On July 16, I embarked on the adventure of a lifetime. I was to spend two months in South Africa at the SA Referee Academy! Earlier in the year I received an email with news that would change my life – I was awarded the Shanagher Morrison Fund scholarship. It is because of the work that pioneers of USA Rugby Referees Denis Shanagher and Don Morrison, along with the many generous donors who support USA Rugby Trust, that I would be able to go on this journey.
As part of the Referee Academy, I was exposed to as many games in two months than I would have seen in several seasons back home. We had two full-time referee coaches working with us every day. We also had the opportunity to meet and learn from Super Rugby, HSBC 7s, Currie Cup and Test referees. The facilities were top notch and allowed us to live a lifestyle similar to that of a professional referee. A typical day in the academy usually consisted of an early morning gym session, film study or law work, an afternoon fitness session and finally, an evening match.
I spent two months focusing solely on the art of refereeing. I’m excited to integrate the new tools I have learned into my matches this fall. Even better, I have incredible things to share with the referees in my local society. I know several young players who want to start refereeing after seeing what opportunities are possible. I am so appreciative to USA Rugby and the incredible USA Rugby Trust donors for allowing me to take this incredible trip. I look forward to supporting this program and sending other young referees on this life-changing experience.
Pictured left to right: Aaron Yappert and Brett Johnson in South Africa.
Want to support an aspiring referee like Brett? Click here to make a donation to the Shanagher Morrison Referee Fund through USA Rugby Trust.
The Shanagher Morrison Fund continues to be the most significant referee development opportunity in the United States and I am incredibly grateful and fortunate to have been given the chance to experience refereeing abroad in South Africa. Enough credit cannot be given to USA Rugby Trust, the referees and the donors across the country who make this opportunity possible.
The South Africa Referee Academy gave access to some of the highest quality rugby schools in the world as well as university and men’s club matches that tested my abilities in ways I had yet to experience in the United States. In my 10 weeks there, I was able to referee nearly 30 matches, a count that would have required at least two full seasons back home. This gave me the opportunity to try new techniques and approaches every day and rapidly adjust from game to game.
Our coaching came from two full-time referee coaches who attended all of our matches, Stellenbosch University vision specialists who helped develop our hand-eye coordination and visual recognition, local body language professionals who taught simple techniques to appear fair and evenhanded, and a whole host of Provincial, Currie Cup, Super Rugby and Test referees who were eager to share their insights and wisdom with developing referees. Combined with state-of-the-art gym facilities and daily law application exercises, we spent the majority of each day focused solely on improving our refereeing.
Beyond refereeing, the scholarship also allowed me to explore a foreign country in ways a simple vacation could never achieve, making this an unforgettable life experience. I am extremely excited to bring what I learned in South Africa back to the United States referee community so that referees unable to attend the Academy can benefit from the generosity of USA Rugby Trust.
Want to support an aspiring referee like Aaron? Click here to make a donation to the Shanagher Morrison Referee Fund through USA Rugby Trust.