I am regretful to inform you that chicken or KFC have nothing to do with the wings in this write up what-so-ever (I know I’m hungry thinking about it now too…). Anyways, moving on.
As a referee we are perceived to have to know absolutely EVERYTHING about the law (even as a newbie), but what the suckers thinking that don’t know is that half of the time we may not know some things at all. Many people have one of those laws (or many) that just don’t make sense or they just haven’t learnt or come across it yet and this is where the wing it movement comes in.
Like any books with rules, laws or words telling you what to do and what not to do, you find that reading them is excessively boring (sadly you pretty much still have to read the law book). However, there is a better way to learn the laws and in all honesty, it’s generally the hard, sometimes embarrassing way to learn the laws you aren’t (or weren’t before that moment) aware of. This is through it happening on the field and you thinking ‘wholey dam! I have no idea what to do about that!’ which actually happens more often than you may think. Often when put in these positions referees do a whole lot of bullshitting, however they bullshit with confidence and that is what allows so many of us to get away with this knowledge breakdown.
While refereeing 7’s at the 2017 condor qualifiers in the Waikato I came across the weirdest looking event that I’d seen as a referee, and it was a total soccer move that blew my mind to pieces with what to do and whether it was actually wrong. What happened was that a player kicked the ball forward toward her goal-line and then on the bounce bumped it forward with her chest (I know right?! What the hell?). Her arms/hands were nowhere near the ball but she bumped the ball forward none the less. In my brain this looked way wrong and I thought that she was the smartest cheat that I’d ever met in my life And I’m still unsure if she really was cheating or not to this day (even after asking referees around about it). My decision was a scrum for the ball going forward, but what sold my decision was that I blew my whistle quickly and I was confident with my (less-than-confident) call. I only had minimal arguing, which is understandable for that sort of thing occurring, but on a whole everyone took my decision at face-value and moved on (thank god for that!).
When you get into a situation similar to the one above, with just not knowing the ruling on it, don’t hesitate, as the players see that hesitation for what it really is (that you have no idea!). On the flip of the coin however, sometimes those players actually have a broader and more accurate knowledge of the game than you, and that happens in almost every level. The trick with the situation of those players questioning the decision you were winging, is that you need to take a moment to listen to their point of view as it may be very valid and trigger your knowledge to the correct decision. Players often value a referee owning up to their mistakes rather than you being excessively cocky about it (unless you know that you are right, or mostly right) and having them lose respect for you.
My final tip is that if you know you were wrong in that moment, don’t let it get to you throughout your game. There is a time and place to replay your weird, wing it decisions and on the field is not always the place. So all in all, winging it is a great way to maintain the player’s faith in your refereeing ability, which is really helpful in those tough, tight-scored games. Those decision’s though, have to be made with absolute confidence for it to be believable!