Women In Sport – By a Woman in Skort
My name’s Melissa. And I’m a referee. Not an alcoholic.
But just like alcohol, refereeing can be fun, a massive buzz and also slightly addictive.
I love sport and I love Touch in particular. It wasn’t until after I represented England in the Mixed Open team at the 2014 European Championships and 2015 World Cup though that I started to get involved with refereeing. Because I’m pretty rubbish at playing Touch now to be honest anyway.
England's referee manager, Ian Syder, first encouraged me into reffing through the allure of attaining my Level 1 qualification and the promise of a solid gold badge on completion and a great time. Although the badge was made of brass, he didn’t lie about the other great things refereeing brought. He also informed me that reffing was the only hobby where an ability to count to six is treated with the highest regard and he has proved himself to be correct numerous times (at least six anyway). Through his support, I continued on from my Level 1 and refereed socially as well as continued to play. One reason I love refereeing is that you always feel like a winner. I haven’t lost a game yet.
It came as a bit of a shock to be chosen to referee at the 2016 European Championship. Three things went through my mind when they asked me to referee – 1) But I’m only a Level 1, 2) I don’t want to let anyone down, and 3) They must be really short of refs. In preparation, I did my Level 2 Course with Ian, Nicolas and Stephen and found the group were incredibly supportive, encouraging and brilliant to chat to. We talked through on field scenarios and off field drinking policies and I had an absolute blast (of not just the whistle).
Coming into the tournament I was incredibly excited, mainly because for a long time I have considered the skort to be one of the most underrated items of clothing and reffing allows me to wear it with a measure of dignity. We were each grouped into a refereeing team which would support you throughout the tournament and give you advice as the tournament progressed, with referees at different levels within the team. Our Leader was Randy and our Mentor was Mike Wallace – both hugely experienced refs who kept our group positive and were always there for a chat and great advice (and a beer).
I was fortunate during the tournament to ref a wide range of matches – from Women’s Open to Men's 45's. One highlight came with the opportunity to referee a Senior Mixed game – a great contest between France and Jersey. Derek Fisher allocated myself and another Level 1 referee to the game, Laura Balfour, and it was an amazing experience to referee a fast paced game at that level. Derek gave us support and huge confidence going into the game, and with Ian and Randy water carrying, I was coached throughout and couldn’t have asked for a better experience. Someone told me I bear more than a passing resemblance to Derek Fisher, so the opportunity to ref like him as well as look like him came as a huge honour. I couldn’t say thank you to Derek and the refereeing team enough for my Euros experience, especially Ian for getting me involved initially. On finals day I was given my Level 2 upgrade after being assessed by Shelley through the tournament – and to have a top female referee like Shelley at the tournament was incredibly inspirational.
I thought I’d reached my Euros high, but that was yet to come. After concentrating on the task of water carrying throughout the tournament (assisting the on-field refs with precision work carrying water bottles to ensure optimal hydration), I was asked to water carry for the Men’s Open final. To put it into context, it’s the equivalment of being a black badged Level 5 water carrier, and I’m proud that reffing has acted as a pathway to become Europe’s #1 Water Carrier for one consecutive year.
There is a bit of humour in the above write up, but on a serious note, if you are considering refereeing I couldn’t recommend it more. As a woman involved in sport, it allows me to remain at the highest level of touch (especially as my ability to catch drops faster than a skied long ball) and has involved me in a group of people who are driven, passionate and supportive of the sport we all love to play.
Give refereeing a go!
I highly recommend it. Even more than alcohol. Checkout the latest referee courses here: http://www.englandtouch.org.uk/refereeing-courses/ (updated regularly)