Many of my refereeing clients, with whom I work with on their mental game, worry too much about what others think about them. These officials have a desire for approval from others, such as colleagues, their coaches, players, and club officials.
If you (or your referees) want to please others, you have a need to be admired, accepted, respected, or liked by other officials, referee coaches, or players. This is partly a simple case of human nature, but when taken to an extreme, it can cause officials to feel pressure and become a huge distraction.
Do you worry you’ll disappoint the players or club officials if you fail to identify the foul play in the penalty area in the last minute of a game with a 1-1 scoreline?
Here’s an example of a situation described to me by a Third Team Blog reader, a referee:
“If I make a simple mistake like missing a serious foul play challenge, then that’s it, my game is ruined and I become very upset. My main concern is disappointing my coach, colleagues, or players and I’m worried they will think less of me as an official. Why am I so concerned with not letting down others?”
This type of thinking not only distracts you from performing out in the middle, but it also becomes a source of pressure for many referees.
We call this concept social approval. Officials who are preoccupied with what others think tend to engage in what is sometimes called “mind reading.”
Mind reading is when you make unfounded assumptions about what others might think about your performance, such as:
“Is my coach disappointed with the errors I made today?”
“Will the players be happy with my performance today if I make a mistake?”
“If I mess up today, will others be happy with me?”
Social approval comes in many forms. Some referees want to please or gain respect from others. Some officials fear disappointing people.
The effect on you is still the same when you perform: pressure, tension, and distraction.
The key is to understand when you begin to read others’ minds:
- Do you mind read when others are watching you referee?
- Do you mind read after you make a mistake?
- Do you mind read when you see expressions of disapproval from others?
The next step is to understand why you are so concerned with what others think about your officiating:
- Do you want to avoid embarrassment?
- Do you want to gain others’ approval?
- Do you want to impress others with your refereeing skills?
- Do you use sport as a way to gain respect from others?
Once you can uncover when and why you mind read, you can learn to react better in these scenarios.
A Simple Mental Game Tip in Three Steps:
- Catch yourself the next time you begin to mind read.
- Tell yourself that’s not important right now.
- Refocus on making your next decision only. That’s it!
This simple strategy will at least help you be more aware when you worry about what others think.
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.