Referee’s Blog #2

Usually the end of the summer involves a lot of waiting around for the new season to start, where my training would be focused on the two tournaments where I’d represent. When I made my decision last year to not represent Wales as a player in my final year of eligibility, I didn’t expect to be going to either of them this year – let alone both!
Earlier this year, the appointments were released for the summer tournaments and on the list of officials for each, I saw my name. The feeling was brilliant, just like when I’d seen my selection for the Wales squads in previous years and to be refereeing at both tournaments I’d played in last year is something that still fills me with a lot of pride.
The first of these tournaments to come around was The Lord’s Taverners National Junior Championships; a tournament that holds a place in my heart, having played there for the past 8 years through both the Under-15 and Under-19 categories. It’s the occasion that most junior players look forward to every year and even as an official, I still wasn’t able to sleep much the night before! This experience was going to be the first time I got to experience the tournament from a completely different side.
Although the games are shorter than usual, they come thick and fast; as a player I’d played a few games per day at the most whereas on the first day this year I refereed ten separate games and covered nearly 20km throughout the day (For some scale, a basketball court is 28 metres end-to-end; making for a lot of runs up and down the court!). The games all ranged in intensity, and between both age groups the quality was overall very high; new players were making statements in the Under-15s matches for their teams, and well-established players were showing their abilities through the Under-19s matches. After the long first day of the tournament, the match appointments for the second (and final) day were made and I was ecstatic to receive not only some strong Under-19 games, but one of the semi-final matches and on top of that the Under-15 final.
The games on the second day were even better than the first day’s, as the teams were now even more closely matched in these final crossover matches before the semi-finals and finals. The high-quality games were testing for me as an official, they can be often physically and mentally demanding and tested all that I’d learned across the season and my first final went smoothly, with big support from both teams creating an atmosphere that I loved soaking in whilst I refereed.
The first weekend in September each year hosts the UK Schools Games, a multi-sport event over 3 days where the best young and talented athletes come to compete on the pathway to international competition. This was also like an international competition for the officials, where we used 3-man officiating mechanics as used in international games and this provided a whole new range of challenges for me. Before each game we’d have a pre-game discussion and discuss our expectations for the game and what we were going to work on as a team and we’d then take to the court. Each individual match would have a great atmosphere: the teams being announced out, the crowd and the commentary all creating a great build-up and the games certainly met those high standards.
After the pool stage games came to a close, the semi-finals were played and after two very intense games the teams were seeded for the three fixtures of the final day: the 5th/6th match, the bronze medal match, and the final. Like at the Junior Championships, the final day appointments were made. I’d personally set my sights on being part of the crew for the bronze medal match, and when I was told I’d not only be part of the crew for the 5th/6th match but I would be leading the referees as crew chief for the bronze match, I was ecstatic. I’d had the opportunity to work with a number of excellent referees from around the country and had got the appointments on merit, something I will be proud of for a very long time.
Standing on the sideline, with my co-officials on either side, I found myself thinking about the past three years where I was the one warming up with my team for the bronze medal match; but this was my turn as part of a different team (at least there was no fear of losing another bronze match this time!). The game turned out to be the closest of the tournament, with no more than 5 points separating the teams at the most and only 2 points difference for the final result; this game was the hardest I’d ever refereed, as it was a close and competitive match from start to finish and was the best way to end a brilliant season.
After Schools Games was over, I reflected on my first year of officiating that had just come to an end and thinking back to the nerves of the first league game, I would never have expected to take charge of such a brilliant bronze medal match and come out of it very pleased with my personal performance. However there’s not much time for rest – It’s October already and I’ve already got matches to play and referee again, as well as starting back at University; I don’t think I could ever complain about that though!

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