Principles of effective goal-setting for referees

Effective goal-setting for referees is very important, whatever you have achieved last year. Last week I posted the selfscan for referees, a useful tool to analyse your current refereeing status and work on development. That’s the basis for working on short-team goals. Today we’ll get a bit deeper into goal-setting and do that on many aspects of refereeing. Also think about training, career and lifestyle here.
But what is a good way to do that? In this story you’ll get the principles of effective goal-setting for referees.
Principles of effective goal-setting for referees
A great example that shows how important goal-setting is. Mark Clattenburg officiated the Euro 2016 and Champions League final, but he has set his goals for 2017 as well.  In an interview then he says: “Last year I set my goals and I over-achieved my goals for sure”, he says. “But this year I’ve set my goals again. And if you succeed you’re goals, you’ll have a succesfull season.”
Mark has now quit refereeing, but the story indicates quite well that it’s important to set new goals every year. So you’ll have to do it as well for 2018!

Goals for your own level

Of course your goals will be different for the new year than Clattenburg’s or other top officials, because you’re at a lower level. But goal-setting applies to all sports and levels. “You’ll set yourself targets to achieve as much as you can at whatever level you officiate”, Clattenburg says in a YouTube video. “You got the different levels and different standards, but one thing every referee will have, no mattter what level they’re officiating, they’ll have goals.”

Homework task

If you look at yourself as a referee, what do you want to get better at? As Mark Clattenburg says we all have different standards. Your fitness level might be good, but you loose focus all the time. Some subjects you need to think off in the following categories:
  • Physical. Like keeping up with the pace of play, being able to do sprints and stay close to the match situations
  • Technical. For example getting the optimal observation angle (positioning)
  • Interpersonal. For example interaction with players
  • Lifestyle. Like eating healthy having good training spirit
  • Emotional/mental: portraying self-confidence or being focused
  • Career. Do you want to get promoted or get appointed for more top games
Goal-setting for referees: write down strenghts and weaknesses
Get a paper sheet and write down your strenghts and skills that you can improve in these categories (and others). In the latter you’ll see things you can improve (and set goals for).
Have no clue? Check your recent assessments for positives and negatives.

The ABC of goal-setting for referees

Goal-setting is very important, as you have read in the blog post about creating your bigger picture. If you haven’t read that post, start with thinking about your bigger picture. What is it you’re willing to achieve as referee and why?
“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up somewhere else”, said Yogi Berra. In the first blog post of this series you’ve created your bigger picture, your ultimate goal as referee. In the interview with Gerry Duffy you got inspired to get uncomfortable, think bigger when creating your bigger picture. His idea: you can only reach a higher level when you get out of your comfort zone.
Now it’s time to plan your route to your “referee destination”. Research has shown that goal-setting works best if you have long term goals (bigger picture) in conjunction with short-term goals. And now you know where you are heading, you can piece your bigger picture in smaller chunks. That’s important according to Frank Smol, professor of Pshychology at the University of Washington. He maps out an ABC for goal-setting that shows the basic requirements for you.    


Goals need to be achievable. A big picture is not easy to achieve at once, the smaller chunks are. If your goal is to become a FIFA referee in 2018, you probably won’t make it in 2018. “Some goals aren’t achievable”, says Mark Clattenburg. “A guy who’s at national level can’t referee mid-international level. But what he will do is set goals for the season to officiate whatever top match he can. And I do exactly the same.” So make sure your goals are realistic. Not too difficult, but also not too easy to achieve. It’s key to keep them challenging.


Goals need to be believable. Each goal will help you getting to that bigger picture. “I work hard off the pitch to make sure I am ready for my games in the weekend”, mr. Clattenburg explains. And that he’s able to deliver his best possible performance. A referee must believe that he reaches his goals due to his effort in practice.


If you want to reach your goals, you need to commit yourself to them. Act on a daily basis and do things consistantly. Training when your coach isn’t watching is easy, but you need to make sure you’ll also do that when he’s not. The tip of 2016’s CL final referee’s tip to achieve the goals is: dedication. “If you’re dedicated and you want to work hard you will achieve your goals.”
Quote Mark Clattenburg on dedication.

Types of goals: process vs outcome goals

There are three types of goals.
  • Outcome goals
  • Performance goals
  • Process goals

Outcome goals

The outcome goals are your long-term ambitions. They are the results of your actions and are usually the outcome of a competitive event. Good examples are becoming a FIFA or national referee, or getting more high-level games at your current level or earning a promotion by the end of the year. These are outcomes that contribute to your bigger picture. If you want to become a top FIFA referee as ultimate goal, you first need to get to the international level and officiate low-level Europa League Qualifiers. Before that you first need to reach the national level and get apointments for more important games there as well. This applies to all levels. A smaller outcome goal is earning a promotion at the end of the season, at whatever level you are currentlyu. Without promotions you won’t make a step up that ladder to get closer to your ultimate goal.
However, the outcome goals are usually controlled by others. That’s the competitive element in earning a promotion. More referees want that place at a higher level. You need to take into account how an assessor judges your performance. It’s important to start with your outcome goals, so you know where you’re heading. Also discuss your real ambitions with a coach, so you fully understand what you want to reach.

Action steps you need to take

“By setting these [outcome] goals you can then take a deeper look at how you are going to reach them”, says Marc Birkett, a FIFA Futsal referee in Refereeing Magazine. How you’re going to reach the outcome goals is the next step. And you’ll have more influence on these type of goals. The action steps you need to take are the performance and process goals. 

Performance goals

The performance goals are the standards you want to achieve yourself and are independant of others. If it’s your performance goal to be able to sprint 6 40m sprints under six seconds, it’s up to you to reach that goal. You can train for that and reach the goal. A refereeing friend might be able to run it faster, but that doesn’t matter for YOUR goal. You are still able to reach that goal.

Process goals

Sometimes your goal isn’t about setting a certain time, but you want to learn something new. You want to improve habits, a skill or a part of your technique. These are process goals: actions that you’d like to complete during a performance. During a sprint you might want to use a certain technique at every start and during a longer run you want to run at the same pace constantly.
“They are the hard work that leads to the exciting stuff”. That’s the perfect description on Sport Psychology Today. When accomplishing your performance and process goals you’ll get closer to reaching your outcome goals, such as a promotion. “That’s why you need to stay primary focussed on your performance and process goals”, says Gerry Duffy.

Quote on performance goals for referees

Effective-goalsetting for referees needs SMART goals

The term SMART is often used when setting goal. It stands for: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Framed.


Your goals need to be easy to understand. Identify some action steps and use action verbs in your goal.
Don’t pick a general goal like improving your fitness level. Yes, it’s easy to understand, but not specific enough. Pick: Join a gym [add date as deadline] and workout twice a week.


How can you verify if you accomplished your goal? In the above example you can simply count how often you workout. You can even add  to your goal that you need to workout 3 times a week if you don’t have a game in the weekend. Easy to measure.
Another example: you want to earn a promotion at the end of the season (outcome goal). A requirement is to pass the fitness test, where you have to do 6 40m sprints under 6 seconds. That needs to be your goal:  I want to be able to run 6 40m sprints under 6 seconds and I will train twice a month on my sprints.  Referee or football associations offer tools for you to measure your sprint performance. If you have fitness goals on longer distances it’s easy to use a GPS watch to measure your time.


You need to ask yourself if you have the capabilities to achieve a goal. If you’re overweight than it’s better to focus on loosing weight than setting goals for sprint performances already. Or if you want to improve both your sprints and endurance level and you want to train your stability and improve your self-confidence, keep more focused, and so on. You need to make sure all commitments you make with yourself are realistic and fit into your schedule.


The goal needs to relate to your broader objectives. It’s important to improve your fitness level, but setting a goal to run 6 40m sprints under 5 seconds is irrelevant. Nobody expects you to do that and it’s not a requirement on your refereeing path. There are probably other things you want to improve at, so pick things that are relevant to your bigger picture.

Time-framed (or time-limited)

Don’t think only in season goals. Short-term goals will give you a better view of where you’re heading. And if you see after three months or half a year that it’s impossible to reach the final goal, you can adjust it. It’s very important to be flexible.
I’ve mentioned the example of the sprints on the FIFA fitness test above. You’ll have the end goal for the end of the season in mind. But if you have a whole season ahead, you can write down mid-season goals.
Mid-season I want to be able to run 6 40m sprints in 6.2 seconds and I will train twice a month on my sprints.  And at the moment you’ll have to do the test, you need to be able to run 6 40m sprints in under 6 seconds. You can even add goals for 3 or 9 months. The mid-season goals are an extra step that will give you direction in where you’re heading.
So it’s very important to add a time frame with a beginning and end date to your goal.

Be positive and flexible

Working with smart goals is very important. It will also help you to write positive goals and that you are flexible.
So don’t write down: I will no longer sprint 40m in more than 6 seconds. Leave the negative like ‘no’ out of your goal. Choose for: I will run all 6 sprints of 40m under 6 seconds.
It’s good to create a bigger picture and have your lifetime goals mapped out, but what if there’s a hick-up in your career? You might miss a promotion oppurtunity. Or what if you have set goals about your physical ability but the requirements ordered by the authoraties change? Or sometimes you’ll get injured. In those cases you must be flexible. Review your goals and adapt if necessary.
This does not mean your end goal has to change. But your steps to that end goal might differ.

Examples of goals

In the examples above I’ve mentioned a lot of fitness goals, but you can set them also in the other categories I mentioned. These are some examples of goals you can set for yourself. Behind brackets you’ll see the goal that’s behind the process/performance goal.
  • Train physically twice a week (Lifestyle goal: Creating the good habit of sporting regularly)
  • Practice concentration training at home twice a month (Mental goal: getting more focused as referee)
  • Eat and drink no more than 1,600 calories a day (Lifestyle goal: eating healthier and losing 10 pounds before May 1st 2018)
  • Run six consecutive sprints of 40m under 6 seconds on June 1 (Physical goal: Pass the fitness test to meet all requirements for a promotion)
  • Talk with at least 5 players who made a foul during the first half. (Interpersonal goal: work on your interpersonal skills so you’re able to pro-actively prevent them from making bigger fouls) Don’t obsessively try to have long talks with players, but writing this goal down reminds you that you need to talk (for example because one of your skilss you want to improve was interpersonal contact).
  • Run 5km under 25 minutes by March 1st 2018 (Goal: Improving endurance fitness level to keep up with play for 90 minutes)

Of course distances and time frames may vary. And you can pick your own goals based on the strengths and skills you want to improve that you wrote down. These are just examples of what goals look like.

Worksheet for goal-setting for referees

Now it’s time to set your own goals. To make this step easier for you  I have created a worksheet for you.
Download button for goal-setting worksheet
You’ll go to a Google form which you can download and adapt. If you have further questions or remarks, feel free to contact me on I’d love to hear your goals and what your action steps are. Feel free to share yours and we can discuss them together privately.
Good luck in reaching your ultimate goal!  

Touching the ball twice at penalty kick: allowed or not?

Kieran Dowell touching the ball twice at penalty kick this weekend. In the cup match against Arsenal. How would you handle in situations like this?

And during last season a similar situationLeicester City got a penalty kick against Manchester City and Mahrez is the taker. He kicks the ball, but slips. The goalie protests right away and referee Robert Madley makes a quick decision. He disallows the goal, because it’s not allowed to kick the ball again before a team-mate or opponent has touched the ball.

Below another example plus an further explanation based on the Laws of the Game.

Robert Madley

And have a look at the situation below.

 Bacca also touching the ball twice at penalty kick

There’s also a similar situation in the Serie A earlier this season. In the game between Sassuolo and AC Milan Bacca touches the ball twice, but I needed a few replays to see that. At first glance it’s difficult to see what exactly happens.

Bacca touching the ball twice at penalty kick

But for the players on the pitch it was very clear. They immediately asked the referee if he had seen what they saw. Bacca’s left food slipped, so he could not take a proper kick. He shoots with his right foot, but can’t prevent it from touching his left foot as well before anyone else touches it. That extra touch gives the ball an extra spin, which puts it over the goalie, who is not able to touch the ball.

Arbiter Café on Twitter got me a clip that I could embed on the blog. Much appreciated. Please have a look and see if you can spot Bacca touching the ball twice at penalty kick. Below the video you’ll find an explanation based on the Laws of the Game.

Difficult to spot, right? Only the replays will give you a clear view of what happened.

Explanation with Laws of the Game

The Laws of the Game (page 95 and 96) are clear: “The kicker must not play the ball again until it has touched another player. (…) If, after the penalty kick has been taken, the kicker touches the ball again before it has touched another player: an indirect free kick (or direct free kick for deliberate hand ball) is awarded.”


Referees have to focus on a lot of things during a penalty kick. They don’t want players or the goalie to move too quickly, but in the end not many referees whistle when it happens. Just wanted to know from you if referees should get more strict on encroachment. Vote in this Twitter poll.

Want to read more? Check all case studies on my blog.

Fitness tips to start after the New Year break

Some fitness tips to start after the New Year break. Most European leagues do stop during Christmas, so you might want to take a rest before the league starts again. KNVB fitness instructor Hilco de Boer shares some tips if you want to take a break in the newsletter for Dutch referees by KNVB.

These tips will also work perfectly after the end of the season or when your season starts in January or February.

“After a long period with five months of training and games, it’s now time to recover”, he writes to all amateur referees. He has some tips for you.

4 fitness tips to start after the New Year break

  1. Take two to three weeks to slow down. That will help you gent fysically and mentally fresh. “You can do some sports, but take it easy and try to do something else than running.”
  2. If you had some physical problems during the last few weeks, take a complete rest
  3. After a relaxing period, make sure you pick up training again a few weeks before the season starts
  4. Build up the intensity slowly, don’t start training like crazy

These 4 tips are probably also useful for you too. Good luck with the rest of your season!

Hilco de Boer

Selfscan for referees

The selfscan for referees is a useful tool to map out your actions for the coming period. This tool makes your development as referee visible and helps you write down your action steps.

I got this tips when following a KNVB course as referee. It helps me to prepare better for my games plus it’s a good tool for evaluation of your games.

Summary of selfscan for referees

The model works with the following steps:

  1. Write down your current situation
  2. Give yourself a score
  3. Write down your ambition
  4. Find learning objectives
  5. Make an action plan
  6. Review every game

This selfscan for referees is a good way to work on short-term goals. Evaluate the action steps after a certain period. This all can contribute to your final destination as referee.


Download the template for the selfscan for referees.

1. Current situation (selfscan for referees)

I hope you know where you’re good at and which things you want to improve as referee. Or have a look at the assessment reports you got, because these will have some good points. Where are you now? Write down your development themes, the things you want to improve on.

To start with you can write down many points, but I advice you to focus on two or three. Please fill these out in the form, because you’ll have a higher chance of improving if you don’t do everything. You can work on other aspects of refereeing in the next month or period.

2. Score

You probably find some points you can improve, but what’s your score on each theme? If you pick “positioning at free kicks” as theme, say how good you are at it. Pick it on a scale from 1 to 7.

3. Ambition on these topics

What do you want to reach at the themes you picked in the first stage of this selfscan? How do you want to score on these themes?

Personal story

I personally took “advantange vs ball possession” as them. During games I don’t whistle for fouls at the halfway line and wait for advantage. It’s not wrong, but I wait way too long. Usually, the player has ball possession at most, but being (still) a player myself makes me want to go on. No breaks. Go! When starting this selfscan for referees I didn’t recognize these things. Call it a wrong intuition, but now it’s different. I know I do make mistakes and sometimes realise it when it is too late to whistle. I see myself developing now I am more aware of what I need to improve. That is already a big win.

Four stages of competence

It reminds me of the four stages of competence:

Selfscan for referees: for stages of competence

Selfscan for referees. File is used under Creative Commons and adapted from Noel Burch’s idea by Igor Kokcharov.

  • Unconscious incompetence (wrong intuition)
  • Conscious incompetence (wrong analysis)
  • Conscious competence (right analysis)
  • Unconscious competence (right intuation)

When filling out the current situation, you’ll get concious about your incompetences. And when you know your ambition, you can work hard to move to a different stage.

4. Learning objectives

This step is crucial, because you’ll formulate the learning objectives on each of your development themes. What is needed to go from your “current situation” (step 1) to the ambition (step 3). What is needed to reach your ambition? KNVB advises to take a maximum of three learning objectives per core task at a time. Other themes may be discussed later in the process.

5. Action plan

The big question is: What are you going to do now to work on your learning objective? Personally I will read my learning objectives before every game, because that reminds me where I am working on. This helps me keep my objectives at the top of mind. During games it reminds me what I need to do. That leads to the next action step: whistle when there’s no real advantage, but just ball possession.

As I am a player myself I know players will react when you whistle. As match preparation I also try to visualize these talks and know what I’ll say. Works good for me. During a recent game a player wants advantage, but when you point out shortly there’s no real advantage, they’ll accept it. When you know players will accept these calls, you’ll be less afraid to make the calls and wait endlessly for advantage.

A few notes from KNVB to keep in mind when making an action plan:

  • Keep in mind that this is a plan that only affects you (and is not dependent on others).
  • Sometimes a learning goal is comprehensive. Make sure you make a feasible plan that you can properly assess (wether you have / have not achieved it)
  • It may be that you have to take multiple actions to achieve a learning goal, then start with action point 1 only.

So focus, don’t do all things at once. That helps you a lot. Because doing ten things for 10% brings you nowhere. When you really see improvement, add other things.

6. Review every game

Okay, the action steps are there, but that is not the end of this model. Make sure you review every game and score your performance on the action steps you picked for that game. Due to this reflection method you’ll also be able to tweak the ambition and action steps, because you realise what works or not.

And no, it is not a lot of work. You wrote your action steps and the only thing you’ll do before every game is pick the points you want to work on. Evaluate them after the game and do that for a longer period.

Update your selfscan for referees

During the summer or winter break, feel free to do a new selfscan for referees. That will change your action plans and ambitions. When you improve over time, you’ll find new things to work on. Also assessments might alter the things you want to work on. Be flexible, but make sure you know what you want to improve and focus on that.

The improvement as refere is up to YOU. Make sure you’ll make the best out of it.

Download your free template for a selfscan

To make it easier for you, you can download the template for the selfscan for referees. If you have any questions, just let me know.

Selfscan for referees download

Jens Maae: 2017 is the best year in my refereeing career

Jens Maae thinks 2017 is the best year in his refereeing career. He officiates the Euro u17 final and the Danish cup final. But that doesn’t mean he will stop working hard in 2018. There are new goals. “The most imortant thing is to enjoy myself and second is getting to category 2 in UEFA”, he says in an interview with Dutch Referee Blog.

Jens G. Maae is 35 years old and a referee since 1998. He is a semi-professional referee that works part-time as a physiotherapist. Check out the interview about his wonderful last year plus his future career. 

Jens Maae entering the field of play during the 2017 Danish cup final

Jens Maae entering the field of play during the 2017 Danish cup final. Screenshot from FC Kobenhavn video on YouTube

The u17 Euro final

You officiated the u17 Euro final this year. How did you experience 2017 and this tournament in particular?

Jens Maae: “2017 will for sure be my best refereeing year in my career – participating in the U17 final tournament in Croatia, and afterwards refereeing the Danish cup final between FC Copenhagen and Brøndby. In particular being to the final tournament  – working with colleagues from different countries, and learning from some of the best observers/coaches in Europe.”

You officiated the final with assistants Mika Lamppu from Finland and Russia’s Alexei Vorontcov. How do you prepare for a final? What does day look like? And how is it to work with AR’s from different countries?

Jens Maae: “When appointed to the final, it was important for me to get together with Mika and Alexei as much as possible – to form a team.

Preparing for the final included specific training exercises on matchday minus 2 and 1″. (MD-2 and MD-1 in training schedules, the days before the game, Jan).

“On MD-1 we got together with a coach with scouting notes of the two teams. And we had a pre-match discussion, because I want to make sure who will do the different things in the match,  how I would like them to react in certain situations and so on. AR’s from different countries are used to work differently, so it is very important, that we are aligned as much as possible before going on the field of play.”

“On the matchday we eat breakfast and lunch together. But otherwise are we alone – to get mentally ready. Different referees think differently about what to do on the matchday, but I prefer a small walk, sleep – just relaxing.

“We arrive at the stadium 1.5  hours before kick-off, we also check the pitch and then go to the dressing room. I hear some music – just to feel relaxed! Warm-up – and then GAME TIME!”

Jens Maae

The team is key for Jens Maae

Mika Lamppu talked about chemistry in a refereeing team on my blog in September. He says: “For example, the final was my first match with mr. Maae, but we managed to build a good cooperation thanks to spending much time together during the weeks.” How important is “the team” for you and how do you build it? 

Jens Maae: “The team is very important – I need to trust them 100% in situations.

That is why I use a lot of time with my collegues – getting to know them (both personally and professionally) – and letting them know about my football philosophy. In Denmark we change AR every week – it has it’s weakneses and it’s strenghts – but when going to an international match, we get together – to get aligned.”

“All people are different, and you can learn something from every human being.”

A family of referees

Back to the start of your career. How did you get involved in refereeing?

Jens Maae: “When I was 15 (1997) – my father and big brother were a referee. I was working as a paper boy, but I thought it was boring. So a group of boys from school went to this course and became referees. So in the beginning it was a job (beginning of 1998), becoming a hobby, becoming a career.”

“A funny story is that one of the boys from school is Jørgen Daugbjerg Burchardt. He is a FIFA referee today as well.”

Refereeing the Copenhagen derby

Which steps on the refereeing ladder did you take so far? And how are refereeing facilities in your country? 

Jens Maae: “In the Danish league there are no more steps, I have reached the top. I have refereed the big Copenhagen derby and the cup final.” I also won “referee of the year” after beeing in the top division for 1 ½ years.

Internationally im in Category 3, which is the lowest category in UEFA. My ambition after doing well in the U17, is to be promoted to the category 2 the coming summer 2018. As mentioned I am part-time employed by the FA. We also have a physical coach and several other coaches to help us develop.”

“But in comparison, UEFA is a top top professional organisation. It has a massive set-up and top professional persons working for them.”

Adrenaline kicks for refs

What do you like about refereeing so much and have you ever thought of quitting this hobby?  

Jens Maae: “I love beeing in the center of the greatest game on earth. In Denmark football is number 1 sport – everyone has an opinion about the matches in the weekend. And I love the attention, or lack of it, when a situation in a match is solved correctly. The adrenaline kick after doing a good match is massive.”

“When I became father seven years ago, everything you are spending time on, comes into a perspective. I did not think about stopping, but when getting insults or critisised by fans or clubs unfairly, gets you to think about your future.”

What’s the hardest challenge/problem during your career? 

Jens Maae: “I had a really bad match – missing a penalty and missing a red card – “punishing’ the same team. It was a game-changer – and that is a referee’s biggest nightmare. Jounalists contacted me  – and I was pretty new in the top division. Luckily I had a lot of help from colleagues, mentors and so on. I was refereeing a couple of weeks after [that incident, Jan] and became stronger because of that.”

Goals for the future

It’s just 2018. What are your refereeing goals for this year? And how are you going to achieve them?

“The most imortant thing is to enjoy myself and second is getting to category 2 in UEFA. Will try to reach that by showing consistancy, being at your best every time you go on the pitch. Knowing mistakes will come, but doing my very best to minimize the odds for them to come.”

Check more about goal-setting for referees.

On the Uefa website you say something about the u17 Euro as well. “This is a very important tournament for all of us because we’re learning from the best observers in the world.” What are the best 3 tips that will make others a better referee too?

  1. Listen to the people that want to help you – even though you sometimes disagree
  2. “Go the extra mile” – there is no easy way to the top
  3. Be yourself and enjoy the level your are refeering at.