The COVID-19 lockdown has been everything but restful for SA Rugby national panel referee Stuart Berry, with work, volunteering, training and dad duty keeping him occupied.
In the last few weeks Berry has stayed true to his mantra in life – “stay human” – with the 37-year-old relishing the opportunity to develop his refereeing skills thanks to the frequent online conferences and analysis sessions, while at the same time doing his bit to help the less fortunate by cooking and distributing meals to those most vulnerable during the pandemic.
“The lockdown has given us as referees time to slow down and re-calibrate, but at the same time grow in our careers,” said Berry.
“The online sessions we have been participating in have been constructive and I believe we will all develop in our future roles thanks to that.
“As older referees who have been in the game for several years now, it is great to see the experience some of the younger referees are gaining by being part of the sessions with us, so lockdown will certainly have its benefits.”
Berry, who has officiated seven Internationals, 28 Vodacom Super Rugby games, 28 Guinness PRO14 matches and 35 Currie Cup Premier Division matches, has also been enjoying his training – although he admits that he misses a good surf ski session out on the ocean.
“I have certainly been able to dedicate more time to training now that we are off the field and with my events business being quiet due to the lockdown, so I have been doing a lot of trail running in the hills as part of my training programme,” he said.
“I live close to the beach, so I have also been running a few kilometres with my two-and-a-half year old daughter in a pram, which has been pretty special.
“The really nice thing about Durban is that the weather is good most of the time, so it is great to get out and train in the mornings. That said, I do miss paddling.”
Outside of rugby Berry has spent a fair bit of time volunteering, while his other favourite pastime is spending time with family.
“I dedicate about four hours a day to volunteering, and it has certainly made me realise how fortunate some of us are,” said Berry.
“We serve about 8000 meals a day to the homeless, and we assist with the cooking and distribution of the meals. It is a great initiative to be involved in especially in a time when we all have to unite as citizens and a country to steer us through this pandemic.”
He added: “It has also been fantastic to spend time with my wife and daughter. I have basically been a full-time dad in the last few weeks, which is something we don’t get much time to do when the season is in full swing.”
While Berry has been making the most of lockdown, he admitted that getting back on the field and spending time with friends were among the things he missed the most during lockdown.
“I am a social person, so I miss my friends, and rugby,” he said. “Rugby drives me and gives me the energy to do everything I enjoy, so that is what I am looking forward to the most when lockdown is over.”