International referee discusses her journey and career highlights with FIVB.com

Joo-Hee Kang is an international volleyball referee and former Korea national women’s team player. After retiring from playing, she became Korea’s first female international referee. FIVB.com recently sat down with Kang to discuss her journey to officiating some of the biggest events in world volleyball.

What inspired you to become a referee?

I started playing volleyball when I was 10 years old. I was a member of Korea’s national volleyball team alongside my club team.

Since that time, I remember referees as important officials for the players during the game. This is because the results of the players’ passion and hard work is judged by the referees. So as a player, I was always hoping for a fair judgement on the field of play. I don’t recall seeing any female referees domestically or internationally during my time as a player. It was only when I retired that I saw a few international female referees at FIVB events.

After my retirement, I went to university to study physical education and sports psychology. I was also learning English and Japanese. So, when the Korea Volleyball Association was looking to prepare an international female referee, I was ready. Being a former player, my application for the international referee candidate course was successful. This is how my journey as a referee began.

Kang Joo-Hee with her colleagues at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games

What is your memory from the first event you worked at? What were your feelings?

My first tournament as a referee was an Asian Volleyball Confederation (AVC) continental event, the Asian Junior Women’s Championship in 2004. I wasn’t afraid, in fact it felt like a homecoming. I enjoyed the experience of working with referees from all over the world and learning from their experience and knowledge.

The first FIVB competition I officiated was the Volleyball Grand Prix 2006 in Okayama, Japan. I was a little nervous, but eager to do my best at a top international event with some of the best women’s teams participating. Everything was so overwhelming, but I remained calm. Fortunately, I remember returning home with a light heart and very excited as the event went well. I was very grateful to the senior referees and referee delegation for their help and advice.

What do you enjoy the most about being a referee?

The best part is being part of world class competitions. Each event is different, and it is exciting to see different venues, teams, players, fans and atmospheres. Of course, it is amazing to have opportunities to communicate with other referees and referee supervisors from all over the world.

We are like a big international family. We discuss rule changes, help each other master our skills, share our news, exchange small presents, spend time together outside of matches. Being part of this world community is a great honour and I am happy to learn from my colleagues.

Kang Joo-Hee officiating at the match

What do you think can be done to encourage more women to become referees?

Female referees started appearing on the volleyball scene in the 1990s, but I believe the position is not yet fully established as being double gender. I believe if a person works with courage and in a healthy manner in accordance with the sporting spirit, he or she can be a referee. Gender doesn’t matter. What matters is the ability to judge and officiate.


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