[Junior] Refereeing junior games and adult games

FatherFlipper


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Hello all,

Am a new referee (started in March this year), and have only just discovered this forum. I'm sure I could ask about 1400 questions straight off the bat, but there's one that I have that is getting in my head.

Aside from the actual law variations, how do other people generally ref/manage junior games in comparison to adult ones?

So far, I've only had to referee one junior game (an U16s club match - all others have been adults, merit league, etc). And without question, the junior match was the one I had the most difficulty with. I never truly felt that I had complete control over the players, there was probably more back-chat, more handbags than all other games I've had combined (not that many tbf...), and I came off the pitch after feeling rather disheartened. Combined with one of the coaches being a referee himself, who gave me feedback/picked up on every mistake I made, I basically sulked and felt sorry for myself on the way home from the game. Compared to the following week, where I had a Surrey Merit game, and it was an absolute joy to referee, and I had a great time.

I tried, I think, to referee both games, and the teams, the same way - was this a mistake? Should I treat the juniors as juniors, or like adults? How would everyone else deal with it? I know that as I felt myself lose a grip on it, I made a number of mistakes (and I felt my calf muscle go "ping" about two minutes from time, so that topped it off...).

Any thoughts/advice greatly appreciated - I want to continue doing any game I can, but think the juniors could be my biggest challenge....
 

Taffy


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Hey Father flipper. Welcome to the forum! You will find everyone delighted to help as they have all been there once.

Firstly don't fret about it at this stage. Yes, we have all had games where we go home thinking "What was all that about", but believe me the feeling only lasts as long as till the next game. Another day, another game!

We will all have our little methods and systems but in the spirit of "one begger sharing bread with another!", here are my thoughts.

I am always faster and harder with no tolerance on any sort of back chat or even a "look" at this level. A couple of reasons for this. One is that some of them play football (the devil's game) and do it all the time on a Saturday and get away with it. Not with me they don't. The second is that they are probably trying you out and remember "I am my brother's keeper". I treat them in so many ways exactly the same as adults (some different ways - will tell in a moment). I do my pre match routine in exactly the same way. Explain that everything must come through the captain and then crack on as normal. I tend to be "looking out quickly" for any dissent in the first ten minutes as this is when I lay my stall out. I probably chat a bit more to the players - firstly instructions at the breakdown and then telling them "the jackal is good" - and encouraging them a lot - try and find them doing somehting well and right and tell them. We all like to be affirmed.

I sense that a lot of the matches they have played have been reffed by a schoolmaster in a schoolmaster way - telling them off and blowing up every 5 minutes (or less). I try and let the game flow as much as I can - I tell them in my pre match chat that "I am always looking for reasons not to blow the whistle".

In the last 12 months my surveys have been very encouraging in these school games - one lad said I was "very funny", another said "Brilliantly let the game flow".

I also treat coaches with a barge pole effect - I see how they are speaking to me, but generally ALWAYS announce they must come through the captain. My style is known now, so I am a known item. I also take the opportunity to tell the lads that (their schoolteacher) "Mr Jenkins is not quite keeping up with play as a touch judge - has he done it before?". Of course you have to choose your moments, but I remember my early days 3 years ago and I had EXACTLY what you had and had to work out how to sort it out. Every time I go to ref a school game now I am always excited - so something has changed!

Be very encouraged - the only way is up!
 

Lee Lifeson-Peart


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Welcome Father Flipper:-

There is loads of stuff in the bowels of RR.com about management which would take ages to read - use the search and see what comes up.

As regards U16 and similar tell the captains and coache sas follows:-

>Insist everything goes via the captain.

>You'll explain but you won't debate - at a suitable time.

>Don't put up with dissent/sledging.


Start tough and relax as the game goes on (if it's warranted) - much harder to do it in reverse.

I know it may not help but to be honest if you don't have to do U16s don't bother. Get some adult games under your belt and when you're a bit more experienced go back to juniors.

I abandoned an U16 game years ago so like Taffy says we've all been there.

I started refereeing when my lad was U13 and my progression went along with his age group - U13/!4 are great to referee. I couldn't have done U16 in my first year.

Don't be discouraged. If you have 3 consecutive games you don't enjoy then it probably isn't for you but I have never had 2 in a row. Get back on the horse and stick with it. It is good fun. Honest.
 

Dixie


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Hi FatherFlipper - a very warm welcome to the forum!

In my experience, U.16 is probably the hardest age group to manage. Testosterone all over the shop, big enough to think they know it all, young enough to lack the ability to control themselves as adults can. If you are able to avoid this age group in your early years, do so!

That said, I imagine you may well be reffing them because you have a lad of that age, and are helping the club out. If so, then the following should help. As mentioned above ... we've all been there, so please don't think that you and you alone struggle!

Firstly, every single game you ref requires that you be at your best. This means preparing for it, visualising ahead of time what you think makes for a good game, and having a strategy to achieve it. This is as true of a vet's friendly as it is of a U.16 cup final. Your strategy will differ, however - the vets will cut you some slack, as the outcome (while important) is not the be-all and end-all of their week, while for the lads at U.16 they may well see it in that way. Because of that, you have to be more assertive and authoritative with the juniors than with the adults - you can't risk losing control by being overly familiar, while for Vets it may well be appropriate to enter into the spirit of the thing rather more.

At U.16, the players think they know what's what, but often have at best a confused idea of the laws. Even as a novice ref, you need to ensure that you have a much better idea than they do, so that you can have confidence in your own decision-making even if the players are beginning to think that your failure to identify midfield "crossing" marks you out as a plonker. Set out your stall early, allow nothing at all in the way of backchat (the quickest way to find yourself losing control of a game is to permit the odd snide comment - particularly if you're aware you cocked up and feel that the comment may be justified), and once the first quarter has gone by you might consider relaxing a bit if the spirit of the game warrants it. Never try to start out relaxed and tighten up if necessary - it's very hard to make that work.

You feel you have 1400 questions straight off the bat. Feel free to reel them off, one by one. This is by far the best place to admit your uncertainty, sort out the oddities among the laws, ask for comments in terms of "how could I have handled this better" and generally get your head around this steep, steep learning curve that is refereeing. As a crowd of refs, we are at our best when a new ref needs support. Without that impetus to assist a fellow whistler, we tend to toss around stale old complications in the law book until someone like you comes along to give us a proper purpose.

Ask away.
 

Dickie E


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see if you can get a ref that you respect & trust to come and have a look
 

FatherFlipper


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Thanks for the responses, all greatly appreciated.

Dickie - I had an assessor come to my second full game (a Merit game), and gave me a very good assessment (as in, it picked up a lot of stuff but was very constructive and helpful). I've used that as a template since, and will be asking for another assessment before the end of the season to see where I am with it. In our society, we've also got mentors who I can bounce things off or just talk to before/after a game, which helps as well - get some very good pointers there. Also, I think it was good that I got assessed early, as it helped immediately to spot any glaring bad habits.

Dixie - one thing I will pick up on from your post "you always need to be at your best". I think this was the first/only game where I, looking back, can't say I was 100% on it and totally focused leading up to the game - I'd moved house the day before, had a job interview the day before that, and my wife was playing in a different part of London, so was, whilst not flustered, I hadn't gone over in my head what I was planning to do, how to approach it etc. Therefore, I didn't totally take into account whether I should have managed the game differently from adult games (and hindsight shows I should have thought about this). Definitely, 100%, the last time I make that mistake....

Lee and Taffy - I think I did have far too much conversation with the players, rather than the captain's (and to be totally honest, one of them was just as bad as his teammates). So the advice for clamping down on it early doors definitely would apply to me there. It's a long time since I've had to deal with teenagers on that level (I was a youth football coach for many years), so I'd forgotten how to handle them until it was too late...).

And all, thanks for the advice - like I say, the following week I had (personally) my best game, and also the most enjoyable - was an adult merit game, and both teams entered completely into the spirit of it. I thanked pretty much every player individually afterwards for making my job that much easier! I know they won't all be like that, but they're the games I'm hoping to aspire more towards than the niggly games.

Cheers folks
 

dave_clark


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also - unless you know the coach to be a fellow society member, don't pay a great deal of attention to the "i'm a referee too" opening line. what most of them mean by this is that they'll pick up the whistle when they have to, i.e. when they can't find anyone else to do it.

and if they are a society referee, they'll know better than to simply criticise and it shouldn't come across as picking up on all mistakes.
 

SimonSmith


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Good advice above. I know that the kids are our future - but at U16 they are also the spawn of Satan.

they are harder work than other groups, but a great way to cut your teeth. It won't be easy, but doing that age group will accelerate your learning curve.
I was lucky; when I was starting, I refereed adults on Saturdays, and most usually had U16 or Colts on a Sunday. Usually at one of two locations, both of them excellent clubs. What also helped was that each club there were trusted resources I could use for feedback and development; they saw me on a frequent basis as well, so it was a bit like having a frequent coach.

I'm convinced that helped my rapid promotion path.
 

Rushforth


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Any thoughts/advice greatly appreciated - I want to continue doing any game I can, but think the juniors could be my biggest challenge....

I think you may be pleasantly surprised once you've done a few more junior games.

As other posters have already said, ref the game consistently whatever the age group, i.e. make the same decision whether to whistle or not depending on what you see happening, most of the time. That said, whistle for high tackles and other dangerous play even where you might play advantage for adults.

U16 or U17 is definitely the hardest to 'get right' compared to U15 (still kids) or U19 (almost adults) because it can be a mix of the two. In my experience though, it can be very rewarding if you get the right balance between being strict on any kind of foul play (particularly accidental) and letting the junior sides play their respective games.

I look forwards to the other 1399 Qs :)
 

FatherFlipper


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Thanks again for the advice gents/ladies (delete as applicable), will try and take it all in and incorporate into my game. A part of it would all be due to the learning curve I'm on (I *think* I'm improving slightly each game), and I would have faced it at some stage. Getting it out of the way early has its pros and cons, and I just need to ensure I have filed the experience away for future reference.

Dave clark - your point about whether he was an actual society referee, or just someone who picked up the whistle every now and again is a pertinent one. He introduced himself pre-game as a society referee, so I took that at face value. After the game, he wanted to talk about some of the decisions, but it felt like an interrogation and wasn't the most comfortable post-game chat. I answered everything in a polite friendly way (it's just how I am generally), and took bits of it on board, but didn't *feel* like he was offering constructive advice, more trying to point out my errors (of which I made a good few).

Whereas the first game I refereed, another society referee introduced himself to me before the game, and said we could chat afterwards. He was at a club lunch, and was fairly merry by full-time, but gave me some great feedback, was friendly, bought me a pint, complimented me on certain aspects etc, so that was how I thought most referee's would be (and indeed all the other ones I've come across have been). Speaking to my society mentor, and also in line with Dave's comment, I will learn to filter through any advice from club officials/referees (it's worth noting, and I'm sure it had absolutely nothing to do with it, but his team lost...). As I say, there was a few bits of advice, just buried in the "and what about our yellow card?" type Spanish inquisition (which nobody expects).

Again, all, thanks for the advice, am off until the New Year, so will have some time to reflect (once I've recovered after the Big Game), and work on going forward.
 

dave_clark


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make sure you come back and tell us how it goes, and ask the next batch of questions that you'll surely have!
 

Taffy


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After my first assessment (third game) my assessor said to me "You're very confident aren't you?" I drew myself up to my full height.

"Of course you've got loads of things wrong", he said "but they have gone with you anyway!"

Confidence and selling the decision to the team is all part of it
Being encouraged by fellow refs who have certainly been there before is also part of it

One more thing (Columbo) - my first Under 16 match.

Back chat from the scrum half
Extra ten yards on the penalty
Further back chat
Further ten yards on the penalty

Then a voice (Scream) from the full back to the player "Shut the XXX up Joel, just shut up"

And do you know after that, not a peep, not a single peep.

Taught me something...
 

Dickie E


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After my first assessment (third game) my assessor said to me "You're very confident aren't you?" I drew myself up to my full height.

"Of course you've got loads of things wrong", he said "but they have gone with you anyway!"

Confidence and selling the decision to the team is all part of it
Being encouraged by fellow refs who have certainly been there before is also part of it

One more thing (Columbo) - my first Under 16 match.

Back chat from the scrum half
Extra ten yards on the penalty
Further back chat
Further ten yards on the penalty

Then a voice (Scream) from the full back to the player "Shut the XXX up Joel, just shut up"

And do you know after that, not a peep, not a single peep.

Taught me something...

What did it teach you?

I must say, I'm not a big fan of these multiple marches. It becomes a "who's got the biggest dick" contest. March once and if problem still exists I'd be looking for a different solution.
 

Taffy


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What did it teach you?

I must say, I'm not a big fan of these multiple marches. It becomes a "who's got the biggest dick" contest. March once and if problem still exists I'd be looking for a different solution.

Taught me that sometimes it is useful.

And that no tolerance level is useful at that age range.
 

Dickie E


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Taught me that sometimes it is useful.

And that no tolerance level is useful at that age range.

it seems a bit serendipitous. If the fullback hadn't taken control I'm not sure that you know where it would have ended up
 

Nigib


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After my first assessment (third game) my assessor said to me "You're very confident aren't you?" I drew myself up to my full height.

"Of course you've got loads of things wrong", he said "but they have gone with you anyway!"

What did it teach you?

I must say, I'm not a big fan of these multiple marches. It becomes a "who's got the biggest dick" contest. March once and if problem still exists I'd be looking for a different solution.

There's never a 'one size fits all', every match (and dick) is different :) I try and apply what's necessary to encourage a good game of rugby. And trying not to get loads of things wrong, which would probably be my biggest takeaway.
 

Pegleg

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Talk to the players! Blow the whistle, give a good signal and a quick explanation. " 7, ruck formed just before you got your hands on the ball. Unlucky with your timing!" Can often preempt the backchat. Next ruck 7 gets right (as if!!!!). A comment again, " Well done 7 good timing on that jackel!" If there is a "close to" offside call that you play on, a quick "Blue, careful with your timing that was close!". Tells Red that you saw "it" and were happy with it.

You can't always speak but it can cut the back chat before it happens. All about managing the players.

Discipline? Tell the captains before the game that "Dicipline is YOUR job. If you can not or will not sort it. Then my cards will".
 

dave_clark


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one that i heard from a fellow society ref was along the lines of "captains, discipline is your problem. you manage it or i'll have to, and you may not like the way i manage it".

it was mid game, and things were starting to spiral. seemed to sort out the problem, at least that's the way he told it.

i repeated it once in a club game (lower team friendly, where i knew all of the players). seemed to work ok too. i guess there really are multiple ways of getting the same message across!
 

Taffy


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Treating the youngsters properly and professionally works for me as well. A couple of times we have had to abandon matches ten or so minutes early, once when the posts blew over and once for a serious injury. The schoolteachers got together and agreed on an early finish - "fine by me" I said, "Let's get the captains in and have a chat with them". Felt that went down very well and was the least they deserved.
 
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