Jeff the NRL ref sin bins youth group conflict

Rugby League star referee Jeff Younis thrilled Catholic youth at Parra-Matters! recently, giving new meaning to ‘sin bins’, ‘Hail Marys’, and conversions.
After 15 years in NRL, Jeff Younis knows how manage conflict. Photo: Jordan Grantham.

By Jordan Grantham, Catholic Outlook, December 2016

Rugby League star referee Jeff Younis thrilled Catholic youth at Parra-Matters! recently, giving new meaning to ‘sin bins’, ‘Hail Marys’, and conversions.

Each month, Catholic Youth Parramatta organises Parra-Matters! at a different parish for youth group members across the Diocese. Corpus Christi Parish, Cranebrook, and youth group Corpus Christi Collective – C3 hosted Parra-Matters! on the evening of 27 October 2016.

NRL ref Jeff Younis. Photo: Jordan Grantham and Jazz Chalouhi.

Jeff’s sincere passion for the game and wealth of personal experience made the talk ‘Conflict Management 101’ entertaining, practical and informative.

Jeff knows how to manage conflict after 15 years in NRL and officiating at more than 300 games.

The current Touch Judge of the Year is a Catholic family man, bringing his wife and children to participate in the presentation.

Jeff underlined the importance of strong youth ministry. “Don’t undersell or underestimate what you do,” he told the gathered youth leaders and participants. “You have a very important role in people’s lives.”

He said an overlooked solution to reducing conflict was preventing it, as much as possible.

“The most effective way to manage conflict is to avoid it,” Jeff explained.

Avoiding conflict requires the dedication to practice and prepare. In NRL refereeing, that means practising how to talk, what information to communicate and how to perform when fatigued.

It requires arriving early, wearing the uniform and warming up. Much of this is applicable to ministry, such as thoroughly researching and preparing talks, arriving well in advance and being professionally presented.

Before the match starts, Jeff makes an effort to learn the players’ preferred form of address, whether it is a nickname or particular pronunciation.

“People have a better response when you know their name,” he said.

But when the inevitable conflict arises in complex situations and close-knit teams, the helpful acronyms ALARM and DOPE summarise Jeff’s advice to resolve conflict situations.

ALARM stands for Awareness (of potential issues), Listen (to conflicting parties), Acknowledgement (of grievances), Response (to each group), Move on (mentally and physically).

DOPE stands for Delivery (of leadership perspective with clarity), Objective (that unites both parties), Position (the people involved in relation to possible further consequences), Exit strategy (to leave the current conflict behind).

Jeff demonstrated these principles of conflict management with a serious refereeing situation made humourous by having his teenage daughter stand in as the ‘high tackler’.

Sr Rosie Drum MGL, CYP Assistant Director, offered scriptural solutions to conflict, such as the parable where Christ gives directions on correcting individuals privately, then with another a superior figure and, finally, with the whole community in the Gospel of Matthew 18:17.

Jessica Hocking is one of the founders of Corpus Christi Collective – Cand she shared a moving prayer from St Teresa of Kolkata:

“People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centred. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway. If you are honest and sincere, people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway. What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway. If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway. Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway. In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”

This prayer reminded everyone that conflict between good and evil, in ourselves and in others, is central to the Catholic life.

Jeff concluded by praising NRL players for their skill and discipline, as well as their contribution to the community and many charitable causes. He encouraged the youth present to share their faith through generous action and then through word.

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