Players and coaches show more respect towards female referees – Angela Grass
Together with Korea’s Kang Joo-Hee and Poland’s Agnieszka Michlic she composed a trio that epitomises the FIVB vision to promote the involvement of female referees as well as to increase their participation in major international competitions.
Angela had travelled to Koszalin after attending another round of matches on schedule for the 2014 FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix, as the second week of action in the elite Group 1 had stopped in Ankara with hosts Turkey, Germany, Serbia, and the Dominican Republic all starring at Baskent Volleyball Hall.
Angela’s adventure started when she attended an International Referee Candidates Course back in 2004: “That year one course was being held in Sao Paulo and as hosts Brazil could apply for two of their referees to attend. One of these two spots was automatically assigned to a woman and I decided I should take up an opportunity that you maybe get only once in your life,” she recounts. “I completed the course and then went to my first matches before becoming an international referee in 2008.”
The referee who hails from Porto Alegre last year attended the FIVB Women’s World Grand Champions Cup in Japan and has been whistling also at matches of the highly competitive Brazilian men’s national league. “At the beginning it wasn’t that easy because players and coaches need some time to understand that though you are a woman, you still can keep control over the match and over your emotions as well. You have to show that you are not afraid of having players yelling at you, that you do not lose your composure and that your nerves remain strong from the start to the end of the match. Once you gain their trust, they respect you for they know that you are somebody who knows the rules of the game and how to apply them. This is what really matters to them; if you are a man or a woman, well, in the end this is not their primary concern.”
Angela acknowledges that sometimes it is even more difficult to attend and officiate at matches where women are in action: “It may sound strange or extreme, but sometimes things get more complicated than with the men, probably because the emotional side is so predominant in women’s volleyball. This is something I have experienced a few times already throughout my career. On the other hand, once you have gained their respect, men become quite friendly and gentle. Some are happy to see me again at their matches and they even make jokes saying that since I am there, they have to be careful and can’t swear at the referee anymore as they are used to.”
The Brazilian lady enjoyed her time in Koszalin as well as the exchange of experience she had with her colleagues: “It was interesting to review and analyse our performances and to study ways to deal with the pressure. We had two psychologists in our group and they both brought in some interesting suggestions and perspectives into our world of refereeing.”
A graduate in physical education who works with marathon runners and other professional athletes, a personal trainer and a wife, Angela has found in her family and professional environment the right support for her refereeing career: “My husband is a former referee but he whistled only at national level. Back in 2004, when we realised that there was a chance for me to move up to the next level and to become an international referee, he did not hesitate a second. He motivated and inspired me saying he would always be at my side and that it was my turn to catch an opportunity that you won’t be given a second time. I have also found a way to combine my assignments with my other commitments at work, so everything is working just fine.”
FIVB is working hard to support female referees and their contribution to the development of volleyball. Angela is very clear in her mind: “I appreciate this vision and strategy which is definitely helping us improve and make it to the elite level. The long term goal of this vision should be that people, and primarily players and coaches, realise that I am a referee. It does not really matter, once you stand there on the chair, if you are a male or a female. You have to show perfect command of the rules, focus, discipline, the ability to stand the pressure and strong nerves. That is also what you should be judged on.”