Relocation, Retirement & Other Transitions That Referees Face

Relocation, Retirement & Other Transitions That Referees Face

As we head towards the end of the season, changes will happen, officials will retire and others will be promoted to new levels. Transitions are a natural part of life, especially for referees. but there is also stress and anxiety sometimes associated with what our next move is going to be.

For referees, some especially tough transitions are:

  • Moving from officiating youth level to open age football.

  • Moving from refereeing in your region to the semi-professional game.

  • Relocating and being unable to officiate.

  • Coaching changes

  • Colleague changes 

  • Relationship issues

  • Transitioning from being healthy to being injured 

  • Body changes

  • Transitioning from pre-season to season to off-season 

  • Deciding to take a break from your refereeing career

Moving from officiating youth level to open age football

The difference in responsibilities and expectations can be really challenging for officials! It is also hard going from being a big fish in a small pond to a small fish in a big pond.

Moving from refereeing in your region to the semi-professional game

Getting used to a whole new level, and training style required, on top of navigating regional differences can be a lot of new things at once!

Relocating and being unable to officiate

This transition can be one of the hardest. As referees, we have so much value wrapped up in our identity as an official. Referees can have an identity crisis not knowing who they are outside of their officiating. The change in structure, routine, and support can be also such a big destabilising shift for referees.

Coaching changes

There can be lots of anxiety with coaching changes! Is this person going to like me/support me? Will I adjust to their coaching style? Will I still be valued? So many questions that this transition brings!

Colleague changes 

Changes can be stressful for officials. From injuries to learning how to work with new colleagues, there is a lot of anxiety that can come with a referee’s colleagues changing. Some common questions officials may ask themselves are, how will my role change? Will my team dynamic change? Will there be drama? Will I still be appointed to games?

Relationship issues

Whether you’re going through a breakup, getting into a new relationship, or struggling with family dynamics, relationship transitions can impact performance and overall mental health. Even though you know you should leave your baggage at the gym door, it’s SO hard to not have your personal struggles negatively impact your refereeing performances.

Transitioning from being healthy to being injured

Navigating injuries is really hard. Injuries are horrible. This transition brings a loss of power, control, identity and confidence for officials. Many referees ask themselves, do my colleagues still value me even though I “can’t contribute“ in the same way? Will I come back? Will I be the same? Will my officiating change? What if I get injured again?

Body changes

Whether you’re losing weight, gaining weight, losing muscle, building muscle, struggling with hormone balance, fertility, or bad body image days, transitions with our bodies are so hard. Changes in your body can impact your self-worth, confidence, and overall mental health. This is especially the case for female referees.

Transitioning from pre-season to season to off-season

Seasonal shifts come with dips in our mood, energy levels, and motivation. Seasonal transitions are hard for officials to adjust to. For starters, pre-season workouts, fitness tests, and routines are going to look so much different than in-season and off-season life. For many referees pre-season & season can be an exciting time with motivation and energy levels being pretty high, being in the height of competitive games. 

The off-season can be an especially hard time for officials. Many referees often refer to this time as the “crash”. All the fun of fixtures is over and you have to start all over again. Many officials feel lost without structure, and community and struggle with giving their bodies a break and proper rest that they need in the off-season. 

Michael Phelps has notably spoken about the “crash” that he felt after the Olympics. He described that for elite athletes, the competitive pressure, media exposure, and physical exertion caused him severe anxiety. After the Olympics, his comedown from all of the mental and physical hype led him into a dark depression. Even the most elite athletes are not immune to mental health challenges due to transitions in their sport.

Deciding to take a break from your refereeing career 

This is a decision that many referees don’t take lightly. Whatever your reason is for wanting to take a step back, know that you are not alone. This is a time that can feel super isolating for officials. Find a community, a new class, and a therapist or coach to help you through this process. Try something you’ve always wanted to try but never had time for. This can also be really hard for referees who have been really great to start anew.

Your pride and ego are going to suffer for a bit, but it’s good for you! This is your chance to explore another aspect of your identity. Make sure you create a routine for yourself so that your anxiety doesn’t get too far away from you!

If you are an official struggling with any sort of transition, I’ve got you! I know how it feels to transition from officiating youth level to open age football, going from refereeing in your region to the semi-professional game, navigating bad body image days, battling herniated discs and knee surgeries, struggling with identity and all the things in between! 

If you are an official struggling right now with a transition in your life, you are seen.

Until then next Blog, be well and stay mindful!

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.

Best Wishes,

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Nathan Sherratt

Referee Educator & Managing Director of The Third Team

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Nathan Sherratt

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