“A good referee can’t make a bad game good…”

“A good referee can’t make a bad game good. But a bad referee can make a good game bad.”

Nigel Owens

Who would be a rugby referee? Now that the first week of the Men’s Rugby World Cup is over, I’m reminded that being the person with the whistle can be an unenviable position. Granted, these days there are video replays and bunker reviews, but the pace of the modern game means that match turning decisions must be made in the blink of an eye. Marginal calls cause big upsets. At the end of the match, no matter how well the referee has officiated there will be one set of fans who think something wasn’t right. Perhaps the one saving grace for rugby is that the referee still receives some sort of respect on the field unlike their round ball counterparts.

This week I was introduced to the concept of sympathy decisions. This is when a referee who has had to make a tight call later in the match attempts to make amends by favouring the “unlucky” side. Understandable as we all, I believe, have an innate sense of fair play. On occasion our young people may well feel aggrieved with decisions that are made, with disappointments that come their way. Not being picked can be crushing. Finishing somewhere other than first can be disappointing. Missing out on an opportunity upsetting. But despite the short-term angst, such disappointment can be turned to productive ends. Resilience and determination can be built.

There is a significant difference between something being disappointing and it being unfair. Staff strive to be fair in what they do, and we seek opportunities for all to take their place as representatives of the school. Be it in music, sport, academia, drama, debate, or art we endeavour to provide opportunities for new experiences to be enjoyed. This year in the Senior School we are offering archery. We’ve volleyball teams which have played their first fixtures this year. These may well provide the opportunity for pupils to show their skills. Where our young people see genuine unfairness, I hope that we are giving them the confidence to speak up and to challenge those who seek to take advantage or whose actions harm the community. If we manage to achieve this, then we will have educated capable and well-rounded individuals who are ready to take their place in the wider world.

Every time I visit our nursery I’m struck by the clarity of their rules. All activities here are governed by simple and easy to understand rules and we would do well to remember them as we move away from the delights of the sandpit. By being kind and thoughtful to each other, and by trying our best in all we do we will have a successful year. The school year is considerably longer than an eighty-minute rugby match, that said, I hope to keep my red cards in my pocket until the final whistle is blown on this year.

Nicholas Hammond