My First Time with the "7s Referee" team.
That was an odd call, "Hi Greg are you free next week for the Corporate Touch event, hosted by Leicester Tigers? It's a "7s Referee" event you would be working with other referees from all over the place. A quick diary check, and yes, yes, I was. And that’s where my first experience of working with Mike and the team took place.
I know Mike as my Society Training Officer and I had heard of the team that he trains and takes across the UK and the World to referee and manage 7s tournaments, but I never expected a call to join them.
The last 18 months has been a very mixed one for me. Firstly a broken leg left me unable to referee for some time and then just when I was fit enough to start officiating again, COVID-19 struck and the sport we all love, as with most of normal life, was halted.
I was keen to try something new, having only refereed a few social touch games in the past, so I jumped at the chance to join them at the famous Welford Road ground.
Mike and the rest of the "7s Referee" team made the whole day seem effortless, every detail I could have needed prior to the tournament was provided in ample time and once at Welford Road, the organisation was excellent and we were quickly briefed, provided with 7s Referee kit for day and introduced to the guys I would be working with during the day.
Refereeing touch in a team of three over the whole day was a totally new experience for me which was helped enormously by the Axiwi communication kits allowing us not only communicate decisions and observations to the on-field referee but also it enabled Mike (who was one of the officials in my team) to give advice to us (as a Touch Europe Referee) during the live play to make sure that we all performed to the same standard for the players meaning the three of us were able to officiate the games seamlessly and making it more enjoyable for me too.
The frequent interchange between working in the middle or along touch was something I’d not encountered before, but it worked very well, having a referee as close to the play as possible.
The learning opportunities kept on coming throughout the day. The support and feedback from very experienced referees made me feel confident and comfortable in my refereeing, and there are skills that I can take to the 15-a-side game too. It was then that I learned that Mike and his top referee developer, Fish, had been watching me on and off the field! I was totally taken aback and was then asked if I would like to join the team for a few 7s tournaments across the summer. They explained that attitude towards the team and towards my own development were the most important qualities that they look for - somebody who wants to improve and be the best that they can be - they said that I fit that bill !!
Of course I said yes straight away (well after a rather shocked pause). That one event (where we worked continuously for a number of hours - my legs knew that I had ran over 9 miles) was a real taste of what the team does and the professionalism that they take everywhere that they go.
The whole event from start to finish was great, the organisation from "7s Referee" before and during the event was excellent, all the information we needed for the day and support on the day itself ably provided by Mike and his team. I am so excited that my next test with the team will be at the Sixways 7s in a week's time, working with 16 other officials, managers and coaches and on that famous pitch. Where else could I get these sort of opportunities?
I only hope that I do myself proud, work hard and use the feedback to get better every game.