Ever wondered what the life of a professional referee looks like?

We’ve compiled a bunch of sources to give you a behind the scenes look at what it takes to get there, and what the professional world involves. It is often said that to become a professional at anything, you have to have a “professional mindset”, including when refereeing at a community level.

How can you adapt your approach to further your pursuits toward a career as a referee?

Pre Season

Here is what professional NZ Squad members got up to over summer:

(source: Bryce Lawrence: On the Mark. March 2016, www.allblacks.com)

Individual Performance Plans  – these have been drafted, discussed and agreed to for all referees in Super Rugby. These plans focus each referees ‘areas for development’ with actions, targets and measures all agreed to.

Physical Training – weight training, road running, field based sessions, yoga, biking, pre-hab and rehab have all been part of their pre-season load. The New Zealanders performed superbly at the SANZAAR referees workshop in Sydney in late January, averaging 20.0 on the Yo-yo with the best individual score of 21.7!!!!!

Technical and Tactical upskilling – understanding of SANZAAR key focus areas and game priorities.

SR team visits – training with sides and assisting players and coaches understand focus areas for 2016.

Pre-season games – in the heat of summer getting back in the middle making decisions and getting rid of the early season ‘rust’.

Pre-season NZ assistant referee and TMO workshops and Pro ref workshops at NZR – regular meetings with pro refs incorporating physical training, well being, game knowledge sessions and performance mindset upskilling.

Meanwhile, 6 Nations duties meant travel and games for Glen Jackson and Ben O’Keeffe and we were also in the air for international travel to the Sunwolves debut Super Rugby match in Tokyo.

Fitness Standards

NZRU Referee fitness standards for an ‘A’ score at community level

A 18.1 + < 5.35 < 2.40

Watch here as the 2014 World Rugby squad attempt the tests at one of their camps


What is his life like on the road? In 2014, Nigel Owens filmed a video diary of his travels whilst going to referee matches for the Rugby Championship in South Africa and Argentina.

A journey that included several thousand miles and three continents, his film gives an insight into the life of a top-level rugby referee.

This is a MUST WATCH! Click HERE to watch video

Game Day Preparation

Professional referees are expected to prepare to the highest level, including physically, mentally and emotionally. Match day preperations are very personal and different things work for different people.

This doesn’t mean however that you can’t get some tips from the best!

Watch below as World Rugby referees John Lacey and Chris Pollock take us through their respective match day routines.

Mental Skills, Performance Under Pressure, Working as a Team

All skills required to take your game to the next level! Below is an exert from a study done by the Southern California Rugby Referees Society, which pinpoints the mental demands of a referee, and what they need to do to overcome these.

The referee’s decisions are always subject to public opinion, which means that they are often criticized and questioned in terms of errors committed. Now if the game is running smoothly, very few people are even aware of the referee’s presence. So how should referees judge themselves or be judged? Their main job is to ensure that the game is being played according to the rules and regulations, and to intervene as little as possible.

To phrase it more precisely: referees must feel committed to the four following responsibilities:

  1. To see to it that the sporting event takes place in accordance with the rules of the game.
  2. To intervene when necessary but not make themselves the center of attention.
  3. To show an interest in the players and empathy for the game.

Qualities of a good referee:


Full article here: http://www.scrrs.net/articles/the-psychological-qualities-of-a-good-referee/

See World Rugby referees put there mental skills to the test in the lead up to the 2015 RWC.

A readiness for the big occasion

Some of the qualities listed above make referees sound more like robots and less like people, so we thought we would end the article on “the stage” that a professional referee enters. Referees must put everything on the line in search of a performance worthy of their status. This means embracing the occasion, but also not changing what has got them to that point in time. A referee must be able to relax, make decisions, and uphold standards.

Here are some of our favourite videos of big personality referees shining on the big stage…