For referees of any level, incurring a physical injury is massively infuriating because you miss officiating games and it’s likely that you’ll need a few games before you’re back to your peak level. However, the mental adjustment you have to make throughout your recovery can be incredibly tough, especially managing the unforeseen dent to your confidence. This is the case, particularly if you have a long term or recurring injury as there is a lot of time for your mind to be filled with doubt.
Aurel Coza of the Game Plan A magazine by Adidas describes an injury and the mental ramifications.
“A casual soccer game, a careless pivot and my knee gave in with the ominous thud of a hundred doors (each representing a possible future) slamming shut at that very moment. Lying there on the soccer pitch, the realisation of this curtailed future hurt more than the injured knee.”
When An Injury Affects More Than Just Your Body
Injuries are something we are all too aware of, whether we’ve been affected directly or indirectly, injury will have most definitely affected a friend, relative or someone we know. What most of us probably don’t consider is (at least not consciously) is that a physical injury affects more than our refereeing career.
An unforseen injury doesn’t mean being defeated. It’s also about having the mental aptitude to pick yourself up and face the challenge of recovery head on.
A recent study has shown that social-emotional intelligence and the pace at which we solve various mental tasks seems to be directly influenced by the amount of physical activity we perform during our daily lives. It comes as no surprise then that an incapacitating event has the possibility to affect the core of our identity: confidence, social-emotional life and even our ability to solve problems we face in the real world.
Recovery For The Mind
Whilst the majority of recovery techniques focus on ‘getting us back on our feet’ from a purely physical point of view, very little energy is focused upon on reverting the social-emotional and cognitive impact of lack of activity.
So how can we affect this?
Run if possible, walk if not, but get yourself moving. As your body moves, so does your brain and your confidence and trust will follow.
As a referee (who can’t officiate for a while) you could consider lifting some weights if your injury is in your lower body, the important thing is to do whatever you can safely. The feeling of achievement in a sport completely unknown to you will have the same effect on your social/emotional self as if you were still doing your preferred sport. Long term, it may even give you a compensatory boost (as you achieved some level of proficiency and performance in a totally new sport and that’s not an easy thing).
An injury doesn’t mean sitting still and behind closed doors, it can give you a new perspective on life. You could use the time to do some self-reflection and indulge in more moderate activities.
3. Consider the team
Being part of a team can work miracles for one’s social emotional and cognitive wellbeing. As a referee you may regularly work in teams of 3 or 4.
Preliminary results from an ongoing study have shown that working as an officiating team can have a compounding effect when it comes to social-emotional wellbeing. Not only will you benefit from the physical activity of the game but being surrounded by your fellow officials and having to achieve the common goal of delivering accuracy in decision making will add to those benefits.
Someone’s personal experience and science gives us an idea and while your journey might be different than that of someone else, one fundamental thing is true: actively taking charge of your future can’t be worse than complacency.
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.