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Referees develop chemistry in Nanjing

José Casanova (first row center), the FIVB Beach Volleyball Refereeing Commissioner, with officials for the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games

Nanjing, China, August 23, 2014 - At the end of each night, long after the last beach volleyball matches have ended, all of the referees voluntary gather in the lobby of their hotel. They sit back and relax, swap stories and loudly laugh at each other’s jokes.

Without their uniform blue uniforms, it might be difficult to believe that this jovial group of men and women is the same group of referees who seem so serious on the sand. 

“We have a stressful job,” said referee Drago Peslac of Croatia. “It is important to let that stress go at the end of the day.”

16 referees are working at the 2014 Nanjing Youth Olympic Games. The group features veterans, such a Mexico’s Miguel Angel Ramirez Rivera, who has worked at four Olympic games, as well as younger referees who have been identified as having potential.

“Like the athletes, we have to work very hard to get here,” Rivera said. “You get the best of the best at these tournaments.”

The referees arrived from 14 different countries, and quickly put aside cultural differences. They developed true chemistry by spending nearly every waking moment together.

“We are already a team of referees,” said Kritsada Panaseri of Thailand.

One of the biggest perks of being an FIVB referee is the opportunity to travel around the world for international competitions. On off days, the referees are free to explore the city. In Nanjing, highlights have included shopping and climbing the Wall of Nanjing.

“We have gotten to know each other,” said Regis Fonseca of Brazil. “It feels better to now work with friends.”

Several of the referees in Nanjing have worked Olympic matches. At the Youth Olympic Games, since the athletes are between the ages of 15 and 18 with varying levels of experience, the referees are able to develop a different relationship with the players.

“Here we are able to be part judge, part teacher to help them learn,” Fonseca said. “At the Olympics we just judge.”

José Casanova, the FIVB Beach Volleyball Refereeing Commissioner, oversees the referees in Nanjing. He spends much of the day outside observing his crew, especially the younger referees. Appointments in international competitions are merit-based, which allows young referees the chance to work top matches.

“All of the referees know the rules,” Casanova said. “I try to see if they are ready to make the big jump to the Olympics.”

Casanova revealed the characteristics that make an ideal referee.

“Personality is the most important,” Casanova said. “You have to be born for the role and make good, strong decisions with no delay. You also have to be committed by studying the rules and having knowledge of the game.

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