At the present time many things in life are uncertain, chief amongst which, is when referees will be able to get back out in the middle and officiate games again.
You may be tempted to give in to your craving for less healthy meals and snacks, or feeling like giving up on your goals to improve your refereeing in time for when football returns, it’s not always easy to keep going. As your motivation is dwindling you may not be doing as much exercise as you like, if you are doing exercise then the intensity of your activity may not be at the level you need it to be.
The issue you face is that, having been in this mode for roughly eight weeks already, if you continue in this manner you will start to notice a significant negative impact upon your mental health. As such this will then further impact your readiness to return to officiating, both from a physical and psychological perspective, should the season recommence in a fairly short space of time.
The implication of all of this is that, from an emotional perspective, it becomes very easy to be frustrated with yourself. You may begin to compare yourself to your fellow officials who have been equipped to mentally handle this challenging period much better than you and who have maintained a higher level of physical fitness.
In order to make changes which will send you in the right direction, you should look to tone up your mental strength during this period of inactivity. It takes only a few minutes out of your day and allows you to train your brain to think differently, manage your emotions, and alter your behaviours. These are all things which can improve your performance when you get back out on the pitch. With regular exercise, your mental strength will swiftly increase.
There are a number of exercises which can improve the strength of your mind, I have whittled them down to my top three which will help you tone your mental muscles quickly and easily:
Consider the good things in life for which you have to be grateful rather than pondering the things you’d like, but which have eluded you. Doing this will have a big positive impact on your psychological health. There is a long line of evidence which supports the theory that gratitude increases our levels of happiness and reduces the chances of us developing depression.
You can make gratitude a daily habit by seeking to focus on three things in your life for which you are grateful. It could something so basic as feeling thankful for the having a roof over your head or appreciating the sunset on a summers evening.
It is very difficult when you’re replaying in your minds eye something unpleasant which happened last week, such as an error you made in your previous game or making a prediction that something awful will happen next week. Mindfulness is about staying in the present moment. You’re only able to affect your behaviour right now, so it’s important to be able to focus on the point in time at which you currently stand.
Studies have shown that Mindfulness has an abundance of physical and psychological benefits, which include reducing stress levels and having a more compassionate internal monologue.
Take time to analyse what’s going on around you. Listen to the sounds which surround you. Look around the room and see what stands out to you. Scan your body and take note of how it feels.
Once you have done this a number of times your ability to focus will increase, which isn’t always easy to do. This will aid your enjoyment of each moment because you’ll be less distracted by yesterday’s errors and tomorrow’s concerns.
3. Be a Good Actor
It’s easy to wait until things go wrong to make changes. But waiting until you feel like you’re refereeing well before applying for a promotion could backfire. Conversely, there is evidence to support the theory that you should behave like the official you want to become. When you alter your behaviours, your thoughts and emotions will follow.
When your mood is low, your head might drop, however, doing that only serves to keep you in a depressive state. Pick your head up and smile, however, and you’ll feel an instant lift in your mood.
However, don’t expect to feel confident randomly. Instead, ask yourself, How can I come across as confident? Acting as a confident person, amidst feelings of self-doubt, helps you feel more certain of yourself. Studies have indicated acting confident increases the confidence of others, such as players and club officials, in you.
You should yourself, What would a mentally strong person do? Then, act as if you feel strong currently. This will allow you to grow a little stronger.
You constantly have an opportunity to develop mental muscle. Simple, short exercises performed regularly over time will help you build mental strength.
You must also pay attention to the bad habits diminish your mental strength. Feeling sorry for yourself is one of many habits that can pour cold water on your mental strengthening routine. Giving up unhealthy habits will help you work more efficiently, not harder.
These tips are helpful for daily life and in future. As well as likely having a big impact on your refereeing ability in future.
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.