The importance of physical training for referees

Bjorn Kuipers and his assistants worked very hard on their training session closely watched by the Dutch press. And by Hilco de Boer. In an interview with Dutch Referee Blog Hilco de Boer tells about the importance of physical training for referees. Hilco de Boer is the physical trainer of referees in the Dutch professional leagues. He guides and monitors their training sessions – whether they are at the KNVB or at home. Based on upcoming games he makes the training schedules for most of the referees. The training camp from Bjorn Kuipers two weeks before the European Championships is part of that.

Dutch top referee Bjorn Kuipers, who hopes to referee the final of the European Championships, will also receive schemes from Uefa. “All those training schedules are made based on the games that are scheduled”, says De Boer. His first mission is accomplished: Bjorn Kuipers is going in top physical form to France.

Hilco de Boer gives training session to Euro 2016 referees.

Challenge yourself physically twice per week

Hilco de Boer meets most referees once per month face-to-face. “I don’t see Kuipers every week either”, he says. All tests and data from the physical training sessions will be send to him. “But I can’t feel from a distance how he’s doing. Luckily Kuipers is experienced enough to feel that correctly himself.” The training schedules are a good guidance for referees, but a referee is not obliged to follow them to the letter. “If a referee experienced lack of sleep, then he should be able to adjust his schedule a bit.”

What does a training schedule look like? “That really depends on the number of games a referee officiates per week”, stresses De Boer. “If someone has no midweek game, then I’ll advise him to do two intensive running sessions per week.” This advice is also very important for amateur referees according to him. “For amateur referees the intensity of the training session might be different compared to the pro’s. And you need to take into account you can’t do the same if you have a physically hard job. But it’s also good for amateur referees to challenge your physical condition twice a week.”

Train your muscle strength and stability

Besides the running practice, De Boer also recommends every referee to train the strength of the weaker muscles in your body. “Referees get a lot of the same injures and to prevent this, it is very important to do exercises that focus specifically on strength and stability. It prevents referees from getting injuries, but it also helps them perform better, because they’ll be able to move more efficiently.”

De Boer also advices referees to do a light training session on the day before the game. He calls this the ‘matchday -1 training’. “Such a training sessions are an activating trigger for referees”, he says. “It stimulates the circulation of the blood and creates a healthy tension on the muscles. That’s a better preparation than doing nothing.”

Basics of a good training session

The physical trainer joined the KNVB in the summer of 2015 as head of physical training for referees in Dutch professional football. Before that he helped writing the training schedules. “It’s a wonderful job. Sports players in football, so also the referees, are very very motivated most of the time.” In his experience the training sessions at local referee associationsare good. He wants to collaborate a bit more. “It is very important for referees to lay a good foundation for your training sessions and many refs start at local RA’s with their training sessions in The Netherlands.”

Hilco de Boer

Get help from a running coach

There’s one thing that many referees can improve: the running technique. “On tip for everyone: get help from a good running coach.” Good running education is important to improve the way someone runs. With the right running technique you will be able to develop more speed and you’ll be running more efficiently, which makes you less likely tired after a few runs. “That’s why we always record the training sessions of young referees in the talent program on video tape. We monitor how they run. I also collaborate with a former Olympic triathlete to improve the running technique of the talents.” De Boer gives assistant referees the advice to run along with someone who’s an expert with running with a flag in their hand. “That’s something really different”.

To stimulate young referees to do proper physical training, De Boer once send an e-mail with a quote from Collina, someone they look up to. “Collina adviced them to start at a young age with good training sessions. If you’re young you’ll learn easily. When you get older, it’s difficult to adapt to a different training pattern.”

Big Brother is watching

Referees themselves are responsible for following the training schedules made by De Boer. He get the training logs from every referee in professional football in The Netherlands. Those contain the type of training a referee did, what his heartrate was and how tough he found the training session. He prefers to hear from referees if they go to a sports massage therapist and if they recover well from a training or game. “It feels like Big Brother is watching them for some referees, but that’s the only way aI can see how someone trains and if he for example needs to do more sprints. Based on the data I adapt the personal training schedules and in the end it helps the referees.”

Bad weather, busy at the office, meetings with friends or you just don’t want to. You might recognize those ‘reasons’ for not training. Relaxing on the couch sounds good and is so easy. But to stay fit you need to get up your feet and train. “In the end every referee is responsible for their own physical fitness.” De Boer has no doubt about Kuipers’ fitness level before the European Championships. “He takes his responsibility. That will be allright.”

De Boer will follow Kuipers’s performances the first weeks from his holiday destination. “I can’t mean anything form hem, because Uefa is organizing all training sessions in France. For me it is important to be back early July. That’s when all friendlies begin for the other referees.”

5 tips physical training tips by Hilco de Boer

  • Train twice a week intensively to stimulate your physical fitness
  • Do strength and stability exercises 2 to 3 times a week for legs and torso
  • Do a light training session one day before the game to stimulate the blood circulation
  • Do some running with a good running coach and focus on your technique (and not just speed)
  • Start at young age with good training. If you get older it is difficult to adapt your training pattern.

Please share how you do your training sessions. How often do you train (twice or less) and what exercises do you do?

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