It should be obvious by now, but if it isn’t I will enlighten you to the fact that rugby refereeing is largely dominated by our male counterparts. The changing rooms have man stink, the clothes are of a square ‘man’ shape and size, and the lingo is largely in bro speak, other than when it needs to be professional. So, how to the ladies of the land find their niche in the testosterone filled environment that is rugby and rugby refereeing? Hopefully, I can teach you how not to be one of the bro’s but become an insider rather than flailing out on the outskirts.
Tip one, the most important tip of all. Be yourself, don’t change yourself for these guys, they will become your friends, your teams of 3 and in my case, my other half. You deserve to be accepted as you, for who you are, and not who you pretend to be. Also, pretending to be someone else is the cardinal sin of rugby, there is no one who makes calls, has the personality on the field or performs like you do, so faking someone else’s routine generally ends up in a fail anyway (and they will call you out on it). Remaining true to yourself in this environment means that the guys will welcome you into their stink filled abode with open arms and great banter.
Tip two. Don’t make it all about you. We get it, you’re a female referee now, but it doesn’t mean that everything will bend to fit in with your lady needs. These guys swear, the uniforms aren’t all of a sudden going to be female shaped and more likely than not there isn’t going to be a girls changing room. It’s time to buckle up and deal with it because it’s bigger than just you, it’s the system and in all honesty does it really matter? If the clothes don’t fit, do what I did, get someone to hem them up to your size. If there isn’t a changing room for you to get naked in and shower, just wear active-wear/undies and bras like you would anywhere else that is like this. Until these things change in time, there is no use moaning about them as it’ll happen when it happens. Being a girl in this sport just means you need to get creative to look professional or to shower if you like to. By all means equality and all that stuff but Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Tip three. Embrace the stink, laugh up the banter and throw out some of your own, and learn the lingo. These guys are actually really hilarious and the stories they yarn and the jokes they have are some of the best out. Referees are some of the most hospitable people I know and they always welcome people, young or old, male or female into their circle for the fact that we need more referees and we are a select, weird bunch of people. It is probably why almost all of us get along actually. We all have quirks, we can all generally crack funnies and we can almost all take a good joke. The trick is just to be confident in yourself and go into the group face first because how else will they get to know how funny you are.
I know that the being a woman gig can sometimes be quite hard, and you wonder why other guys are getting the games that you believe you deserve (believe me we have all been there). The thing is though, there is still that stigma around woman refereeing, out in the community and in the game itself. Yes, it is getting better each season as people start to realise that we are becoming more involved in this form of the game, but just be patient. There are the little things you can do to not piss off your male peers though (and I believe) that it’s to learn when to speak up about a problem that you believe is directed toward female referees, and when to go with the flow and find a way to deal for the time being if it’s not that big of a problem.
You may feel differently about this, but this is just my experience so you can be your own judge and have your own opinion that’s fine. It’s up to you to decide how you feel about what you’re experiencing, and you will know in yourself when to speak up.