Hevani Kaihau, 20, is receiving the David Williamson Referee Scholarship for 2020 to advance her skills and experience as an emerging rugby official. The scholarship fund was created in 2017 to recruit, train and coach young referees in honor of David “Bunny” Williamson, a national panel referee and referee evaluator.
The fund’s goals include assuring that teams, from youth to senior sides, have quality match officials by building a pipeline that will impact the sport for years to come. Will Nelson, 22, who just graduated from Santa Clara University, is also receiving a Williamson scholarship this summer.
Kaihau comes from a rugby family. Her father, Bo, had a lengthy career as a player, including co-founding the Sacramento Lions. Hevani and her sister were high school teammates on the Land Park Harlequins. Bo Kaihau went on to be a match official and continues to coach.
Kaihau has been taking classes at Sacramento City College and plans to transfer to a four year university. For now, she hopes to both referee and continuing playing. She would like to be a professional in one or both roles.
“My Dad gives me tips on refereeing and explaining the game,” says Kaihau. “I am beyond grateful to receive the scholarship.”
The Northern California Rugby Referee Society oversees the Williamson Scholarship. The eight member scholarship committee includes, Helen Marcus, Jennifer Tetler, Phil Ackroyd, Bryant Byrnes, Matt Eason, Neil MacDonald, Peter Sandhill and Hosley Past recipients include Andrew Stockton, Matt Mulholland and Drew Arballo, all of whom are officiating at the college D1-A elite level. Each spent a summertime exchange in Alberta, Canada.
“Hevani first came to my attention when I was coordinating referee coaches for the Sacramento Kick Off Tournament in 2018,” says scholarship committee chair David Hosley. “Already a very good player, she wanted to try being a touch judge. By summer she was refing sevens and has improved very quickly with support from our referee society coaches.”
This year’s recipients may travel to other regions of the U.S. or abroad for their exchanges. Rugby NorCal is planning to resume youth matches with high school girls seven-a-side league in the fall.
Besides the scholarship, the fund also supports other referee exchanges through the year, sending teenaged Northern California referees to other regions for tournament assignments and coaching. More than two dozen young referees are expected to advance their skills through Williamson financial support this year.