As a referee, your colleagues and your biggest adversary present two separate challenges. Your colleague may be a referee you have climbed the ladder with, someone who finished higher than you the previous year or a higher level official. Your biggest adversary is not another person, it’s you!
An adversary is often referred to as an enemy who continuously and relentlessly opposes you. Think back to a time when you were your own worst enemy. Did you verbally berate yourself after a missed decision? Did you mentally give up before you’d even blown the first whistle? Did you allow yourself to be intimidated by other referees?
Accomplished U.S. figure skater Ashley Wagner won a silver medal at the 2016 World Championships and has three U.S. National titles.
Despite all of these accomplishments, Wagner still battles an internal adversary at times. Wagner took a two-month sabbatical after her last Grand Prix event in China. She under-rotated jumps and battled doubts on her way to finishing outside the top five for the first time in her 25 Grand Prix starts, dating back to 2007. Wagner has admitted that she can sabotage her own performances by being too hard on herself.
Heading into her 10th senior U.S. Championships, Wagner was seeking to rebound and squelch that inner critic.
“The door is wide open for everyone [at the 2017 U.S. Championships]. I think that there is no obvious or clear front-runner… I’m competing against myself, because I’m usually my own worst enemy at nationals. If I think about everybody else, that’s not going to help me.” – Ashley Wagner, U.S. figure skater
Wagner’s goal was to quieten her inner critic at the U.S. Championships. By staying positive, Wagner was able to perform well in the free skate program, taking second place and putting herself in position to make the U.S. World Championship team.
Warning Signs That You Are Detrimental to Your Own Performances
- You have difficulty giving yourself credit for your successes
- You undervalue your strengths.
- You create unrealistically high expectations of yourself and wonder why you always fail.
- You compare yourself and your accomplishments to other referees.
- You are overly critical of most things you do.
- You over-analyse your performance and beat yourself up over every past mistake or missed opportunity.
- You fear you will fall or make mistakes during games.
Why be so self-critical?
You are already facing strong competition and tough challenges in your games, there is no need to make it harder. Besides, your thoughts about yourself are usually distorted. You are too close to yourself to get a true perspective and just because you think something doesn’t make it fact. You can just as easily grab a hold of thoughts that support your skills, talents and accomplishments. You can choose to be your biggest supporter rather than your worst enemy, you have a choice!
Strategies For Overcoming Your Inner Critic
Firstly, you need to fact-check your thoughts. Ask other people for their feedback regarding your skills and performance. Ask yourself, “Is there a chance that I’m too hard on myself?” If so, make a conscious choice to replace the inner critic. Start with one positive self-statement, “I have trained hard, studied the statistics and I’m ready for success.” Ask yourself: How often do I criticise myself when out in the middle? Being more self-aware is the first step to changing this behaviour.
At The Third Team I work individually and in collaboration with different professionals where I have developed workshops associated with Resilience and Mental Toughness Development to help referees. The workshops are interactive, where referees are encouraged to open up and share their experiences to help each other.
Feel free to contact me if you’d like to know more about my workshops and how I could help you or your officials.
Referee Educator & Managing Director of The Third Team
Nathan Sherratt, Referee Educator, Resilience Trainer and Managing Director of The Third Team. A Mental Toughness Practitioner based in County Durham, North East England.