Considerations For Matchday -1

Considerations For Matchday -1

Good preparation for any referee starts the night before. There is truth in the phrase: fail to prepare, prepare to fail”.

But physical preparation is not the only thing an official needs to do before a fixture, which is why I pose this question: ‘What should referees think about prior to a match?’ Are some thoughts more helpful than others? Can officials perform better depending on what they think the night before the game?

Let’s look at the research from the world of sport psychology to find some tips that can help you achieve the right mindset before a big match.

Night Before a Match

Positive Imagery

Visualising successful a performance out in the middle has been found to increase confidence, and will also help referees manage their nerves. In this case, pictures are more powerful than words, picturing yourself doing well has been found to be more effective at enhancing mood and reducing anxiety than telling yourself that you will do well.

It is worth noting that there are some potential downsides to daydreaming about your future success though. It was found in several studies that positive visualisation could decrease your urgency of working towards your goal or stop you from properly preparing for the obstacles you will encounter along the way. However, these relate to behaviour and self-control strategies over a long period of time. Thinking positively for a few minutes before you cross the white line (and once you’ve put in the hard work) shouldn’t affect this and will help boost your mood.

Recalling Your Best Displays

Thinking about previous positive experiences will help improve your confidence. Officials should remind themselves of successful performances to help them feel more confident about upcoming fixtures. Most importantly, they should think about what helped them do well in the previous match and how they can apply that now.

An easy way for referees to better reflect on their former performances is using the following questions:

  • What three things did you do well?

  • What three things could you do better?

  • What would you do differently in your next game?

Remember The Importance Of Preparation

How well you have prepared for a fixture is an important source of confidence. Controllable sources of confidence such as preparation will lead to more enduring confidence levels. Getting officials to remind themselves of all the work they have put in prior to the match will increase their feelings of confidence and control in the build up to performance.

A word of caution, being confident in preparation is not enough on its own, the preparation should be as good as it can be in order to perform better on the field of play too.

Focus On Yourself & Don’t Look Over The Fence

When referees compare themselves to others, their confidence suddenly depends on those around them and is not within their realm of control anymore. This is stressful and increases fear of failure. Alternatively, focusing on themselves and what they can control will increase their confidence. Reminding themselves of what they can do will help them to feel more confident in their ability to perform out in the middle.

For officials to focus on themselves as opposed to colleagues, they should think about their process and what they want to achieve when they are refereeing. An easy way to do this is to ask yourself or your officials:

  • What do I want to achieve from today’s game?

  • What three things do I need to do to achieve that?

Consider How You’ve Overcome Setbacks

Research into the mental resilience of Olympic champions has shown how overcoming setbacks has helped them deal with future challenges. Here are a couple of easy strategies that can help you achieve the same results:

  • Encourage referees to think back to previous setbacks that they have had and what helped them overcome these at the time.

  • Ask officials to think about what they learnt from their past setbacks

  • Ask referees to think about who helped them overcome their past setbacks.

By using these three easy tips, officials are encouraged to find confidence in their ability to overcome setbacks, acknowledge that setbacks are important for learning and develop a good team and support network around themselves.

See Fixtures As A Challenge And Not Threat

When you perceive something as a threat, it is more likely to cause you stress. referees who reframe a game as a challenge, as opposed to a threat, increase their performance. Instead of thinking about the potential negative consequences of making mistakes, they should reframe the match as an opportunity to succeed. The increase in stress caused by focusing on ‘what could go wrong’ will also hinder the quality of their sleep the night before a match.

Ensuring Good Sleep

Sleep duration and quality have a significant impact on how you feel and subsequently how you perform. It’s linked to creativity, mood and concentration. Be sure to feel fresh and ready for tomorrow’s fixture!

Closing Reflections

There are a number of strategies that anyone can use to help them thing about the right things before a match. Getting into the right frame of mind the night before a game is a great way to ensure that you hit the ground running the morning of your fixture.

At The Third Team I work individually and in collaboration with different professionals where I have developed workshops and 1-2-1 sessions associated with Resilience and Mental Toughness Development to help referees. The workshops and 1-2-1 sessions are interactive, where referees are encouraged to open up and share their experiences to help themselves and each other.

Feel free to contact me if you’d like to know more about my workshops or 1-2-1 sessions and how I could help you or your officials.

Best Wishes,

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Nathan Sherratt

Referee Educator & Managing Director of The Third Team

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Nathan Sherratt

Nathan Sherratt, Referee Educator, Resilience Trainer and Managing Director of The Third Team. A Mental Toughness Practitioner based in Tyne & Wear, North East England.