Have abusive remarks, whether it’s dissent or a negative comment from a player, ever distracted you?
If the answer is yes, then you are not alone. In every sport, mental warfare occurs between officials and members of the playing teams. Its sole objective is to get into your head, interrupt your focus, mess with your performance and influence you into making an error which benefits their side.
There are countless examples of dissent in football, a group of players who make snide remarks as you pass by to put doubt in your mind. Club officials attempting to psyche you out from the technical area after a Key Match Incident. Spectators sarcastically celebrating you awarding their team being awarded a free kick.
The mind games in football are endless. The reason that players feel the need to be a dissenting voice is because, sometimes, it works. Some referees get so caught up in the antics of one team that they find it difficult to focus during a game and get mollycoddled into a mistake.
‘Trash Talking’ In Basketball
There was a lot of trash talking in the 2017 National Basketball Association Finals where the Cleveland Cavaliers faced the Golden State Warriors.
Warriors forward Draymond Green is notorious around the league for trash talking and getting into the head of opposing players.
“Everybody’s susceptible to that [trash talking]. I don’t care who you are.” – Draymond Green, Power Forward, Cleveland Cavaliers
Green was given the task of defending against the Cavalier’s Kevin Love. Green talked about his mental game plan for disrupting Love’s flow during the game.
“Try to take him out of spots where he’s comfortable. Make him do some things that maybe he don’t want to do… When he’s going, he makes their team a lot better, so it is my job to try to take him out of the game.” – Draymond Green, Power Forward, Cleveland Cavaliers
In order to combat dissent, you must have a mental strategy to prepare your to deal with it when out in the middle.
If dissent interferes with focus, then focus is the answer to inoculate yourself from dissent.
How Does Dissent Work?
Players make some negative remarks, “You’re just going with the shout ref, make your own decisions”. Soon, you become preoccupied with the dissent. Now you’re focusing on what players and club officials are saying and doing.
As you focus more and more on the dissent, negative emotions, such as anger and frustration, swirl inside you making focusing even more difficult. The swelling of these negative emotions causes you to lose your composure and your performance and decision making go down the tubes.
This allows the dissent to win out.
The way to nip dissent in the bud is to stop it, perhaps by using your cards, before it ruins your focus and infects your emotions.
Of course, you will notice the negative chatter of players and club officials but you need to stay calm in order to maintain composure and refocus on your game when necessary.
If you stay calm and focused, you will often frustrate the the person trying to get into your head and beat them in the mental battle of competition.
Tip For Winning The Dissent Battle:
In order to keep your mind on your game, it is imperative that you maintain your composure and not look frustrated with it, body language is a key element of match control for referees.
If you do hear it, pretend that you don’t notice the critical words, that you are in your zone.
Quickly refocus on the next phase of play in the game and let go of the negative comments intended to keep you stuck on that last decision you made.
Just like you focus on your game to get as many decisions correct as possible, focus on your performance cues to execute your role successfully.
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.