A Typical Day at the South Africa Referee Academy

The 2018 USA Rugby Shanagher Morrison Fund awardees share what it is like studying at the South Africa Referee Academy in Stellenbosch, South Africa.

The South Africa Referee Academy is a fully immersed referee program based in Stellenbosch, South Africa. Joya Clark and Alexander Cattermole, the 2018 USA Rugby Shanagher Morrison Fund awardees who attended the academy on scholarship, share what a typical day looks like - starting with an early morning roll-out stretch session.

USA Rugby's Shanagher Morrison Referee Fund was established to send aspiring referees (aged 20-27) to participate in the South Africa Referee Academy on scholarship. While there, awardees have the opportunity to learn from and train with some of the best referees in the world.

The 2018 scholarship recipients are nearing the end of their time at the academy but not without sharing the full scoop on a typical day first. Clark and Cattermole start their day with an early morning stretch session followed by a substantial breakfast provided at the Stellenbosch Academy of Sports Restaurant.

After, the two walk a couple of miles along the river to arrive at the Danie Craven Stadium by 9am. Hendrick Greyvenstein, a coach with the South Africa Referee Academy, proceeds to direct the referee students in an early morning workout, involving either a grueling stair circuit or a tough 2.5-mile mountain loop.

Next, Clark and Cattermole head over to the Maties Gymnasium, into the Vision Lab with visual skills specialist Grant van Velden. The aspiring referees work with a half-dozen machines including visual charts hoping to improve their visual skills. The goal behind this activity is to help them see things faster and more clearly on the pitch.

"I have improved scores each visit, which translates into peripheral awareness, greater reaction times, and near-far eye movements which strengthens the 'eye gym.'" Clark said.

If not in the vision lab, Clark and Cattermole are immersed in classroom discussions regarding law and refereeing methods. They run through these lessons using various learning platforms such as international video examples, personal film, law tests, World Rugby/South Africa Rugby Union interactive presentations, whiteboard sessions and more.

Following vision lab or classroom sessions, the two get a much-deserved resting period before picking back up with another referee activity.

The next activity depends on the day. Early in the week, they can be found refereeing a primary or secondary rugby match. Mid-week they can be found refereeing 'Hostel' (intercollegiate) matches. On the weekend, Clark and Cattermole are located across the river at Paul Roos where 4 rugby matches are occurring at any given time.

Cattermole recounts a Hostel match as one of his favorite referee experiences thus far, "It was a friendly between two of the bigger hostels' first sides. The grounds were packed, and the rugby was some of the fastest I've ever done. The environment itself was amazing" he said.

As an added bonus to the experience, the schedule allows enough free time for Clark and Cattermole to explore Stellenbosch. The area has much architecture to view, local dishes to try, fresh wines and teas to savor, as well as many places to meet new friends inside and outside the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport.

For Clark further engaging with the international referees has been especially valuable. "Meeting and listening to international referees has shown me that to grow into an international referee, we must have a passionate love for the game, be a good teammate, and maintain positive attitudes, even when we have rough matches." Clark concluded.

Overall, Clark and Cattermole describe the referee experience as being an invaluable opportunity to learn more about refereeing the sport they both love.

"There is just so much good rugby in Stellenbosch. It's an experience that you definitely can't get in the United States and probably not anywhere in the world. These are things I'll remember." Cattermole conclude.

USA Rugby's ability to send aspiring referees like Clark and Cattermole on a fully immersed referee program is made possible through the Shanagher Morrison Referee Fund. You can help provide this opportunity for future scholarship recipients by contributing to the Shanagher Morrison Referee Fund HERE.