Streamlining Your Pre-Match Routine To Give Your Performance A Spark

Streamlining Your Pre-Match Routine To Give Your Performance A Spark

Do you have a pre-match routine? More than a physical warm up routine, but also a mental preparation routine?

Is your routine consistent? In other words, do you perform the same pre-match routine prior to every fixture you are appointed to?

A scattergun pre-match approach leads to inconsistency in decision making or difficulty getting into the flow of a game. For example, a Level 5, FA referee who recently reached out to The Third Team asked:

“I always seem to get off to a slow start in games. It takes me to make several decisions which I’m not committed to before I feel comfortable out in the middle.  Is there anything I can do to help me get into the flow of a game more quickly?” A Level 5, FA Referee

One way to get up to speed for when you blow the first whistle is to develop a consistent pre-match routine. Imagine if you did not train for a week prior to a game, you would feel unprepared and lack confidence when you put the whistle to your lips for the first time.

The same happens when you do not have a pre-match routine. You are not prepared mentally and physically. When you cross that white line, it takes time to warm up physically. Mentally, you are not ready to officiate, and it may take you up to 25 minutes to find your rhythm.

When you feel unprepared, you will be hesitant and reactive when making decisions out in the middle. When you overlook your pre-match routine, you feel uncomfortable at the beginning of the game.

A pre-match routine is important for all referees, not just those operating at an elite level. It is a purposeful design to prepare yourself mentally and physically for each appointment.

A consistent pre-match routine drastically increases consistent performances.

Being a slow starter may be that you are not switched on before each fixture. A slow starter may eat a chocolate bar or whatever is in their kitchen cupboard as a pre-match snack. Conversely, what would benefit you most, would be a healthier pre-match snack, water, or an energy drink before arriving at the venue, to help fuel you.

A pre-match routine keeps you focused on your preparation, preventing distractions and negative thoughts from flooding your mind. A consistent pre-match routine signals to your mind and body that you are ready to officiate from the moment you put the whistle to your lips and signal the star of the game.

Although Penn State University men’s hockey had a losing record heading into the 2021 Big Ten Tournament, goaltender Oskar Autio maintains a consistent pre-match routine. Autio relies heavily on his mental preparation and pre-game routine.

“For me, [the mental game] has been something that I’ve always worked on, and I know it’s been really important. A lot of it is about your mindset, but I also focus on relaxation and mental preparation before the games. Things like not putting too much pressure on yourself. It’s something I think I can keep getting better at, and I think every goalie works a lot on.” – Oskar Autio, Penn State University Men’s Hockey Goaltender

How you prepare before an appointment is under your direct control. When you prepare in a consistent manner, you are setting yourself up for success.  

Develop a Consistent Pre-Match Routine:

Write down a pre-match routine to help you prepare.

1. Arrive an hour before the kick off time.
2. Stretch for 10 minutes.
3. Put your kit on.
4. Warm up, “My warm-up will consist of:”
5. Prepare mentally (focus, rehearsal, self-talk…)
6. Pre-match snack.

Know what pre-match routine that works for you, this will help you to get the right intensity before the game.

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.