Right, I’m on, 1st game pitch 2, pitch 2, where's pitch 2? Brief panic....Ok here we go, whistle check, pen & paper to keep score check.....Match ball......errr...OK pitch marshal has it....A chap steps forward - one of the coaches I guess - we shakes hands etc...I walk onto the pitch, my heart beating a little faster than usual and there are 8 U7 boys standing there with "come on ref" written all over their faces.....no going back now.
How did I get here? Certainly not through my own talent at the game. I played Rugby to the dizzy heights of Stirling High School 2nd XV and that fizzled out when I was 14ish, so other than a few mixed games vs other years while at Uni my playing career ended there. Tries scored 1, tackles made a few, flattened by people twice my size a lot, balls dropped...let's not talk about that one. But it was always fun and that stuck with me, so when James (my son) become old enough to start getting involved in a team sports, Rugby was always going to be 1st choice.
Like many parent coaches, James & I started out with Harlequins Ams down in the sports hall at St Mary's on Waldergrave Road with the U6s. I certainly didn't go down with the intention and getting involved, it just sort of happened. Can anyone help out comes the question? Sure why not, might be fun, and if it makes it more fun for James, what could go wrong ? Before long I'm helping out every week and looking forward to coaching and becoming part of the coaching team. I've been lucky enough, to go on a couple of RFU Courses, which were great, for coaching and the coaching process, nothing about being a referee, maybe I won't need to, I thought at the time. Before long U6 is over and we, the U7s, are outside at Broom Road and not long after that it's the 1st minis festival. Did I volunteer to take the boys to theirs and my 1st festival? I can't really remember now, but someone had to do it.
So October 2014, here I am at Kings Minis Festival, referees briefing, I look around, many of the others are looking a little nervous too, maybe it's not just me then. The lead ref steps forward, he doesn't say a lot but to be honest, they never do, "first time refereeing ?" we all nod. That's ok he says, be confident, give clear decisions, don't change your mind and most of all enjoy it.....what, that's it, ? I was expecting a little more to be honest. We confirm the number of tags for a turn over, keep the game flowing, then we are off.
Back on pitch 2, 8 boys and me. "Morning boys, my name is Damian and I'm your referee, right, who's captain ?" The boys look around at each other, that foxed them for a few moments, chance for a few deep breaths. Shortly after, hands go up, captains selected. "You can start" , I pass the ball across to one of the teams. "Give me a nice loud shout and hands up when you take a Tag, everyone ready ? 3..2..1" and we are off. The 1st try is scored in seconds, no time to be nervous it's all too fast and I did enjoy it, getting real buzz off the way the boys were having fun. The rest of it is a bit of a blur, did I make a few mistakes ? I'm sure I did, did the best team win the game ? probably. No time to worry about it, next game is up in a few mins.
So for anyone wondering, can I do this, can I be a referee ? Course you can, If I can do it anyone else can too. Sure it's a little daunting the 1st time you step on the pitch, but it is really rewarding. Harlequins Amateurs just like any other club is run by parents, volunteers and amateurs. Mini Festivals are not the World Cup, so just go for it.