Do you sit in the drssing room feeling anxious before games?
Do you feel uneasy before a game and fear that you might make an error?
Before a match, do your thought processes become stiffled and your mind filled with distractions?
Do you find it difficult to prepare mentally for a game and get into your optimum match mindset?
Anxiety, fear, worry, lack of ability to focus and difficulty getting into your optimum match mindset are some of the major reasons for below par performances.
Do you ever wonder how some officals seem confident and prepared to deliver the perfect game from the first whistle?
There is no secret to achieveing this. Top referees have a pre-match routine that helps them to reduce distractions, minimise anxiety and allows them to move towards the zone they need to be in for the game.
Fundamentally, elite level officials use pre-match rituals to prepare to enter the correct mindset that best suits them for optimal performance.
How do pre-match routines work?
When you are focused on your pre-match routine, you are not focused on the ‘what if’s’, the the teams, the atmosphere the spectators are creating to intimidate the away team and the team of officials, past imperfect performances and other distractions that generate anxiety, promote fear and create doubt about your ability.
As you can only focus on one thing at a time, paying attention to your pre- match routine grounds you in the present, keeps you relaxed and minimises distractions.
Additionally, as you move through your warm up routine, it narrows your focus and moves you into your optimal matchday mindset.
Once you finish your warm up program, you mind sends a signal through your body saying, “I’m ready to officiate. Let’s go!”
Examples of pre-match routines
United States Women’s National Team player Ashley Guldager, is consistent in performing her routine to help her feel better prepared and ready to play prior to each game.
Perhaps more unusally, she also has a half-time routine.
Guldager: “When walking to the field I play my own music, then switch to a warm up CD. I put my shoes and shin guards on in a certain order every time. Before we stretch, I always chew a certain kind of gum. I have an electrolyte drink before the game and a Gatorade at halftime.”
Lacrosse player Madison Hicks begins her pre-match routine the night prior to a game and has seen great improvement in her performances on the pitch.
Hicks: “I listen to a set playlist before going into the locker room, lay out my uniform the night before, and get my hair braided by a teammate. I started my routine because it got me into the game mindset, and I started to see improvement in the games.”
The lesson we can learn is simple, if you want to perform consistently at your peak, prepare consistently with a consistent warm up routine.
Developing Your Warm up Routine:
You must ask yourself: “What puts you in the correct mindset to officiate at your best? What actions, prior to a match, have helped you perform at your best?”
You must also establish your physical warm up routine you do prior to matches.
What order will you perform these warm up drills in? Writing out your routine may help you remember what to do prior to the first few matches of implementing your new phyisical pre-match preparations.
Integrate your pre-match mental preparation strategies to help you feel confident, focused, and ready to trust in your skills.
Remember to stay focused on preparing yourself mentally and physically for your game, not on the players or the result!
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 near Durham, North East England.