So, the Vegas stop for the World 7’s Series has been and gone for another year yet again! With me missing out this year so I was able to continue growing in my career as a Registered Nurse. Here’s what I thought about my experience in Vegas the first year i went as a referee.
It’s all true. The bright lights, the party atmosphere, the music, the gambling and potential to live the high life, this is all Vegas and almost all of it I could only imagine. I was only 18 (not their legal 21) when I got invited to Vegas the first time by my American room-mate from Dubai. The tournament was like 2 months after Dubai so I quickly started scrounging for money. I did this though asking for sponsorship in my home town of Hawera, at businesses that I hoped would also see my potential to grow at the tournament, and luckily they did. The thing is, is that if you need help, never be afraid to ask, as people always want to see the people in their community grow into successful adults in their chosen field.
The Vegas tournament was their invitational tournament that runs alongside the Vegas stop of the World 7’s Series which was another huge opportunity for me to upskill and learn how to referee different styles of rugby. This tournament wasn’t like the Dubai one, we had to pay our own way for everything and had to bring our own shorts and socks (a memo I clearly missed as mine were miles away in my draws at home… nothing like borrowing other people’s socks). There also wasn’t a training day or anything like that but we still met the night prior just to ensure everything was sorted. By the night before kick-off I was fizzing, I couldn’t wait to get back on the field and use all of the new skills I had acquired from Dubai.
The weather was brutally hot. My first game this first year was a women’s game and this was a lot like the High School girls rugby I had refereed at home and I wanted more of a challenge. I nailed that performance and for the rest of the tournament I proved myself and got some amazing games of rugby thrown my way as a result. I learnt a lot about the way I referee at this tournament, which was that communication (whether with my signals or my big mouth), is one of my biggest assets (along with my smile as my first mentor/coach Lionel would always say!). This was a huge moment for me, as I was seeing different pictures of decisions and law to what the players saw. This meant that I had to use my communication effectively so that one, they could understand my kiwi accent (which they loved by the way) and two, understand why my decisions were the way they were. By the end of the tournament I had become comfortable in the American way of rugby and was really getting into the groove of it.
I also learnt the hard way that lollies, biscuits, chips and random snacks (or kibble as they called it) do not get me through a tournament, and they resulted in me being the most tired, grumpy old lady alive by the end of the day as the fact that all of my energy was gone. I now take muesli bars, protein bars, strawberry milk and bananas with me to every tournament at least, just to ensure I’ve got the energy to perform on the long days 7’s requires.
I now forever cherish the fact that I am a Kiwi referee. We are like first world poor in regards to rugby here. We moan about the silliest, political stuff as referees, when in places like America they have to pay for their flags, have less access to coaching and education and are in a whole different realm of access to resources over there. We are just so dam lucky. I am also super lucky to be able to create a knowledge base of how other countries play rugby which is a mint tool to have in my referee toolbox.
In America, they also have quite a lot of women referees floating around. I had never seen so many women refereeing the game as I had in America which was really nice to see considering it is still growing slowly here in New Zealand. I have since been back to Vegas, the following year, and continued to improve by getting appointed on the top level fields of the tournament and getting in some more finals rugby which was a huge accomplishment for me. All I’m saying here is that experiences like this are one in a million for improving you as a referee. There are so many things you can achieve and learn as a referee, so why wouldn’t you want to put a whistle in your mouth? You never know where you’ll end up. For all you know, it could be Vegas.