–Everything is cool when you’re part of a team–
This summer Kahlil and I wrote a brief report together for USA Rugby’s annual R&L committee meeting. We reflected on our time spent in South Africa as full-time referee students at the Maties Referees Academy. Here are some highlights of what we wrote in the report, with the full text available after the jump.
- The experience was amazing to say the least. It was challenging yet inspiring, simplistic yet immersive, and incredibly demanding yet rewarding. Living and breathing rugby 24/7 provided us with a rich experience that undoubtedly accelerated our growth and development as rugby referees.
- [The students] constantly pushed each other to be better referees on and off the pitch, discussed various aspects of rugby, and encouraged each other. Even though there was only one ref on the pitch during a match, there was always a team in the background providing support for each other. The importance and benefit of always having peers and friends to turn to, struggle with, and experience the academy with cannot be understated!
- On any given day we refereed three or four games
- Every day of the week was dedicated to rugby in some way. We spent full days, from 6am to 7pm, training like elite referees… Even on our day of rest rugby was always on our mind.
- Hendrik and Marius, our coaches, provided feedback and advice for us every step of the way. The two of them made it so that all we needed to worry about was performing when our name was called.
- Rugby in South Africa is a living and breathing creature of its own. The sport is part of the country’s and its people’s national identity, and they surely treat it with respect and integrity. If you can imagine the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and MLS all combined into 1 union whose athletes all play the same sport, that is what rugby felt like in Stellenbosch. Rugby showed its face everywhere – from TVs in supermarkets to teams in prisons. Since so much is invested into its infrastructure, people’s livelihood, money, and careers, there was a constant pressure to perform, but the immersion also provided constant positive feedback and motivated us to succeed. We each went to South Africa with big dreams and left with even more ambitious goals and the tools to accomplish them. We loved every second of it – living and breathing rugby.