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“It’s very exciting,” Zapp told “I feel honored to here, and I’m so glad rugby’s back in the Olympics. I’m proud to be a part of it.”

Zapp knew about the appointment to the Pan-Am Games for some time, and spent a lot of time working his way to match fitness for the event.

“I gradually built up from the beginning of the year and through summer 7s, then maintaining a 7s discipline in the fall before going to the camp with the Eagles,” he explained. “I think it prepared me well.”

Fitness for any top referee is important, but in 7s, that combination of speed and fitness is crucial.

“Today referee managers are training their referees to not only be faster but also to be smarter in how we approach the game,” said Zapp. “We can only predict the game of 7s to get faster as teams progress into the more professional environment of Olympic Rugby. Therefore, referees need to be constantly sharpening up to be on the ball as the game evolves.”

Zapp has worked closely with USA strength and conditioning coach Dave Williams to develop a fitness plan. He said he has combined that with work on game analysis and on keepin up with the game without getting in the way.

“This year, the iRB are promoting a Ball-Line-Running system from the referees in the Sevens World Series,” Zapp said. “The system strives to allow the referee to have shorter distances between breakdowns while still being out of the way. The Pan America Games was a preliminary step in incorporating the smarter running lines and the referees adapted quickly to a new approach on the pitch. But like everything, practice, practice, practice makes perfect.”

But, he adds, “nothing beats the art of running a good line to be in place when you need it. After all, if we are in the right place at the right time, and do our jobs correctly, we have the best seat in the house. But we have to work hard for that honor.”

What’s next for Zapp? Well he hopes to be in the Sevens World Series at some point.

“It would be a an honor for me to make it to the circuit,” he said. “But the important thing for me is to do well [at the Pan-Am Games] and hopefully it will take care of itself based on the prep I’ve made.”