TRRA Board Meeting Minutes 2/3/21

As proposed at the TRRA AGM of 2020 – the TRRA Board will explore posting meeting minutes for all members. A record of the meeting minutes can be found here.

  1. Roll Call
    1. Roche
    2. O’Gara
    3. Low
    4. Johnson
    5. Bayazitoglu
    6. Herrera
  2. USA Rugby #RefFitRaffle
    1. USA Rugby has created a #RefFitRaffle that’s totally free to join at many levels (Social, Club, or High Performance). Last I checked we only had a few members registered and since the society with the most members participating gets a free L1 course, it would be great to get everyone on board. At a minimum the board members should all be participating. All you have to do is log your minutes worked out, not difficult, not requiring strava, just a great way to win some swag, get involved, and make the TRRA look good 🙂
    2. Bayazitoglu: Yes definitely we can push that!
  3. Lonestar/TRRA
    1. Roche: Okay this is going to be long but please bear with me. Firstly let me state that we must consider a base assumption here: referees are a finite resource. This has been shown throughout the existence of rugby (while not the direct number but rather the correlation to active number of teams and clubs in the area). With that established, we begin – We know Lonestar and TRRA separated a few years back. Regardless of the people involved in the split (and frankly I don’t know/don’t care about anyone specifically involved) I’d like to clarify mine and the TRRA stance on the status of Lonestar Referee Society. TRRA contracted out to many different rugby governing groups. The largest of which is TRU, then Rugby Texas, then Lonestar, followed by an assortment of social tournaments or D1A games. There are not enough referees in Texas (anywhere in the world to be clear) to cover every match every weekend. TRRA puts a ton of money back into referee development and education and thus must protect its source of income (which is about 80% from the TRU). The TRU collects the same amount of dues from all players from D1 to D4, therefore all those teams deserve (and pay for) the same level of coverage of referees. So that’s our base – we need to prioritize TRU matches (of varying qualities) in order to continue providing education and development opportunities to our members in the capacity we have and hope to continue and improve in the future.** So enter Lonestar. They need referees for their matches. They created a group of referees who wanted to prioritize those matches. Now in a perfect world, these two groups can co-exist. Remember referees are a finite resource. So not all games will get covered. Ever. But here is a chance for a group to prioritize a group of games, which is what TRRA does, on a larger scale for a larger organization. Okay so now we have Lonestar and TRRA operating independently. The biggest issue arises when TRRA was made aware of Lonestar assigning referees with no experience to matches and providing no one to assist them/coach them. Now from a TRRA point of view, possible future referees are being set up for failure, as well as the likelihood of something catastrophic happening in a match regarding the safety of players involved. The TRRA, who is in the business of growing the game of rugby as well as the referee pool, must intervene as these actions are a net bad for rugby in general. So why did the TRRA attempt to ban anyone that refereed for Lonestar in the past? Because by having our members support a society that was not training their referees, they were promoting something that was dangerous and a “net bad” to rugby in Texas. Okay so that’s the stand. TRRA fears for the safety of the players, the desire to become a referee after having unpleasant experiences, and the proven growth of this entity that is a “net bad”. SO thanks for sticking in this far. Hopefully you understand a bit more about the stance and why things are what they are in the past. Moving forward from this, TRRA recognizes that a society can exist independently to focus and prioritize their own unions or competitions and TRRA should not try to prevent suitably trained members from making their own decisions on which games THEY wish to referee and prioritize. I had a discussion with Doug Corrigan and Jamie McGregor from USA Rugby. Jamie led Doug and I to a few great points that I would like us as a board to consider moving forward:
      1. Two referee organizations can co-exist if they have a clear purpose of who they serve
      2. College matches are NOT the place to “blood” new referees
      3. Training and Education is better suited by the TRRA since we have more resources and members suited to the task
      4. TRRA must recognize that Lonestar has a purpose and should allow their members to join Lonestar and referee those games without fear of retribution
      5. Lonestar should NOT be in the business of competing for Youth and High School matches 
      6. If Rugby Texas or other organizations feel that their matches are not being suitably covered, they should discuss this with TRRA through the appropriate channels and not through seeking other resources,
      7. Assuming there is no competition and instead cooperation, training resources should be SHARED between the two societies
      8. Both groups should cooperate in driving participants to the L1 refereeing course. A rising tide lifts all boats.
    2. Roche: Fantastic, now doesn’t that all look good. SO. TRRA has the infrastructure and the resources to take referees from an L1 course and assist them into their first matches. And our members have the CHOICE if they want to referee college men’s matches in Texas. So in order to move forward, I believe we must recognize Lonestar as the referee group prioritizing the Lonestar collegiate conference and allow our members to dually-CIPP with them without any negative action being taken upon them. And Lonestar will recognize that TRRA is the best society to take in new referees and use the Rugby Texas youth landscape in order to train them until they reach a point when (if they want to) they will be able to join Lonestar to prioritize college matches. Now naturally this has differing timelines for all individuals. Someone may have one or two youth matches and be ready for a college men’s match. And if they ONLY wish to ref college men’s matches, they are more than welcome to only join Lonestar. TRRA will not look down on or shun anyone who does this. Likewise Lonestar will actively seek to recruit referees and encourage them to join TRRA to get their base training and into the referee landscape in Texas. Whew, what a fun ride. Who’s got thoughts on that?
    3. Roche: **I’d like to also draw attention that the TRRA has a robust contract with Rugby Texas games and through Tim O’Gara’s tireless work last year at L1 courses and referee camps, he was able to grow and train an entire group of youth referees and coaches that focused and prioritized Rugby Texas matches. Under his tutelage, more than 20 U19 referees picked up the whistle and officiated U19 and a few breaking into collegiate and club matches by the end of the season. So while I draw attention to prioritizing TRU matches, it must be known that by doing that – by allocating resources appropriately and in the most fiscally responsible way – we are able to achieve our goal of being able to prioritize all rugby games in the state.
    4. O’Gara: My Thoughts are that The TRRA is a meritocracy – Fitness improvements, Game day management improvements and Big decisions made correctly lead to better games for our members.  It’s so much effort by leadership at the TRRA, years worth of hard work and dedication by several board members over several years to establish the meritocracy.  At LS the most dangerous of situations, lack of fitness or any game management skills and horrible decision making sometimes from more than 22 meters from goal is prevalent week in and week out.  The result is usually, in fact the result is always, that the same ref is at the same level the following weekend.  We are guilty by association, the general public and the players in college rugby paint all refs in Texas with the same brush.  They are not aware that these refs are not part of the same society.  This is Rugby Union, without union rugby is lost.  One society only should exist, democracy to elect the board and meritocracy for appointments.  LS exists for those that cannot live up to those minimum standards.
    5. Ozzie:  I am glad to hear that Doug agreed with USAR and TRRA that Lonestar refs would not interfere with youth and high school.  It’s irrational to suggest that the TRRA can’t handle needed Texas high school capacity since the season has not yet started.  We have heard concerning comments from various sources that specific high school varsity teams are suggesting they will contact a Lonestar ref directly to ref a gams; such an action would be a conspicuous avoidance of the spirit of USAR directions and Doug’s agreement, to say the least.
    6. Ozzie:  I also find it amazing that a proper sporting organization such as Texas high school varsity level rugby would let teams select refs.  The value of an independent referee society is oversight, feedback, improvement, avoiding local team bias, game assignment based on merit and performance, technical and fitness standards, and professionalism.  
    7. Ozzie:  That being said, Tim received from Doug (on behalf of Rugby Texas) early this week the final Texas HS boys varsity schedule, with instructions to appoint refs as indicated.  Tim also confirmed with Doug, several times to make sure, that the TRRA will appoint and bill those listed matches as normal.  We all understand that this COVID year may need flexibility as teams adjust to player and field availability.
    8. Ozzie:  Finally, it is unfortunate that at the moment due to College COVID restrictions there is no Texas college D2 men’s 15 season (I have two sons with the LSC, each of whom is an officer on a differing LSC men’s rugby club); so and discussion of registering with Lonestar for this 20-21 college school year is moot.
    9. Ozzie:  Also….since I have been involved with the TRRA, we have invited the entire rugby community to our field trainings; and before and during COVID we put on public subject classes via zoom—heck, the teachings are available right now, for the entire world, on our YouTube channel.
    10. O’Gara: I’d also like to note that Lonestar is actively seeking more matches at the Youth and High School level which goes against what they’ve agreed to above
    11. Roche: Yes I am assuming that is because they have been awaiting our board’s formal discussion and will cease immediately once we notify Jamie and Lonestar that we agree on the above.
    12. Low: From everything I have read above, it seems like Lonestar wants to partner with us to use our resources to train their referees, etc. From all the emails I read, I don’t see a ton of benefit for us. I have previously played in and reffed in that conference and I guess I don’t really see what we gain from this partnership.
    13. Roche: That’s very fair Drew. I just want it to be clear to anyone who is considering refereeing in Texas to land somewhere where they are set up for success, and currently without any sort of partnership, potential referees are either falling in with us (and getting training) or falling in with Lonestar and getting no training and support. If our partnership can protect potential referees who are given the wrong information and think Lonestar is a good place to start off – we can possibly be the reason a referee wouldn’t quit.
    14. Low: Also to veer a bit off course I think the TRRA is in a very interesting situation with the pandemic and no rugby in the TRU. We have a TON of high-quality referees looking for matches and it would be shocking if Rugby Texas coaches didn’t want to utilize them and instead went elsewhere for referees.
    15. Roche: To clarify, are we all on board with the above agreements discussed by Jamie/Doug/I – primarily that TRRA Referees who want to prioritize collegiate men’s matches may dual-register with Lonestar with no repercussions from the TRRA given that Lonestar also upholds their agreements, primarily they are not in competition for non-collegiate matches. APPROVED.
  4. Level 1 Course – Houston
    1. Roche: We recently had a L1 course in Houston where Tim and Paul were teaching so that’s fantastic for them! I believe we had 6 participants, which is good starting off. Hopefully we will be able to drive up participation a bit more when rugby really starts getting going again.
    2. O’Gara: It was a really fantastic experience. Paul Graham and I were able to lead sessions and Steve Parrill was there to supervise and offer assistance as needed. We really enjoyed it and are looking forward to leading one more training before we are fully certified as educators and can venture off on our coach to make everyone a referee!
  5. Rugby Texas Schedule
    1. Roche: The Rugby Texas schedule has been given to us and is being entered into WTR as we speak. I will share the law variations the U19 are playing with, as well as COVID-19 protocols that must be followed by all referees participating in these matches. There are matches in all major metropolitan areas so if you are interested in refereeing you should register now with the TRRA.
    2. Low: I think it’s really important to make it known to the members that this is not REQUIRED. Anyone in the TRRA or the greater rugby community in Texas should not feel pressured to have to participate. These games are being played with law variants and are solely to ensure youth are out there playing sports and learning valuable lessons. This is not a do or die moment for any referee and they should not feel like if they don’t want to participate that will be held against them.
    3. Roche: Absolutely Drew, thank you for bringing that up. I could not have said it better myself. As a referee who is aspiring to great heights like many of us on this call and in the TRRA, it is so so important to know that this is not the moment that is going to make your career. This is just to ensure the youth have appropriate outlets and channels for learning life skills and we are there to facilitate that. So if anyone is concerned their lack of participation is going to affect their rugby career, please know it will not and feel free to reach out to me directly if you want to talk a bit more.
  6. Treasurer Status
    1. Roche: With matches on the calendar, I think it is finally time we bring Drew into action. I will create his access to the bank account and Zelle as well as work with him to make sure we have a good reporting system for invoicing and monitoring where the Referee Development Fund money goes. Anyone opposed to that? None. APPROVED.
  7. AR / Referee Coach Payment
    1. Roche: We discussed in August and September about raising the payment for AR’s and Referee Coaches. Reading off the minutes we agreed on keeping AR’s at $25 but bumping referee coaches to $50 per match. I would like to make a caveat for increasing referee coaching – AS LONG AS they complete a full referee report, are not fulfilling another role during the match, and send an email with the contents of the referee report to both the referee, regional representative, and RDO. Most of our referee coaches do this but some are only assigned as a coach for a JV match when they have the match afterward. They can still provide valuable feedback, but for the full $50 I think you really need to put in some active coaching effort.
    2. O’Gara: Referee Coaches must speak with a referee a few days before the game to discuss their game plans. Then attend the match, support them (NOT COACH THEM) at half-time, and afterward give them two good things and one area to improve upon. There are 12 comment sections in the coaching section in WTR, and they do not all need to be filled out. That is a performance review not a coaching session.
    3. Low: Is there a place for higher-performance referees to coach referees and AR their matches? 
    4. Roche: I’d rather not have someone assigned as both because then one of their duties is not being fully focused on. I think AR’s (particularly if they are experienced) can and should give helpful advice after a match, but not in the same capacity a fully committed referee coach assigned to the match can.
    5. O’Gara: We used experienced AR’s with almost all of our newer referees in their first matches, then the less experienced referee could also learn by supporting the experienced ref in the middle in their match.
    6. Low: Yes, I’m just hoping we can give new referees support with experienced refs on the touchline for them instead of prioritizing the middle for the person with the most experience and putting new people on the touchline.
    7. Roche: Absolutely, I agree with that.
    8. Roche: I’d also like to emphasize that this list of requirements for the referee coach to receive the higher stipend is not an attempt to create a long impossible list of things that have to be done but rather to acknowledge a proper referee coach is putting in as much time as a referee and deserves to be paid as such. Most if not all of our referee coaches are already doing this much work when assigned to a match and to coach a referee. So is anyone opposed to these requirements as listed above for a referee coach assigned to a match that wishes to receive the full $50 stipend? None. APPROVED
  8. TRRA Yearly Dues
    1. Roche: So it’s February and we only have 6 months of the season possible, I’ve been having thoughts about the $175 we are charging for dues, and wondering if we should continue to charge the full amount or offer a discount.
    2. Low: I think as long as we are upfront with the members about what the season looks like, it is their choice. Also, we always have the option of refunding or putting a credit towards next year or providing bonus kit etc.
    3. Roche: Yeah absolutely. How do we feel if we keep it on the table to discuss once we get a little further into the season and really see what opportunities are available for our members? All agreed. TABLED
  9. USAR R&L Committee
    1. Roche: So we have received the three candidates for Chair of the R&L Committee and since I do not know two of them and the other is the one I nominated… I have a pretty good idea of who I am leaning to vote for but will continue to share all the information with you as I get it. Voting will be before our next meeting so look on the WhatsApp for that information.
  10. New Business
    1. Referee Development and the Pathway
      1. Roche: So Tim mentioned he wanted to speak on Referee Development and plans of action and Drew I think this tunes into what you mentioned too. How do we get refs from here to here to here to here and focus on everyone individually with limited resources. Which is essentially our sole purpose as a society. Tim do you want to start?
      2. O’Gara: Sure! Overall I think we have a great starting process. We get interested members into an L1 course then immediately into a WhatsApp group with New Referee Officers and Regional reps. We have trainings within weeks of the L1 course that all new refs can participate, we have referee development camps where referees get multiple shots in the middle with experienced AR’s and Referee Coaches on the sideline watching them. Our L1 participant to center referee rate is better than most of if not all the other L1 courses in the USA. From our L1 a few weeks ago, two of those referees have already had a chance to ref in the middle. So our format to take an interested party through L1 to their first game is great. It’s after they have taken a few assignments, how do we communicate their biggest work-ons and how to really improve. I think a lot of it goes on the referee to take their own development and figure out what they want to commit to it – watch webinars, ask questions, etc. So keep doing what we are doing right well and we need to find a way to do the other stuff better.
      3. Roche: I agree with all of that. I think our Referee Development Camps have been instrumental into getting brand-new referees into the middle. I know that was your project Tim and I really applaud you for what you have done and will continue to do in the future. I believe for those next steps, what referees really need are games games games. I know when I was coming up and was free any weekend or evening, I would go volunteer to run touch, I would go on vacation and contact the local society to see what’s available. I’d always have my hand up and never turn down anything.So I do agree that some of that is on the referee. But I also believe we as the TRRA can share that message and let people know what it really takes.
      4. O’Gara: I believe some people WANT to get there and some people EXPECT to get there.
      5. Roche: This leads me to something I’ve wanted to discuss. Assignments. Now to be clear – no one will ever assign perfectly. No matter how or what you do in regards to assignments, someone always thinks they’re getting the short end of the stick. Sometimes they’re absolutely right and sometimes they’re wrong and think they’re still right. So despite that, I still want to (as a society) work on getting it as right as we can. And I fully acknowledge that this isn’t excluding myself, I have made poor decisions in the past and that’s why I really care about making it better. But how do we balance? For instance we have MLR referees who need warm-up games and almost-MLR referees who need games to prove they are the same caliber as MLR referees and not quite there referees who need those same games to prove they are there, and etc etc etc. There’s just not enough for everyone. But we still need to be better at it. Unfortunately I don’t have a perfect answer. What I am sure of – is I want everyone who is registered with the TRRA getting games. I want to say fairly – but also acknowledge that people aren’t always available the same amount? So should someone who is available 4 weekends get 4 games and someone who is available 16 weekends also get 4 games? I believe there needs to be discussion about assignments on every level. I don’t want anyone making decisions by themselves.
      6. Low: It makes sense to pair your assigners with someone else for discussions sake. Because you have someone who isn’t often available versus someone who always is and both of them still need games. Having a sounding board is important.
      7. O’Gara: It is important though that we never assign someone to a game they are not capable of refereeing.
      8. Roche: Agreed. I think there needs to be a level of transparency around it. If we don’t assign someone to a game because we don’t think they can keep up, we need to let them know. That way it is back on the referee to take action on what they can improve upon.
      9. Low: We should always have an answer to why someone was or wasn’t assigned to a match.
      10. Roche: So this isn’t something we necessarily need to vote on but I would like us all to think about it.
      11. Low: Can we have an action item for each regional rep/assigner to choose someone they trust and think will assist them best in making decisions?
      12. Roche: I think that’s a good action item. Our regional reps should take a look at who has a bit of a different thought process, but is also aware of the referee landscape and discuss with someone they would like to make assignment decisions on.
      13. Bayazitoglu: I think this is a great call, I know last year Tim and I spent multiple hours a week discussing the best way to assign matches – what games will be top-level, which referees are finally available and haven’t had a game in a while, etc. There’s so many moving parts.
      14. O’Gara: When we only had three assigners, it was very tough because everyone hated us for making the assignments.
      15. Roche: Well, much like how players always think the ref is wrong – the assigner is ALWAYS making bad assignments. But this way there’s more people to spread the blame around.
  11. Meeting Adjourned