South Africa’s Only Woman Internationally Accredited Volleyball Match Referee, Tania Lewis Cherishes Refereeing At The Olympic Games By Cheryl Roberts

25 May


tania lewis volleyball

Tania Lewis has been involved in volleyball for three decades and more, at all levels of the game. Now an internationally accredited volleyball match referee, Tania Lewis wants to improve her volleyball international match officiating expertise and get higher gradings so she can officiate the global volleyball events. But, as she tells ‘South African SportsWoman’ publisher Cheryl Roberts in this Q and A interview, she needs much more international volleyball tournaments to officiate at, especially tournaments featuring South African volleyball. Sadly South African volleyball, due to various reasons has not been participating in many international volleyball championships, over the past five years. And this lack of international tournament officiating is proving a negative on Tania Lewis’ international volleyball match officiating journey. But she’s holding on………..

Q: How did you get to be an internationally accredited volleyball match referee?
Tania Lewis: The National Volleyball Federations nominates national referees to attend an international referees candidate course (IRCC). Once you pass the IRCC, then one is required to referee at least three international matches and be assessed and nominated by the FIVB referees delegate/instructor. The FIVB at its annual Congress will consider and approve the nomination/application and issue the accreditation. I achieved my international volleyball referee accreditation in March 2017.

Q: What made you choose volleyball match refereeing and not volleyball coaching?
Tania Lewis: My relationship with volleyball over the last 30 odd years has been multi-faceted. I have been a player at all levels, club administrator, National executive member for SASSU and Volleyball South Africa, national team manager and coached at club, regional and national levels. The only other outstanding achievement was to be accredited referee. There is shortage of match officials in the country and when VSA presented me with the opportunity to do the IRCC, I considered it my duty to do so and the fact that there was no other woman international referee in the country. It would be herstoric for the country’s volleyball history.

Q: What do you enjoy about being an international match referee in volleyball?
Tania Lewis: To be honest, it is when I put on that international referees uniform. The sense of pride I feel and what it represents. The fact is that globally, female volleyball referees are still very much under-represented and so too on the Africa continent and at home. So, being representative of a minority  group on the international stage, gives me purpose and hopefully the chance to be a role model to other aspiring referees.

Q: Do you have any tournament ambitions? What international volleyball tournament would you really to referee?
Tania Lewis: At this stage, to be nominated by FIVB for any world championship/league event. However, I would need to gain the exposure on a continental level first and get the recognition needed for FIVB events.

Q: What courses and examinations did you have to undergo to become an international match referee for world volleyball?
Tania Lewis: I attended a 2 week IRCC in Kenya during 2014. It was both a theoretical and practical course. All the examinations were completed and I passed with distinction. Then managed to do my required three international matches in Namibia during 2016.  I obtained my international referee accreditation in 2017.

Q: Do you have to apply to be a match referee at international volleyball events? How do you get allocated tournaments?
Tania Lewis: There is a picking order to being nominated for a tournament. FIVB essentially assigns referees to various world events, but these are reserved for more experienced international referees based on the grading system. On a continental level, nominations are limited to the participating countries in an event (i.e African Club Champ, African World qualifying tournaments, etc). SA hasn’t prepared any national teams for international competitions for many years now, so such opportunities haven’t materialised. At African Zonal level, I have been nominated by the National Federation on a few occasions and refereed at Zone 6 competitions. I also got the opportunity to referee at the BRICS games hosted by China and SA in 2017 and 2018, respectively.

Q: What international volleyball tournaments are you hoping to do over the next three years?
Tania Lewis: My hope is to be nominated by FIVB for any world event, but it is highly unlikely given the limited international match opportunities continentally, as a result of minimal international participation.

Q: Do you cherish refereeing volleyball at the Olympic Games and world championship events?
Tania Lewis: That is every international referee’s dream and hopefully it could be a reality for me one day.

Q: Do you have a preference when it comes to refereeing. Women’s or men’s volleyball tournaments? Junior or senior tournaments?
Tania Lewis: I don’t have a preference. As referees one must be able to adjust to any level of volleyball competition. However, I do find senior men’s matches easier to ref because they are much more straightforward and structured.

Q: Are you graded as an international volleyball match referee? What grading do you aspire to achieve?
Tania Lewis: FIVB has a grading system based on experience – both continental and at FIVB competitions number of matches done – and match reviews from referee delegates/coaches. It is defined by A, B and C. A grade is the top level and these referees would be assigned to World Champ/Leagues and Olympic Games. B and C graded referees are assigned to world/continental in junior/senior category competitions. By all account, I am still a ‘rookie’ in the game and it will take years for me to reach the top of my game. But the reality is that such achievement will escape me merely because of a lack of opportunity.

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