Experienced grassroots’ coaches give you top tips on how to referee for the first time

Thank you to the great twitter-sphere, here is a summary of the insightful responses of those who find themselves reffing their team on a Sunday morning.

Mikey Williams


Coach of the laws. Talk lots and play advantage.

John O’Connor


1/2 Big one is interaction pre/during. Ref helps set tone for players/sideline, smile, talk to players/coaches, set expectations, normalise you and situation to relax players, they and others on sideline will be nervous

2/2…plus you don’t know what language players have been primed with pre-game out of earshot. Sense the mood and be prepared to calm. I’m cold on my reffing skills and I try to leave to others partly due bad sideline experiences. Sadly it’s a space many probably avoid/fear

Paul Tinkler


A ref in a junior match is 50% coach 50% ref Smile and chat, ensure that they are having fun Be clear about what you want – call the ruck – no hands- release etc Look behind you for offsides Half time, ask the coaches how it is going Enjoy the experience

Ian Hollingworth


I had same situation with young newly qualified Ref. Told him I was there to support. Spoke to oppo coach to tell him and ask him to tell parents. Half time I checked on Ref. At the end of the game oppo coach asked his team to applaud Ref off the field.

Tim Ravenscroft


Get to know the Age Grade Regs and if poss find someone to chat them through

Think out loud…so, knock on by blue – lets have a scrum here to red.

Try to ref at a trg session?

Say hello to the coaches

Ref at your pace!

Smile and don’t be afraid to be you!

Gavin Wheeler


Enjoyment, safety then the rules. Tell everyone you will play lots of advantage to keep the game flowing and talk almost as if you were commentating.

John Naylor


Say what you see

Andrew Abraham PhD


Read the age group rules and imagine what they look like in the game. 2. Forgive minor mistakes to keep the game flowing. It’s how I started.

Chris Dewhirst


You will know more than 90% of those watching. Strong blow on the whistle and clear loud decisions. Be confident. On a practical note don’t get too close to the ball, you need to see what’s happening within 10 metres



Speak to parents in advance..

Linebreak Rugby


This and get some nice touch judges

wayne jeremiah


Reffing is coaching

Sunderland RFC M&J


Smile, relax, communicate, crack a joke or two. Be consistent, open and honest, know your regs/law. Get to know the captain/coach’s first names and finish with some post-match, positive feedback, “That was a cracking…etc.”

craig jenkins


Nice and loud telling them what’s happening: tackle hands off etc

Paul Bailey


Say what you’re seeing (what you are playing advantage for, to who and when it’s over) players appreciate it, respect you more and there’s no ambiguity. And coach during the game, especially with younger age groups.

nick Williams


Be yourself, enjoy and learn, have fun



Have refereed AGR for 2 years but still getting over a bad sideline experience from before xmas. Set out your expectations before the game to players and coaches. Work and coach with players through the game but deal with discipline stuff thro the captain. Relax and enjoy it

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