#14 Rebecca Kettleborough - Ruck

#14 Rebecca Kettleborough

#inspire – celebrating female referee’s in rugby

Rebecca Kettleborough is still in her first season as a rugby referee. 

She fell in love with rugby at the age of 17 after finally finding a sport that gave her a sense of belonging and she hasn’t looked back since.

In collaboration with our partners at ACME Whistles, we met up with Rebecca to chat about what drives her, how rugby is an inclusive sport and why team work is so important.

Can you tell us a little about your relationship with rugby?

I am a driven and competitive individual. When I was 17, I fell into rugby and instantly fell in love.

I didn’t know how to play, but someone told me to run forward, pass backward, and tackle the opposition if they had the ball. To this day, I believe those are the founding principles of the sport.

Growing up, I tried multiple sports, but I felt awkward overweight, and self-conscious. The atmosphere, people, training, matches, socials, and referee pathway make me feel happy.

Rugby took what I thought were flaws and used them to my advantage and the sense of belonging is priceless.

What was your first experience as a Match Official like?

It was at an U11s Tournament.

I was so nervous, that I instantly questioned everything I knew and felt like I knew nothing at all, but I have a very supportive Coach who reassured me, that I did have the knowledge.

Once I had blown the whistle there was no stopping me!

Tell us about your most memorable officiating moment to date.

Working at Frome 7’s with Somerset Referee Society. This was the first tournament I had been invited to. It was fantastic meeting so many other referees, with different levels of experience. The best bit was working together as a team for each game – everyone was welcoming and supportive.

Who inspired you to take up the whistle?

I’d heard of Nigel Owens, then I met Claire Daniels last season. I mentioned to my head coach that I was interested in being a referee. He was a referee with the Somerset Society, invited me to watch a few games, and gave me the confidence to start the process.

What motivates you to referee?

I want to carry on my rugby career, after my playing ends. I love being involved – the challenge, the learning, and the continual professional development. I get to meet so many people, clubs, teams, and other referees, I want to facilitate a game so people can play the sport they love.

In a few words, please tell us what it means to you to be a positive role model and INSPIRE other women and girls to get in to refereeing

When I first started rugby, female rugby wasn’t hugely popular. We often had to train with the boys, which was fine, and you just got used to it. It was also frequent to not be able to gather enough players together for games – it seemed taboo.

Fast forward to now and the profile of women’s sport is rising. The profile of women’s rugby is becoming increasingly popular, and with this new movement for female match officials, it is so great to be part of it.

Using these opportunities to travel around the country, attend events like Everest, volunteer, help out at charity days and meet so many different people – the possibilities are endless.

Being able to tell others that this is what you can do. Why? Because I’ve only just started too. I can reassure them the support is out there, and I can be that support for them too. To show them what I’ve done, to tell them that stepping into referring is the best decision I’ve made and I’ve met many people who say the same thing.

Sharing stories of people within my society and instantly just being so proud of them all. Referees like Hollie Davidson inspire people and that’s who I aspire to be like.

I have some great referees in my local society who have helped me beyond measure, and a female referee called Lucy Smith, who has been an absolute inspiration for me. The head coach of my old rugby team Jason Simms simply said “I believe in you”. He didn’t have to, and he didn’t need to help me, but he chose to.

Now I can turn around to another woman or girl, and say “I believe in you too”. I had help and support, I know what it’s like – it’s daunting, but believe me, once you get over the anxiety, the apprehension, I can assure you it will be the best decision you ever made.

You join a society, then it becomes a new team, a different team and you’ll fit right in. Just know that you can – any age, any ability, you’ve just got to make that step. Once you do you won’t regret it.

If you’re feeling inspired to take up the whistle, find out more about becoming a Match Official here: keepyourbootson.co.uk/referee-toolkit/supporting-match-officials-female/