It’s about time I got real with you guys and let you know that this refereeing business isn’t easy (though I’m sure you figured that out the hard way too). The gig itself isn’t the hard part, the hardest part is learning how it fits into your life and how it works when you are, or start, earning moola on a daily basis. Having a job and refereeing can sometimes be the hardest part about gaining ground in the sport and making time for the commitment the sport and refereeing itself requires.
For example, I began refereeing while I was at school. I was training before or after school and had time to burn on something that needed my full attention, this is the easiest refereeing was for me time wise. I also had my parents or myself to run me to games and they were always there to support me if possible, this I now realise was a really important aspect of my success as I knew out of everyone watching, that someone on that side-line had my back no matter what (super handy when everyone is bagging your refereeing). School years as a rugby referee allowed me to easily spend the time I needed to get fit and look back at my games, however I only had a few years left there. Personally, I believe that starting in school (whether you play or not) allows you to grow as a referee in the most supportive environment, but also gives you time to still be able to be a teenager while you have the chance.
I left home halfway through year 13, packing up my whole life and moved it up to Hamilton from small town Hawera. I was on my own but as soon as I found my niche with the referees up here I realised that no matter where you go or what you do the referees surrounding you will do their best to support you if you treat them with the respect they deserve. I spent 3 years studying, this left me with a lot of free time on the side as well (allowing me to take the opportunities that got thrown at me), which also meant that training and self-improvement in this aspect of my life came easier as time was again batting in my corner. The negative about leaving home and continuing on my refereeing journey was that my loud, crazy family couldn’t be there to support me each week, which made it harder for me in knowing that on that side-line I was potentially alone (although after a few years I learnt how to harden up… kind of). All throughout my time as a student I was reminded by my family that I was there to study, that my future degree and job were more important than strapping on my whistle and tying up my boots every weekend, and I hate to admit it but they were 100% correct. Your job feeds you, your livelihood pays the bills and that money is what keeps you afloat and allows you to put petrol in the car to even think about getting to rugby, and that tough lesson was one I didn’t fully get until I got my degree. Which was also when I realised that female rugby referees need a good job behind them in order to fund their goals and dreams until the sport fully develops.
I now have a livelihood, I go to work each day to help people feel better and get better. I go and nurse them back to health and throw out some banter for that good feeling of making someone smile, laugh or just feel happier in a place that isn’t necessarily made to be that positive. When I am nursing, I am also earning my keep so that I can put the money into getting where I need to be as a referee. Training costs money, healthy food costs money, time off for games costs money and so does every aspect of life. Rugby refereeing is a huge passion of mine and therefore is a huge part of my life, but I need my livelihood in order to become a better person, and I need it to grow the passion and life that I want to live today and down the line.
In all honesty, jobs, life and sport work out differently for everyone. For me, I know that when you have a job time is more precious, life takes more commitment and support comes from those who you respect and make time for. I now ring my family when I need that extra bit of support after a hard game, and when I get the big opportunities they do what they can to be there. In the big scheme of things, you are only as good as the effort that you put into things, but also know how to prioritize aspects that allow you to grow the life and livelihood you want for yourself in the end.