SOUK Sports Officials UK

Mental Preparation

In almost every sport, the top fifty competitors in the world are all as strong, as fast, as skilful, have as much stamina as each other. Yet in every sport some emerge as winners and others never quite reach the podium.

The same is true of Football Match Officials, we have those who work hard on their physical fitness, hone their skills in law, application and management of people and situations, these skills and others can produce an individual performance that can reach levels unmatched by their peers.

What is it that makes the difference?

The winners, then, are the ones who can overcome the mental pressures of a tough game. They can ignore, or, feed off the crowd or the importance of the occasion.

So where does the mental pressure come from?

The answer is – it comes from within! It is their own reading of the situation which causes pressure, and because it is from within it can be controlled: the winners are not necessarily born this way but have trained themselves both mentally and physically.

What are the mental skills?

There are a range of skills demanded of the match official, many of them can be linked to the individual's state of mind, for instance, the first thing expected of a match official by the players and coaches is that they be consistent, from where does such consistency come? It can only be the ability to focus on the game and ignore internal and external distractions and apply law correctly in each and every situation.Ray Olivier

Perhaps it is a good starting point to consider the mental qualities required by looking at what would be expected from the ideal match official.

Let us consider these points in more detail

The good match official does not try to avoid pressure, they accept that it is part of the game at all levels, be confident that you have the skills to deal with the situation. Pressure is not a threat but a challenge to be welcomed.

So how do we get there?

How do you learn to officiate under pressure? The answer is – you don’t. Nobody performs well ‘under pressure’ the reason why our top officials at all levels of the game ‘shine’ when the stakes are highest, the competition the fiercest and the game the toughest is not because they can do it under pressure, but because they eliminate the pressure and officiate in an ‘ideal mental state’!

When you are officiating at the ideal mental state:

If you manage the above, you will eliminate the excess of “pressure” which would otherwise prevent you from performing at your best.

So what will help to reach the ideal mental state?

Soccer officialRelaxation – Taking a few moments out to gather your thoughts and re-focus

Concentration – Not lose focus on the game and hold concentration throughout

Visualisation – Visualise how you will deal with certain situations, when they occur you will then be armed with ideas on how to deal with them. These are ‘closed skills’ performed in isolation.

Emotional control – The focus at all times must be on the positive feelings, examples of these are, confidence, determination, relaxed and of course above all enjoyment.

Attitudes –  Will control a referee's behaviour, if you think you can you will, if you think you have to be the best then you won’t be…… be yourself!

Awareness – Be aware of your strengths and development areas, work on your areas of development and visualise that to do so will make you a better referee.

Affirmations – It is good to have affirmations that deflect pressure, Mohammed Ali said “I am the greatest” he said this because he believed it. This may not be a usual statement from referees but other positive affirmations could be….. “I never let emotions affect my officiating” or “I always spot the flashpoints” these are positive and will give you confidence.

Handling the Pressure

What can be done to handle the pressures which will arise? The first aspect must be to ensure a good pre-match preparation.

Preparing for your game

Don’t Change your physical preparation, this means that you continue any physical training at your usual level, and do not change your pattern of relaxation as this is equally as important as your physical preparation.

Do prepare yourself mentally for anything which might happen.

Don’t try to make changes to your refereeing technique, what you have done so far has been good enough to give you the opportunities you are receiving, only make changes to your identified areas of development.

Do a little mental rehearsal every day; see yourself refereeing in an ideal mental state.

Don’t become anxious about your nerves, you will need an adrenaline flow for the game, so look forward to the ‘buzz’.

Do anticipate that you will enjoy the game, you are going to perform well, you are going to be in control, you are going to handle any situation that arises.

Thought stopping!

Negative thoughts have no value, park them and move on!

         Vicious circle

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