How To Be A Confident Leader When Refereeing

How To Be A Confident Leader When Refereeing

Confident Leadership takes mental toughness to ‘survive and thrive’. As resilience is key to working through the never-ending distractions and resistance, confidence is also essential for good leadership.


In a high-performing officiating team, the referee, their assistants and the fourth official all trust each other, they trust their coaches, and they trust themselves. The referee and assistants are experts in their positions, but they all officiate the same game.

Having faith in your abilities is worth it’s weight in gold, but it doesn’t appoint you to a game. The belief in you and your skills is what gets you the exicting fixture you want to officiate. In addition, each referee must show confidence in the other members of their team, be willing to trust their judment of a foul in the penalty area.

Confidence, in your own ability is built during technical and physical training, not on a matchday.

Confidence is also about trusting your ability in the present but also about your potential in the future.

It is similar when you build a new business relationship, it is not often you immediately trust your someone’s abilities to deliver, or for them to trust you similarly.


The presumtion of goodwill is an important part of a healthy team culture, forming a solid platform for confident leadership. As soon as you become suspicious of other members of your team, it’s not only the conversation and relationship that starts to fall apart, it’s the entire culture.

Culture is what drives the behaviour of the members of a team and which you can affect by leading by example.

The way to grow a natural confidence through leadership is by acting with integrity, setting high standards, and being focused upon learning and growing.

Here are three important components for developing your team’s trust and goodwill in you and your leadership;

1. Values-Based Leadership Starts With Awareness

A confident leader of the team acts with awareness, not only of what they know and are good at, but what they don’t know and aren’t as strong on. By being honest with yourself and your values you can act and lead with integrity.

Conducting yourself with integrity has two facets: realising your values and conducting actions according to them. If you’re part of a team, it means you’ve accepted those shared values as part of your identity as referees, and are ready to stand up to what you believe is right to deliver a game most effectively.

2. Leaders Are Geared For Career-Long Learning

Learning can sometimes be humbling, which makes both insecure and overly arrogant referees against it. Officials who are confident leaders are programmed to learn and grow.

On occasion you’ll struggle with saying the words, “I don’t know” out loud. You might think it’ll affect your status or trust your colleagues have in you when, in fact, the opposite is true. Accepting you’re unsure is a sign of confidence and a demonstration of your leadership skills. Knowing and being open about the limits of your refereeing ability shows you’re open to learning.

Not knowing everything is not the goal. Choosing to seek the answers that complete the pictures is a key aspect of a growth mindset, a critical leadership quality.

3. Leaders Set High Expectations For Themselves And Others

As the team leader, your focus should be on helping other referees develop their skills. However, when team members fall below the expected standard, you also need to have difficult conversations and give constructive feedback in order to move forward and improve.

One area of confident leadership is setting high expectations for your team and recognising when a high level of accuracy is achieved. When that doesnt happen, the errors need to be addressed in a constructive, collaborative way.

Do you automatically trust a new colleague? How do you build confidence within your officiating team?

The Confident Leadership Checklist:

  • A high-performing team is made up of officials who trust each other and themselves. This 360-degree confidence takes both practice and goodwill, the latter being crucial to a healthy team culture. Culture, after all, drives the behavior of referees.
  • Act and lead with integrity on the pitch by being true to yourself and your values
  • Learning lasts the length of a career. Remember: Accepting you don’t have the full picture on an incident within a game takes confidence.
  • Set high expectations for yourself and the team of officials. Recognise when accuracy is achieved and when it is not, and address how that can be worked upon.

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.

Best Wishes,

Nathan Sherratt Signature

Nathan Sherratt

Referee Educator & Managing Director of The Third Team

Nathan Sherratt

Nathan Sherratt, Referee Educator, Resilience Trainer and Managing Director of The Third Team.  A Mental Toughness Practitioner based in County Durham, North East England.