Caley McNeely, Volunteer Referee
What does it mean to you to be physically active?
Being physically active to me is about doing something that makes you feel good mentally, as well as physically. Examples for me include my workouts (including pole classes), refereeing games, going for runs, or going for walk along the beach. These activities clear my head and afterward I feel so relaxed and good about myself and feel positive and accomplished.
What made you get into refereeing? OR why do you volunteer to referee?
I grew up watching my Mum referee, I got to meet all the other refs and it made me realise the lack of females in this area. Seeing my Mum confident refereeing a field of male players made me want to be a part of it.
I have done a few sports, and none of them really sparked my interest. I really like refereeing because it is like being behind the scenes of a movie, overseeing the game is so cool. As a bonus, refereeing keeps you active and fit! Each game is a learning opportunity to improve my skills and become a better referee.
How does being physically active make you feel?
I am a major overthinker and when I am being active my mind just focuses on what I am doing at the moment. I forget about any stress and love the freeing feeling I experience when I get active.
What advice would you give to other young women and girls looking to get into volunteering/refereeing?
I would tell them to make a connection to a female referee as a mentor – someone who you feel comfortable asking any questions you may have and building your support network to be more than your parents’ advice.
Get out there and give it your best go! Do not be intimidated by the players if they are older than or bigger than you, or if they talk back to you. Know that you are in charge whether it is a boys’ or girls’ game, under 13, or premier women’s – without you, the game cannot go ahead.
Have you come across any challenges when refereeing? AND What do you tell yourself when dealing with challenges?
Refereeing is a very male-dominated sport, and there are not many young referees either. There tend to be certain groups of people who believe they are better than the referee. They can be very harsh if a refereeing mistake is made in a game.
I was one of the youngest female referees in my federation and found this hard sometimes because I was both young and female. So what I did when dealing with these people is I just kept doing my best and surround myself with people who I trust, have a laugh with, and learn from. If people had a problem, they could come to talk to me about my thought process on a decision rather than make up their own story about what they think happened.
My biggest challenges recently have been the interrupted football seasons because of COVID-19, and balancing time between starting university and a new weekend job in a retirement village. Unfortunately, these challenges have meant I have taken a step back from football at the moment because, like many volunteers, I don’t have the time to fit everything into my life. I have not said goodbye completely – I am just juggling other priorities at the moment.
What does it feel like wearing the Silver Fern?
It makes me feel proud to have earned the right to be able to be a part of the community that helps drive football in New Zealand, and I encourage others to volunteer and do the same. Sometimes I forget that I’m wearing it; I see the New Zealand Football logo but do not realise that there is a fern sitting there.
Who is your inspiration?
I have three main inspirations: the first is my mum Wendy, who introduced me to the world of refereeing. She would take me to all my games, stay and watch and give me feedback on the way home. She is my number one supporter and told me to ignore what others were saying and do the best I could. To me, she was one of the best female referees I’ve seen.
My second inspiration is a close friend who was the referee development officer when I started, Chris Casey. He supported and coached me and sometimes he would just show up to one of my games and run the line for me. Chris gave me opportunities to help me progress and grow into the referee I am today.
Lastly, Anna-Marie Keighley is an inspiration to me as she is New Zealand’s top FIFA female referee.
She’s refereed the likes of World Cups and the Olympics. Anna-Mariee will be refereeing at the U20 FIFA World Cup later this year. There have been many barriers that she has had to overcome, and she has reached the level that I hope to reach one day. Anna-Marie refereed at the 2016 Rio Olympics and brought me back a T-shirt – hopefully one day I will make it to the Olympics and bring back my own!
What do you think about HERA – Everyday Goddess?
Some young females are reluctant to try sports because of stereotypes and the need to fit into the way ‘society’ believes you should be. Because of this, some young girls lose interest and passion before they even begin.
HERA – Everyday Goddess works to change this perception and help young girls find their forever love of being physically active, giving them support and the drive to give things a go. Even if others do not approve, HERA has your back. Check out more info here.