Kelli Kaliszewski - Referee - 2014
“You’re a rugby player. You should learn to referee Murderball, rugby, a new quad sport”. In 1989, she had no idea what she had gotten herself into. Kelli had been playing Rugby Union 15s and Rugby 7s for 8 years, in college at University of Kentucky and for the Half Moons club team in New Orleans, LA. Having retired from playing the game she loved, it just seemed like a good fit.
Now for 28 years, Kelli has been involved with the sport of Murderball, Quad Rugby and Wheelchair Rugby as a National Quad Rugby Association and International Wheelchair Rugby Federation official.
In the beginning, players would recruit anyone for refereeing who could help with a transfer, tape the open footrest together, stomach the “mishaps” on the court, pick up “quads” from the floor after they fell, and dance at the parties. It was a fun, exciting birth of a sport!
When the sport started gaining popularity and stature, there was a greater need for referees to perform in a different role at a different level. Everything was moving so fast and there was truly a growing need for consistent officiating of this evolving sport.
During the 1992-93 season, Kelli wrote a Quad Rugby Referee Ranking proposal which consisted of a ranking system for the officials, and along with Lori McLeod, held 2 West Coast clinics to formally rank the active West Coast Quad Rugby officials. It’s success marked the birth of the ranking system that the officials currently use to this day.
Her Quad Rugby refereeing legacy is long and includes:
26 National Championships
4 World Championships
The 1996 Paralympic Games in Atlanta for the sold out exhibition event.
Conducting or assisting over 50 US and International clinics throughout the years, including one in Melbourne, Australia in 1993 and in Mexico City, Mexico in 2004.
Helping conduct a Quad Rugby demonstration in 1991 at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games, along with Terry Vinyard, Tim Davis and Bob Lopez. She still is honored to serve as the Head Official of their Quad Rugby event, which showcases the sport to newly injured veterans from the United States, Puerto Rico and Great Britain.
Even with all her credits, her biggest delight was when her first love sport of Rugby 7s used her new love sport of Wheelchair Rugby to reenter the Olympics!