From Prestwick to Bahrain

Prestwick Academy, JNL triangular fixtures, Autumn 2001 to Bahrain FIVB Development Centre, International Referee Candidate Course (IRCC), October 2015 – it’s been a lengthy journey to gaining my International Referee Candidate status. 

From that fixture in 2001, I have attended 4 SVA referee courses, officiated numerous matches in all divisions including the Schools Games twice and the International Children’s Games and have had umpteen conversations with the SVA’s best referees on how to improve my performances. All of which helped me in my decision to pursue refereeing volleyball to the highest level I can.

This summer, after lots of paperwork going back and forth with the SVA, the course organiser in Bahrain, the CEV and the FIVB; a medical undertaken; online tests to prove my knowledge of the rules of the game and it was confirmed that I was going on the course (I was excused from sitting the English test!).

At 4am on a cold October morning I headed for the airport, not knowing exactly what to expect although it was nice to know there would be a friendly face there (Sandy Steel was one of the course instructors). On the flight a passenger walked over and asked me if I was going to the IRCC – he’d seen me reading the rule book – it was nice to meet one of my fellow candidates prior to the start of the course.

The following morning I met a few more of the candidates on way to Bahrain’s FIVB Development Centre where the course was held. In total there were 24 candidates, 5 from Bahrain and 19 from another 14 different countries. This was a great mix and over the practical sessions it was interesting seeing everyone different idiosyncrasies, some of which seem very strange, others which seem to make a great deal of sense and thing I’d like to introduce to my game.

The first two day of the course consisted of theory only. We discussed the background of volleyball and the rules of the game, with the course instructors emphasising the importance of knowing the wording of the rule definitions, it was also an ideal opportunity for the candidates to ask any questions we may have had. We also talked about the roles of the referees, their team and the importance of the cooperation between all members of the refereeing team.

On the evening of the first day we had the official opening ceremony of the course where the Prince of Bahrain welcomed us onto the course and to the country of Bahrain.

The following 3 days consisted of lectures and debriefings in the morning then practical sessions in the afternoon/evening. For the practical sessions the candidates were split into 3 groups who would work as a team to officiate 8 matches, each taking a turn at first referee, second referee, scorer, assistant scorer and line judges 1-4.

The practical games followed FIVB’s pre-match protocol, some candidates seemed nervous about this but for me this was fine – one of the benefits of the SVA trying to be as professional as they can be, especially at cup finals/playoff weekends.

My match as a second referee was on day 4, unfortunately for me it was a division 2 match so it was in the smaller hall where there wasn’t much space for the referee to work in. The game in general was relatively straight forward, the standard wasn’t anything special but we coped with the situations presented to us. Along with the first referee I did have one mistake when the following situation occurred: a wrong server was spotted by the scorer I rectified the teams positional order but at the same time the libero came out of, and then back into, the game within the same interruption, I did notice this and corrected it but didn’t make it clear to the first referee what had happened meaning the delay warning that should have been issued was not. After the game I asked the observer what I could improve on, a couple of minor signalling corrections and he was happy. On the same day I had two  more games as a linejudge and I was told I had improved my technique from the previous day, this being the most important thing – listening to the information given to you and tweaking your style and performance where and when required.

At every opportunity in the first 5 days I, along with 5 others candidates in particular, discussed the case book scenarios and quizzed each other on the rule definitions. The time was well spent and prepared us well for the exam on the 6th day. We had 1.5hours for the exam, the style being some true or false questions, some multiple choice questions (with varying numbers of
correct answers) and then some longer questions such as listing the playing actions not allowed by a libero, if X,Y,Z happened what actions should the first referee take etc. and the final question was a drawing – draw the playing court and free zone, providing full details of the referees, linejudges, ball retrievers, different zones etc. including their location and numbers. Attention to detail was key!

My game as first referee was in the afternoon after the exam, unfortunately this was probably the lowest level game all week – one of the teams didn’t turn up but there was a youth team at the venue so a game was organised to allow us to fulfil our duties. The game was relatively straight forward, we had a delay warning, an improper request, quite a few handling faults but nothing too contentious to deal with. The oral exam was on day 7, this provides candidates with a chance to reiterate your knowledge of the rules, casebook and refereeing guidelines. We were all nervous about this exam but it turns out that I’d scored 98% in the written exam and therefore the oral exam was really just a discussion. After the exam, there were a handful of games to finish before the closing ceremony that evening.

At the closing ceremony there were lots of celebrations, photos and smiling, we’d all passed and I’d been awarded the highest marks possible of ‘very good’ for both theory and practical – I was slightly surprised by the practical mark but pleased none the less. In reality the only objective is to pass the course, with the real work starting now. I’ve proven I know what to do but now I must show that I can actually do it. Once I have achieved the appropriate sign off on three matches I will be an international referee. I feel privileged to have had the SVA’s backing and faith in me over the last 4 to 5 years in the build up to this course. The help of Sandy, Grant, Brian and John helped me in my preparations for the course and I now hope that I can go on and represent Scotland at the highest level I can. If you would like to know any more about my adventure, or about progressing your own level of refereeing, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me – email.

I must finish this off with a big thank you to Grant, Brian and John for their help and support over the last few years and giving me the encouragement and belief to undertake this challenge. Sandy and the referees’ commission for all the time and help they’ve sent my way.

Dave Cormie