What do you want and what do you need? Here’s a few of my tips on what you need when stick your hand up to referee and how to use the tools that get handed to you.
Ah, the mouth guard. The one piece of gear that every rugby player has to have, but no one wants to wear it. It’s the 7 year old, chewed piece of gum looking mouth guard sticking out of the players mouth, or it’s the brand new, never been used mouth guard that ends up living in the players sock. Well, you’re (hopefully) a referee now, so you can throw whichever category of mouth guard you have away, and purchase (or get given) a brand spanking new Thunderer whistle. This is because it’s now up to you to worry about whether that mouth guard is in, rather than where you can put it or how you can fake having it in (which is totally ridiculous, we always know because you’re the one looking like you have an orange peel in your mouth, ha!)
Now, before you go blowing your whistle like a cowboy, you must know that there is an age old dispute about whether plastic or metal whistles are better. And it would be biased of me to pick a side, but I prefer how the metal ones feel so I pick their side every day of the week. However, the sound of the plastic ones can be really authoritive and striking, if you get it right. Now don’t get me wrong, there are many ways you can make a whistle, whistle but that also means that there are many ways to mutilate the sound of it too.
So what I have learnt over the years is that there are two different ways to communicate with a whistle. One, a short sharp whistle, indicating a stoppage or mistake resulting in a scrum, line-out, or for a free-kick. The second is a longer, more aggressive whistle that pretty much tells the players that something serious has occurred, like cheating resulting in a penalty or foul play, or the more celebratory try time whistle. Your whistle is your way of communicating and this is something I found myself accidentally teaching to a bunch of American referees who only blew their whistle in one tone. What it does is it shows everyone what you want from them and allows them to prepare for the consequences or actions that follow without you having to speak as much.
Ok, so your whistle is one of your best and most important tools, and one that you should probably never forget. But what else do you need?? Well, boots are great, along with your uniform that aligns to whichever provincial union you referee for, as well as a pair of flags you’ll receive for your touchies. Another key tool to have is your watch, now I can tell you from experience that refereeing with your phone in your pocket keeping time is not professional, nor is it practical, but I guess, like me, you would then only do it the one time (Larissa’s amateur hour). A pencil and a score card or just a piece of card or paper is one of your best resources for keeping the score, while an old coin is one of the most professional ways to determine who kicks off (because paper, scissors, rock isn’t always the most adult way to determine this). And for anybody wondering why I haven’t added the ‘cards’ to the list, is because often these aren’t given to a beginner straight away (stop the power trip and all).
So my best advice is to prepare all of the gear you will need prior to game day so then it’s all ready to go. And the best way to ensure you have the right gear is to ask somebody who knows, but making sure you always take the right gear with you.