Battling the Referee Crisis

Before creating the TRU Master Schedule for the 2019-2020 Season, the TRU and the TRRA convened and engaged in strategy sessions concerning the shortage of referees in the Dallas and Fort Worth area. The growing numbers of teams and players is fantastic for the growth of rugby, but it means more matches each weekend; yet the number of referees did not increase. Compared to the 15-20 active [meaning available more than 2 weekends per month] referees in each the Central (Austin and San Antonio) area and South (Houston) area, Dallas has about 5 active referees.

In order for the TRRA to meet the growing demand for referees in the North, the Master Schedule moved some Club matches to Sunday. These teams were informed that if they sent current players to the L1 Officiating course, and those individuals began refereeing with the TRRA (5 or more games in the season), their teams would be eligible to move those Sunday games back to the coveted Saturday time-slot.

The August 2019 TRU Summit held two separate L1 Officiating courses. 31 individuals attended these courses, but the hardest challenge was still ahead of the TRRA – how to convert these new L1 attendees into independent referees who are comfortable and confident refereeing a match without assistance or supervision.

Participants of the L1 Officiating Courses - TRU Summit August 2019

The TRRA Board worked on a two-part solution: (1) Providing adequate training to new referees and (2) Promoting player/referees or “Dual-Track athletes”.

The first part of this solution was spearheaded by TRRA Chairman Tim O’Gara – Referee Development Camps.

These camps are held across the state, typically following a recent World Rugby Level 1 Officiating Course, as a stepping stone for those brand-new to refereeing to train on the pitch, both with teams and with other officials. At the camps new referees experience picking up the whistle and taking the center along with simulations and trainings on the adjoining pitch. Tim O’Gara recalls the challenge put on him by Kenny Forehand, “We had to change the culture associated with the role of the CMO. We need to design a practice that’s as challenging as any competitive team would expect on [Tuesday/Thursday]. When refs come to a development camp it’s as challenging as any rugby practice they would go to.” The TRRA hosted four Referee Development camps in 2019 – Denton, Abilene, Katy, and Alvin, TX.

The Denton fixture was the kickoff event for these series of camps. Five CMO’s (certified Coaching of Match Officials individuals) along with four experienced referees took to the fields to train 12 new referees, the majority of which were certified in Dallas the weekend before at the TRU Summit. Brad DuLong, a member of Alliance Rugby Club, attended the camps before beginning to accept assignments on his own. “The biggest thing the ref camps helped with was having a course set up with multiple stops and a different penalty calls at each stop. This helped me when running up on a situation game time to make a solid call with knowledge. There were times we had added player/refs yelling at us which helped make us focus on the situation at hand.” Brad has been able to put that practice into play often, as he lives in the North [Dallas/Fort Worth Area] where the referee crisis is largest.

Referee Development Camp - Katy, TX October 2019

From Denton, the next camp was held in Abilene, TX. Located a 2 ½ hour drive from Dallas, Abilene has always been a hard venue for referees to reach. Referee Coach and current D1A Referee Jarrod Ford commented on the large number of young referees who attended these camps, “I’ve never seen a more enthusiastic group of new referees jump in with two feet.” Jarrod was acting as CMO and running AR for both the Abilene and Denton camps.

Heading into the last few weeks before Cup Season started – two camps took place, one in Katy and another in Alvin, TX. The Houston area camp attendees were strongly represented by youth and women referees. Two-time camp attendee, Bay Area Women’s Rugby player and TRU All-Star Anna Torres shared, “It’s good to get feedback from the game immediately, even when just reffing half a game”. Feedback to referees from trained coaches is invaluable in the development process. At these camps, the referees were able to come straight from the field (after a cool-off period), share their questions and concerns, and have feedback available immediately. O’Gara comments, “CMOs gave three points to these new referees [post-match], two things they did well and one thing to improve on – professional rugby players get coached this way – never more than one thing to fix at a time”.

Referee Development Camp - Alvin, TX November 2019

The second part of the referee shortage solution was the promoting of “Dual-Track Athletes”, those who both play and referee during the season.

There has been a long history of Dual-Track Athletes in the Texas Rugby Union. Other Rugby Club Head Coach and President Justin X. Hale has been both refereeing and playing for years. During his years playing 7’s – with Raggamuffins and Austin Huns – he would disappear after a match just to be found on an adjoining pitch with a whistle in hand.

The TRRA knows the value of these Dual-Track Athletes; they are fit, committed to the game, and knowledgeable of the current laws. They just needed a way to make refereeing more accessible to players who may shell out upwards of 400$+ a year just for club dues. Thus, the Dual-Track Scholarship was born.

Photography: Norma Salinas

With commitment to refereeing a certain number of games during the season and making themselves available for in-season matches, as well as attending Referee Development Camps, a current player could seek scholarship to cover their yearly dues to the TRRA (which covers NASO Membership, access to trainings, full kit for first-year referees, and more). At time of publication – nine referees have taken advantage of this opportunity. More referees have been sponsored by their home clubs. Both West Houston Lions and Dallas Reds have promoted and funded referees to the TRRA.

O’Gara wraps up with his thoughts, “We need 100 referees next year to keep up with the growth of the game in this state; not just names, but fully trained referees.”

The TRRA continues to show positive growth and engagement from members. With another L1 Officiating Course on the horizon and two more Referee Development Camps scheduled for 2020; the TRRA looks forward to the new year and the thick of the 2019-2020 Cup Season.

For more information on Referee Development Camps or the Dual-Track Scholarship please contact Tim O’Gara at For more information on becoming a member of the TRRA please visit our “New Referee” tab on this website or email TRRA Admin Kat Roche at

Houston L1 Course

Are you considering retiring from playing but still want to be a part of the game?

Maybe you want something to do on the off weekends when your team isn’t playing and earn a little extra pocket money?

Maybe you’re looking for the next big challenge?

Maybe you just think we look really really cool? (We agree with you on that.)

Consider becoming a referee!

First step is signing up for a Level 1 Officiating course – lucky for you there is one at the end of this month in Houston, TX at the new Aveva Stadium.

When: October 26th, 2019

Where: Aveva Stadium, 2055 Mowery Rd, Houston TX 77045

What: The best course ever!

For more information visit the registration website or email the TRRA Administrator Kat Roche

FREE Referee Camps

Have you recently been certified at an L1 course?

Maybe you’ve taken a couple of seasons off of refereeing and want to shake the dust off?

Check out our FREE Referee Camps!

Please note Ruck or Treat has been cancelled – we will be at Lake Highlands Park on 10/26

Our first two camps were massive successes in the Denton and Abilene area, and we have three more coming up! Experienced referees will be there to help you from the sideline or the pitch, as well as certified CMOs to prepare you for, and debrief the match with you.

There’s never been a better time to hone your skills as a new referee!

Contact Shawn Martin or Tim O’Gara to register. Spaces are limited at each so register early!

2019-2020 TRRA Membership

The 2019-2020 Membership Cycle is in full swing! In order to be eligible for assignments from the TRRA, you must complete the following items:

Make sure you select ‘Texas Rugby Referee Association’. CIPPing with us includes a charge that covers your yearly dues.

2. Update Availability in Who’s The Ref

For more information on how to update your availability – check out the page on the TRRA website here!

3. Sign the Code of Conduct

Make sure you read and agree to all parts of the TRRA Code of Conduct. Once you have signed this, you may send it to

4. Stock up on Kit

Make sure you’re looking fresh for the new season with BLK TRRA Kit. If this is your first season with us, contact to get sorted with your new kit.

5. Take the Law Exam

Make sure your rugby mind is turned on and test yourself with the newest Law Exam from the TRRA. Challenge yourself!

TRRA Board Elections

The TRRA Annual AGM was held June 22nd, 2019 after the Bloodfest 7’s tournament in Austin, Texas. Elections were held for the 2019/2020 season, and the following positions were awarded.

Chairman : Tim O’Gara

Vice-Chair: Kat Roche

Secretary: Ozzie Bayazitoglu

This Board will officially take over on September 1, 2019 and lead until August 31st, 2020 with re-elections held next TRRA AGM – June 2020 (official date TBA).

Referee Course – DFW – January 5, 2019

The TRU has once again partnered with TRRA to host a referee course in the DFW area on January 5, 2019. Referees are incredibly short in this area and if we don’t grow the pool matches may be moved to Sunday as a result.


Course Details

The Level 1 Officiating Certification consists of online pre-course work and attendance at an in-person clinic. The course is largely practical so come dressed to run/move around (as much as your body will allow) and participate fully in the clinic.

When: January 5, 2019
Where: St. Philip’s School – 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, Dallas, TX  75215 [MAP]
Cost: $75

Course Host: David Dodge

Pre-course Registration Requirements.  Students must complete the following World Rugby online modules available at the World Rugby Passport website.  First, register with WR on their Passport website that you will access with the noted links.  After completing each module, download the certificate you will receive from WR and email it to where it will be uploaded into your USA Rugby member profile.  The three WR modules to be completed in order to register for this course are:

  1. The online WR law exam found at
  2. World Rugby’s online Rugby Ready program found at
  3. The WR Concussion Management for the General Public module found at

Once the certifications have been added to your profile (To be completed within 1 Business Day of email to, you will be able to register for the course on this page.

Women’s Rugby Pathway Courses – April 21-22

We’re so excited to announce that in partnership with the Texas Rugby Union (TRU) and the Austin Valkyries there will be a L1 Referee course and L200 Coach course in Austin, TX on April 21-22. Also that weekend the Valkyries are hosting HARC, Detroit and Chicago for round 3 of the USA Rugby Gold Cup competition. We hope you’ll join us for the highly anticipated rugby matches and participate in either or both courses!

Saturday April 21st will have the L1 Officiating Course. As a referee, Kat Roche recently moved to Texas from Florida may be a bit biased, but she commented:

Kat Roche - USA Sevens 2018
Kat Roche – Refereeing the in-goal at 2018 USA Sevens in Las Vegas, NV.

Refereeing is an incredible way to be a part of high-level rugby and get to travel and see rugby all across the country (and world!). There are so many different levels of refereeing and you don’t have to be dreaming big in order to take this course. Maybe you just want to referee youth games on Sundays – this course will teach you the basics of keeping players safe and the game fun!

Sunday April 22nd will be the L200 Coaching Course. All clubs must have a L200 certified coach in order to be CIPPed with USA Rugby and many clubs (especially women’s and youth) have problems filling these requirements. Now is your opportunity to get certified and begin your journey to educate and inspire the next generation of players!

Both courses will be fully attended by and run by women in the rugby community so we need YOUR help to fill them up. Hopefully we will keep adding exciting things to the weekend schedule as this program grows, but we need your help to do it!

Please feel free to email Kat Roche ( if you have any questions.

Referee Course –

Coaching Course –

Please share around with anyone that you know may be interested!