Las Vegas Invitational 2018

VEGAS 2018 … 80,000 steps (38 miles) ….. Conquered. ☺

BIG victory in front of a home crowd to our USA Eagles! Not only was it a great victory for our team and our country, it made for an amazing experience for our first time Vegas referees; Bouké, Reneé, and Rachael. In total, the Ohio Rugby Referee Society representatives ran approximately 152 miles and refereed 25 hours of sevens rugby!

Day 1 of the Las Vegas Invitational (LVI) event started with games kicking off at 8:00 am split between 11 fields; 34,000 steps later (16.4 miles), LVI Day 1 was in the bag. The after party hosted by the Ohio Referees was next on the cards. Now don’t let your minds get too crazy here, if you have never sprinted 16.4 miles, then you may be surprised to learn what a party after a day like this looks like: First a jacuzzi tub full of ice, then later a communal soak in warm water and epsom salts. Plus plenty of beer, crown royal, bourbon, vodka.……

LVI Day 2: Games kick off at 8:00 am! Field conditions… well, you be the judge! The Nevada sun long ago soaked up the green and moisture from the grass, but the players didn’t seem to mind. They were playing Sevens in March!


Reneé met her all-time favorite rugby player, Todd Clever, and came away with a hug and a photo. He even watched her referee the next match. She spent the rest of the day with giant stars in her eyes.


Bouké and André were photographed on The Rugby Breakdown reviewing game footage after the losing team contested the referee’s account of the score. The referee’s count was maintained.

LVI Day 2 was another long day – around 12 miles of running – and as soon as the last whistle was blown, we were off to the main stadium to watch international rugby at its best. We arrived at Sam Boyd Stadium with our free tickets in time to watch the USA Eagles take on Samoa.


USA was on a roll, later on defeating Australia comfortably. A few brave souls jumped the fence and ran the field, yea never to be seen again as they were led away by our boys in blue. At the end of Day 2 we felt it wise to keep a low profile. Partying back at the Ohio Referees rooms sounded like the best plan.

LVI Day 3: Back to the fields for yet another 8:00am kick off. Day 3 sees all the finals
being played, so although lighter work at only 10miles of running, by now the feet, calves, hamstrings, and muscles you didn’t even know you had are crying for a break. Ohio again represented well with all four referees officiating in the center of a final match and one in particular being selected to run in a team of four with Leah Bernard to blow for the boys elite final.☺

With the LVI side of the event over we could now focus on the International stage, so again with our free tickets in hand we, rushed over to the main stadium to catch Day 2 of the International action.



I felt it appropriate that during Day 3 I had to take all my American friends to experience some real South African food, so off to the “fan zone” it was for Bunny Chows.


Now the saying “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” always occurs on the Saturday night…why? Well because our jobs are done and that means no 8:00am start…..PAAARRRRTTTYYYYYYYY Vegas style! The theme for the night was “adorable” and the game was to take random selfies with other people, nudes count double points dugh! In the morning we would decide on a winner. Somehow, we lost all memory of the competition by morning. So you be the judge (some photos omitted because this is a family show):

Day 4 was a bit of a slow start to the day by hitting the breakfast buffet. Two for the price of one is always a favorite with referees. Then we were off to the main stadium to watch the final day of the international play. What a great day it was, watching our boys win this leg of the World Series in front of a home crowd. As the final whistle sounded USA over Argentina 28-0, the stands stormed the field! I tried to stop them and told them to behave and take the moral high ground and be shining examples to others…… no all lies, I think my feet hit the fields first as we cleared the railing and made a bee-line for our USA Squad. ☺ If you chat with any of the crowd that made it out to Vegas this year, they will all tell you, what a great way to end a fantastic weekend of rugby!


Hopefully more of you good fine referees can join us next year for the 2019 LVI…I know I’m in!


– Andre Bruwer, Ohio Rugby Referees Society CMO


I want to thank everyone for their assistance, flexibility, and participation the last number of years.  We are a much better Society than we were and you all worked to make it so.

– Billy Koval, President Ohio Rugby Referees Society

National Development Summit (NDS) 2018 – Denver, Colorado.

Andre NametagSo the USA Rugby National Development Summit (NDS) 2018 is over, some AWESOME new ideas and valuable inspirational stories and suggestions shared. It is always so inspiring to have 400+ people in one area all so eager to help each other and share their secrets of success. It really helps one remember that no matter if you are a player, coach, referee, or administrator everyone really wants the same thing: enjoyment and success. As always, old relationships rejuvenated and new ones formed; every year the rugby family just keeps growing. 🙂

Through all the development opportunities offered at NDS, all the presentations, inspirational talks and networking opportunities, it’s hard to leave NDS not encouraged, inspired, and enthused to tackle the tasks that lie ahead. We listened to our new men’s national team coach speak, received presentations by high performance referee managers, and heard inspirational personal stories from dynamic players who have come back from catastrophic injuries only to face the arch enemy of cancer. Jillian Potter told us about doing laps around the hospital, still attached to the IV pole and undergoing chemotherapy, all with a vision that ultimately led to her not only competing in the Women’s World Cup but also representing our proud country at the Rio Olympics. The rugby world is discovering new technologies that are without a doubt going to help drive our society forward in doing a better job for all stakeholders. From better more efficient scheduling software to accounting systems to referee personal developmental aids like solo-shot…change is in the air. It’s a super exciting time to be an Ohio Referee! I do understand people don’t like change and as human beings (yes even referees are human), we generally resist change. If we don’t act, either out of fear of failure or fear of what the changes may bring, then we are going to simply stagnate. Rather, let’s face change as a challenge, grab it with both hands and embrace it…change is coming!  🙂

Short term goals for this year are going to change the way we run Annual General Meetings (AGMs). Instead of the ordinary, let’s have an annual Ohio Rugby Summit, with interactive developmental opportunities and vibrant guest speakers that will give us tools we can really use out there in the war zone. I am inspired to develop a new referee training program in Ohio – one that will be more impactful and dynamic than the one most of us “sat” through. With the support of our USA Rugby Educators and alongside our now very established Rookie Rugby program, we have an untapped resource and entry point for newer, younger referees. Fear not old guys, nothing replaces the experience we all bring, but sitting at NDS and listening to a 12 year old new up-and-coming referee talk of their experiences, it’s hard not to be moved and inspired. Look around, we have many of these great resources around us here in Ohio, we are just not maximizing their potential… change is coming! 🙂

The ideas of using technology and software to help us do better, more efficient work is promising. One person can’t do everything alone. We are going to need to come together to help grow and improve the Ohio Rugby Referee Society. We all have a choice: sit in the dark and complain about why things are and how we wish they were, or step up and volunteer to help drive the change you wish to see. The big message is that in order to grow and develop, the self-reflection piece is vital. No CMO or peer mentor or any other fancy word or phrase is more important that the internal desire. Forming stronger, supportive relationships with other fellow, like-minded referees is an under-utilized, yet immensely powerful developmental tool which we need to exploit this year. Through the use of tools like Google Classroom we can provide law discussions and challenging, thought-stimulating ventures. I have heard the cry, “why should I bother working to be a better me? Why should I bother with referee development? It’s not like I get paid more!” Like I said… change is coming :). In the real world, if you invest in yourself (like getting a degree…a Master’s… a Phd), yes, it costs you the more you want to develop yourself, but then the financial return is also more. It’s time that these practices get mirrored in our rugby society too. If we truly are a professional organization, then it’s time to act like one…all of us, referees, coaches, administrators… change is coming. 🙂

Hey, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter!

– Andre Bruwer, Ohio Rugby Referees Society CMO

Beginning a Blog with a Year in Review

A BIG thank you to all our referees who helped make the Fall 2017 Rugby Season the success it was. You conducted yourselves in the professional manner that is expected of referees. Whether you were center stage or assistant refereeing, you made the season happen…THANK YOU.

One of the highlights of the May 2017 high school championship for me was when a volunteer asked if they could help and I was able to reply, “sorry we not only have all those assignments covered, but you have to be qualified referee with game experience to wear those shoes.” That is only because of the sheer number of you who were willing to step up and volunteer to be part of the high school state championship, so again, thank you, you made us all look good. 🙂

This year (2017), in partnership with RugbyOhio, we offered four interactive webinars to provide a forum for education, discussion, and consistency to Ohio Rugby Referees. You can watch them by clicking on the links below:

Developmental Pathways For Referees

New Law Trials 101

Identifying and Managing Flash Points

Another interesting point of conversation that earmarked a turning point in our society’s ongoing effort to improve coach-referee relationships was our first ever open forum between a selected panel of referees (the CMO team) and any/all coaches in Ohio that wanted to be part of the conversation. Some had things they wanted to say, others had questions, and some were simply seeking clarification. The webinar was hugely successful and the cry has been to offer more on a more regular basis when the Spring season starts up in 2018. If you missed that webinar, click the link below for the recording.

Referee-Coach discussion

As a society, we’ve committed to stepping up our game. In this regard we have started to put muscle behind our Coaching Match Officials (CMO) program.  Beginning with the State Semi-Championships, CMOs working together with referees, observed, reviewed, evaluated, and provided valuable feedback for many of our officials. We even hosted a USA Rugby CMO training course in October to not only develop our current pool of CMOs but also to add to it. As always, any referee interested in improving need only shoot me an email and I will ensure it ends up on the correct person’s table. Linking CMOs with referees (at all levels) that are eager improve their game is going to be key moving forward.

Another proud moment for Ohio Referees from 2017 is that a few referees received National assignments, some center field (Mr. Z.Huston and myself) and others as Assistant Referees (ARs) for National Panel Referees as a part of the National Championship Series. Those referees are: Nick Geary; Chris Harrington; Bill Matijasic; Bouke Ankone; Bill Strobl; Michael Hong; Frank Harris; Nate Myers, and Duane Schrader. Well done gang, you did us proud! 🙂

Comments from those who served as Assistant Referees were how much they learned from being mic’ed in and hearing how the center referees (many B-panel and National Panel referees) managed their games and established rapport with the players. If you want to learn and want to get better, never pass on these opportunities if possible, whenever they come across your table.

Looking forward into 2018 and beyond, you should see more topics of discussion concerning laws and clarifications, bringing about higher and more consistent standards of refereeing. I also believe opening these communications with coaches and possibly even captains would go a long way to helping promote this game and at the same time bring about a clearer understanding of expectations from all stakeholders.

Our society president Mr. Billy Koval will be looking to hold our society’s Annual General Meeting (AGM), sometime after the Midwest Referee Society’s meeting. We are hoping to offer an online component to the AGM this time around so more of you can actually be part of the process. It is important for you to be part of this AGM as we are looking to implement some changes that are going to hopefully drive us forward. These changes will undoubtedly affect YOU, so if you want your voice heard, then you are definitely going to want to be part of the 2018 AGM….stay tuned for more on that.

The National Development Summit is set for January! It’s a great opportunity to network and learn. There are several presentations and discussions in all areas of rugby from refereeing to coaching, administration, and more. Drop us a line or look for us if you attend. It would be great to get together with an Ohio crowd, have some beers, and talk shop.

Lastly, we will have an Ohio Referee presence at the Las Vegas Rugby Invitational 2018 in March. Those that attend are in for an intense four days of hard work, advanced learning, great rugby, and maybe a little fun on the strip. There’s still time to join us – register here.

In closing, a big thank you for doing what you do. Great work this year. Thank you for everyone for stepping up and picking up the slack. Many of you did double duty and it was great working with a team that had your back, making us all look good. I look forward to working with you in person, on the pitch, over webinars, and through this blog. Thank you to Referee Reneé Whitenberger who has volunteered to drag our society into the social media limelight of the 21st century… starting with this blog.

Let’s make 2018 even better, with more of you actually picking up the whistle and doing some games (look for an email from our Referee Manager, Mr. Bugs Moran when he starts asking everyone to input their availability…if you need help, just shoot me an email. We need everyone…like really everyone. We have more games on any given weekend than we have active referees and it’s always hard having to tell a team, sorry no referee. We – YOU – do make a difference.

Thanks again for what you do for this great game we all call Rugby 🙂

– Andre Bruwer, Ohio Rugby Referees Society CMO