roskill – 28.2km.

Mummy’s Boy

537268_519694411384397_485266905_nThat’s Orene Ai’i, sporting some truly spectacular jocks right there.

I’ll continue the Odyssey, I promise, all three parts of it, but I thought I’d write this little anecdote from my game today before I forget it in a haze of 5am starts.

There was a fight. One player hit another, the other player retaliated, they both got sent off.

The mother of the boy who retaliated was very upset, and in true Samoan matriarch fashion, she was going to let me know about it. In a rant that was startlingly polite and lasted the entire second half, she let me know that my calls had made her sad.

After the game, she asked me to explain my decision, and I told her what I had seen and that at U15 level a strike to the head was an automatic red card – even if he hadn’t started it. She accepted this calmly and politely, which was a bit odd considering the serve she’d given me.

But Mum was wanting to make sure that I truly understood her son was not the kind who made trouble.

“He is not like that, he is such like a girl, he is gentle.

“I am sorry I get so upset, but my son, he is the girl of the house, I get so worried when I see him hurt.”

Fafa’fine and playing rugby? Good on that kid!

(Reminder, I’m in the last 10 days of my pledgeme drive, and I’m still travelling to Aussie dressed like a normal person)

Scrum, green. A scrum. No, a scrum. Scrum, it’s a scrum, would all the forwards please come here it is a scrum *repeat forever*

Girls rugby. As much as I mock it (And I mock it a lot) I quite like secondary schoolgirls rugby and I think it’s bullshit that referees associations guarantee referees for boys games but not girls ones.

So off I trundled to Western Springs (a school which forcefully reminded me of my own high school) to referee Western Springs vs Mt Roskill Grammar. This year it’s 12-a-side, up from 10-a-side, with 6 forwards and 6 backs.

The field was interesting. First I noted it was small. Then I noted it seemed even smaller because there were league markings on it. Try explaining where a five metre scrum is, when there’s no five metre marking and there’s no 22 either.

In fact, the “what in the Lord’s name is a scrum?” thing was amusing. Regularly I was left standing as both teams retreated back 10 metres with my arm out saying “Scrum. It’s a scrum. The ball’s gone forward. Please all the forwards come here. That means six of you.” Not only had no one explained the signals, they all seemed utterly confused when I did try to explain it. it wasn’t helpful that I was losing my voice and so signals were what we had to communicate with.

After 45ish minutes of regular confusion, Mt Roskill won by a huge margin. I think both teams had fun though.

No updates for this weekend as I have laryngitis and won’t be refereeing unless I feel loads better by Sunday. This has a silver lining though, because Otahuhu College apparently ate my flags, and I haven’t got any new ones yet.

Western Springs is just 4.5 km from my house, thankfully.

And rugby was the winner on the day

It’s a cliché that everyone loves to trot out, but my first game on Saturday really was a game of two halves. I trundled down to Otahuhu at a time I would classify as ‘only moderately obnoxiously early for a Saturday’  to referee Otahuhu versus St Kent’s seconds. St Kent’s were warming up as I got there, looking well-drilled and put together. Only a handful of their opposition had showed up, and as it got closer and closer to kickoff I worried there was going to be a default because not enough players were showing up. But they got there, in dribs and drabs, and by kickoff time they had a full squad and were only 2 minutes late onto the field.

(side note: when you have two games kicking off 75 minutes apart, and a game takes 65 minutes minimum, it would be really nice to get everyone on the field early. And as much as I try to make it happen, the players and team coaches know that despite all my posturing, I can’t actually start the game without them.)

As was expected, St Kents were much the better side in the first half, and I spent a lot of time getting Otahuhu to leave the ball alone in the rucks. Scrums were a slight mess to start with, but judicious use of free kicks sorted that out speedily, and the game was well structured and rolling along nicely in St Kent’s favour.

Then came the second half. And for whatever reason St Kent’s fell apart. 

It started with a try which came from a kick-trough with a fortuitous bounce. Having followed play I was not in  the best position, so I saw the Otahuhu player ground the ball with his body, but as I blew the whistle there were howls of a knock on, which I couldn’t see because of the try-scorer’s body position. There was moaning and outrage. The St Kent’s captain came haring over to me, demanding to have the decision changed and I told him to calm down, because  two seconds before the try, one of his players had taken out the leading Otahuhu chaser with a soccer-style slide, sprigs up and all – So I was either awarding this try, or awarding a penalty try and if I awarded the penalty try he was losing a player, so would he like to reconsider his yelling?
 
He reconsidered very quickly, all things considered.
 
From there, Otahuhu scored three more tries considerably less controversial, and by full-time had racked up 28 points versus 13. 
 
The second game was under 14s, and at that level your job is as much to coach as it is to referee. Actual coaches, please can we teach our young players crouching for a scrum involves bending your knees, not just folding over at the waist? Because although seeing one front row slowly tip forward into the mud is highly amusing, I think I strained something trying not to laugh out loud.
 
It was 17.2 km from home to Otahuhu and 22.8 back, because I got lost and took the wrong motorway.

What do you mean you don’t know what team you are?

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It was another Saturday of two games, but bugger me if I knew who the games were actually between. My draw said I had Kings and Mcleans 4B, then Kings and Mcleans 4A. What I eventually worked out had most likely gone down was Kings 4A versus Mcleans 4B, then Kings 4B versus Mcleans 2nd XV. Both games were, as you could probably guess, mostly one way traffic in the direction of the higher graded team. 

The confusion wasn’t helped by one Kings team not having a coach, and the Mcleans seconds coach having a bit of an attitude. (Insisting kickoff was at 10:45, when I had it down for 10:30.)

The first game was the much better one, few penalties, everyone kept their temper, I kept a good eye on everything.

The second game was chaotic, had a couple of obnoxious spectators, and halfway through I had to have a serious “I am getting angry” talk with the Kings captain about how I had about ten million better things I could be doing than listening to a teenager be whiny and sarcastic and so if he didn’t pull his head in I was going to send him off.

I can handle most things but whining makes me want to go postal. No punches were thrown, either by the teams or by me.

By the end of the game I was starting to feel like I had refereed three games in 18 hours and I wasn’t sure my hamstrings would survive. I’m pleased to report they did.

From work, to Kings College, to home was 33 km.

P.S PLEASE SPONSOR ME TO GO TO THE BINGHAM CUP. IT’S REALLY SPENDY! I’M RATHER BROKE! I’LL STOP BUGGING EVERYONE IF YOU DO! thanky.