Do you have fun when you referee? Is officiating enjoyable for you, or does it cause added stress in your life?
You would think that referees have a deep passion and love for officiating, but that is not always the case.
Many referees admit that officiating is not always fun. High expectations and pressure have taken the fun out of refereeing for many officials today. Why do some referees find officiating no longer enjoyable?
Think back to when you first picked up a whistle, training was fun. Matchdays were exciting. You couldn’t wait to get to the gym or out for a run. You enjoyed being around your colleagues. Probably, many of your fellow officials were your close friends.
Unfortunately, as some referees grow older something changes. Training begins to feel like an obligation. You fear failure. Everything about your career is more serious. You feel you are constantly being judged.
You view Cup Final appointments, promotions or acknowledgments as the most important aspects of your career. When you focus on performances, pressure and stress dominate your mind.
High Expectations Become Unbearable
- “If I don’t keep control of this game, I’m a failure.”
- “If I don’t perform at a high level, I won’t get a promotion.”
- “If I don’t referee well, my family will wonder why I make sacrifices to officiate.”
- “If I make any mistakes, my colleagues will get upset with me.”
All the if’s lead to higher expectations, more pressure to perform, greater fear of failing, and less enjoyment of refereeing.
A View Through The Lens of an Olympic Athlete
Maddie Mastro is a 21-year-old snowboarder preparing for her second Olympics at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
At the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, Mastro fell short of her goal of pucking up a medal, finishing 12th in the halfpipe. Mastro explained how pressure and high expectations affected her performance:
“I was 17, turning 18 at the last Olympics, so I was young. I’ve had a lot of time to grow and learn… I’m going to go into the next Olympics not worrying what people are going to think, not worrying about the expectations or the pressures, whether they’re exterior or my own.” – Maddie Mastro, Snowboarder
For the 2022 Olympic Games, Mastro has shifted her mindset. Mastro is primarily focused on having fun and executing her game plan.
“I’m just going to prioritize having fun and landing tricks, which is something I wish I did more of in 2018, because I did let those expectations or pressures, kind of, eat away at me a little bit. And this time, I’m just going to go treat it like any other contest and have fun.”– Maddie Mastro, Snowboarder
When you focus too much on results and want to do well too badly, you become anxious and underperform. You can avoid falling into that trap by choosing a different mindset.
Focusing on having fun and executing your game plan increases your chances of success. In addition, you will re-ignite the passion you experienced when you were a younger referee. Shifting your mindset to a productive and positive perspective is a win-win proposition.
Advice For Focusing on the Fun of Refereeing
Every day before you train or on matchday, remind yourself the reasons you started officiating in the first place. Write a list of the reasons you had fun as a young referee.
Make these objectives, what you enjoyed about officiating back then, a priority when you referee today.
Next, release yourself of the high expectations you have (or feel from others), such as to perform at your best all the time or be perfect. Expectations are the root of dissatisfaction when you don’t meet them.
Dismiss your “shoulds” or “shouldn’ts.” “I should not make mistakes”, “I should make my coach happy”, or “I should always perform to my best level” are examples of expectations you want to discard to enjoy your refereeing more.
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.
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.