Elite level match officials often have unrivaled work ethics. I hear of referees in the professional game who start their training sessions at 05:00 or train between 4-6 hours daily.
Other officials can be stuck in a rut or hit a plateau. The common sentiment I often hear is:
“I work so hard throughout the week. Yet my colleagues, who I outwork in training, perform better than me on matchday.”
While elite level referees dedicate and sacrifice much to attain peak physical conditioning, the key to their success is the hours of mental work behind the scenes.
Physical work and conditioning are straightforward. However, for many officials, mental training is less understood.
This is where a Referee Educator or Referee Mental Performance Coach can help.
Referee Educators and Referee Mental Performance Coaches specialise in teaching/coaching referees, their technical coaches, and those around the official specific mental skills to address referees optimal performance, development, and wellbeing.
We are well-versed in interventions that optimise the mental and psychological factors that impact performance, such as building confidence, improving focus, setting realistic and challenging goals, managing emotions, dealing with disappointment, and getting the most out of your training.
Not only do mental skills improve officiating performance, but mental skills also benefit other areas of life, such as exam taking, managing anxiety, communicating effectively, accomplishing more, overcoming adversity, and dealing with overwhelming emotions.
As for refereeing performance, Referee Educators and Referee Mental Performance Coaches help you identify areas of performance that you may not clearly see.
An official may understand The Laws of The Game and the right patrol paths on the field of play to be able to get into the best positions to make Key Match Decisions (KMDs), but not be able to identify mental aspects of refereeing, the reasons for not achieving their goals, or dealing with grueling training sessions.
Often, officials are too wrapped up in their circumstances to find solutions to their plateaus or mental blocks.
The Tennis Example
Top-ranked Iga Swiatek lost in the 2023 Wimbledon quarterfinals to Elina Svitolina. Swiatek sometimes appeared confident, but other times, she easily lost focus.
During a rain delay, Swiatek sought her coach’s advice to get back on track when the match resumed.
“I wasn’t sure what I should focus on because I felt like I’m making pretty much the same mistakes, even though I tried to do better on some shots. I wanted some tips, what they think I should actually focus on. Sometimes when something is not working, it’s hard to find a reason because there are maybe a few reasons. When somebody is looking from the outside, it may be a little bit easier to analyse.” – Iga Swiatek, WTA Tennis Player
You may recognise that you become anxious under pressure. A Referee Educator or Referee Mental Performance Coach can teach you how to cope with stress on matchday.
You may notice that you lack motivation during training sessions. A Referee Educator or Referee Mental Performance Coach can teach you the tools to sustain your drive throughout the ups and downs of training and fixtures.
You might be close to achieving your refereeing goals. A Referee Educator or Referee Mental Performance Coach can teach you the mental skills that help you reach the next level.
It is important for you to see how mental factors might be holding you back from realising your potential.
Think of a challenging scenario that you can anticipate in the next fixture you’re appointed to. Ask yourself:
“How would a confident and mentally tough match official respond to this challenge?”
Write your answer down then visualise yourself responding to your challenge with confidence and poise. By doing this, you are mentally preparing what you are going to do when the challenge arises.
Contact The Third Team to help rocket your mental toughness to new heights!
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.
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.