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USA 7s Series Helps Refs Too

Thursday Jul 9, 2009 in Off the Field Laws

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The USA 7s Championship Series isn’t just energizing clubs to enter tougher 7s tournaments, it’s also paying dividends among referees.

USA Rugby’s National 7s Referee Manager Pat McNally has partnered with USA 7s LLC (which is a separate business from USA Rugby) to bring in top and developing referees to improve their game running high-level matches.

“We’re trying to establish a pool of high quality referees,” said McNally. “And we’ve been also bringing in some young referees and having senior refs mentor them. It is working out really well and USA 7s has been enormously helpful.”

Refereeing 7s is different from refereeing XVs. The key difference is that referees have to be much fitter, and as a result youth is prized. McNally is looking for referees in their 20s, and younger.

“We have a couple of referees who, because of injury or their work circumstances just can’t play after college, but want to be involved,” said McNally.

Thanks to support from USA 7s, he has brought in such refs – Brian Zapp from Colorado, Mike Kelly recently of Villanova, and 20-year-old Jack Rosenhammer from New York.

“It takes a while for referees to get in their comfort zone,” said McNally.

Younger refs might invite a certain lack of respect from older players, but McNally said he has received all sorts of support from tournaments in backing up his refs – noting that Cape Fear 7s tournament director Ray Funderburk ejected two of his own clubmates from the tournament over their treatment of referees.

“Overall we’re tearing down walls, and I am very encouraged,” McNally said. “The referees are learning a lot. They see that in high-level games they can’t afford to be flat-footed, but have to be moving constantly. We’ve got older refs and refs who are basically retired helping the younger ones.”

McNally noted that at the USA 7s the United States got to assign a referee because they were a host nation.

“Now we’re getting these refs assigned on merit,” he said. “Chris Draper was assigned to Hong Kong and Adelaide, on merit. And Dana Teagarden is possible the best women referee in the world. We have to have good referees as part of the growth of the game.

USA Rugby has also developed a handbook for refereeing 7s.

It was be accessed here:

McNally said he and USA Rugby referees manager Ed Todd hope to incorporate the handbook into all referee training.

- Alex Goff

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