How referee Alan Kelly stays fit in corona period

How does referee Alan Kelly stay fit during the Covid 19 crisis? Alan Kelly talks about this on a webinar by Silbo, a company that automates sports officiating administration.

The MLS referee has a daily morning routine – Covid 19 or not. He wears a Polar watch that measures his fitness and sleep. “First thing that we do every morning. I check my resting heart rate”, the former FIFA referee from Ireland says. “Then I answer 5 questions how I slept, how I feel. And I send it to the referee department and get a training programme each day.”

MLS referee Alan Kelly during work-out. Photo courtesy of referee.

Uploading training results

Referee Alan Kelly is just back from an injury, so he’s building up his training intensity again. “When I have trained, I upload this to a computer”. Because fitness instructors that help the referee department will see the results of his training, they can adjust it to his performance. “Based on my results they change the scheme for the rest of the week.”

Referee Alan Kelly’s basement is a home gym

“My basement is converted to a little bit of a home gym”, he says. Kelly has the opportunity to use weights, bands and he can cycle and jog. No running yet, because of the injury he had. 

The programmes professional referees at PRO get are tailored for each individual. “The expectation is that we look after ourselves, because we need to be prepared if we return into practise again.”

Training almost every day 

In this period with Covid 19 and no games, there’s maybe 1 intensity session instead of 2 per day. “But it’s a 5 or 6 day process every single week”, he says. It shows the importance of fitness for referees these days. “That’s an expectation for the level we’re operating at.”

And what keeps them going? I’ve written a blog post about how to stay motivated when not having any games. Referee Alan Kelly mentions a messages from a colleague, that he received in a group chat. It showed what you should keep in mind as well. “One of the guys in the group send a text: whenever we’re back, we’re going to be operating at a regular basis, so we have te be ready.” Because of that they keep motivated. “We approach every day as if we’re still in the season.”

Want more tips? Check them out

1 hour referee training

A 1 hour referee training session, again at The Hague’s referee association. Check out the other 1 hour training session there.

Do a warm-up for 10 to 15 minutes. Make sure to jog yourselves war first and then do exercises to Check out tips for a proper warm-up for referees.

Or check the video with the explanation on my YouTube Channel (don’t forget to subscribe).

All exercises follow below the video.

Exercise run: the pyramid run

A nice exercise where you vary between jogging and running at a much higher speed. The explanation:

  • Jog to the 1st cone. Then to the 10th cone at 70% speed/heart rate.
  • Then jog to the 2nd cone. Again to the 10th cone at 70%. And so on until you reach the 10th cone.
  • You can vary with distance between cones. Our total distance at the pitch is 60m.

Explanation of pyramid run

Exercise 2

After a rest period of two minutes, this exercise is nice one for some sprinting.

Do 5x a 30m sprint. 

Then rest again for a few minutes.

Exercise 3

Make sure you get a cones in a round(ed) shape on your training field. The idea is: jog rounds for 3 minutes. The fitness instructor gives a signal after that and then the jogging is followed by a 30s sprint. Then you have 30s of walking. 

Repeat this 3 times.

Do a proper cooling down at the end of the training session.

Want to do another one? Check out the other 1 hour training session at my Referee Association HSV Den Haag.

Your 1 hour referee training

What does your 1 hour referee training look like? Please comment below with your ideal workout.

Playful fitness exercises for referees

Playful fitness exercises for referees are always good to add something funny to a training session. And the idea is still: you’ll work on your physical ability.

I explain the first exercise on my YouTube channel, where you’ll find more videos about refereeing. Below the video I’ll add the text as well.

Example of playful fitness exercise

Because everybody wants to have fun while training, I’ll try to create some video’s with playful fitness exercises for referees.

This fitness exercises makes you alert, because you need to focus on your instructor.

  • You sprint forward and the instructor shows a blue or yellow cone.
  • Blue means: sprint to the left corner. Yellow means: sprint to the right corner.
  • Jog back to start and repeat for 5 minutes.

Playful fitness exercise where person changes direction when instructor shows a coloured cone

Tic-tac-toe (extra edition)

Last week I’ve published the tic-tac-toe exercises. I published a video about an extra edition now as well.

And if you want to give it an extra dimension: minimize the number of available cones to three, so they can’t keep running forward, but need to use a max of 3.

Do you have any exercises that you like a lot? Please share them in the comments.

Proper warm-up for referees

A proper warm-up for referees is needed for both training sessions in games. It will improve your performance and reduces your risk of injury. 

The blog post is based on lessons I followed as a referee and notes I took. 

Warm-up for referees.

Physical effects of a warm-up

The physical effects of a proper warm-up for referees are:

  • Less stiffness in muscles and joints
  • More activity in nerve system, which means a better coordination
  • Better circulation of blood, so more oxygen to your muscles and you’ll easier get rid of (too many) lactic acids 

Mental effects of a warm-up

When you do a good warm-up:

  • You’ll be better focused mentally (more tips to stay focused)
  • You can adapt to the field conditions and know what you need to deal with. Plus you can pick the right clothing and shoes).
  • You get used to the match circumstances, like the fans and the pitch

What the real warm-up looks like

Because the effects are important, I’ve written them out below. You need to know what the benefits are for you, but I get that you want concrete tips to do your warm-up properly. 

  • 5 minutes of jogging
  • 5 minutes of mobilisation exercises. Examples are: tripling, skipping, moving sideways, moving backwards, cariocas, zigzag shuffling.
  • 5 minutes of accelerations (10 to 50m)
  • 5 minutes of dynamic stretching or core exercises. At my referee association in The Hague we do two different exercises of the dynamic stretches:
    • standing in an angle of 90 degrees on the fence. Hold it with one hand and move your leg forward and backwards (leg pendulum or forward leg swing)
    • standing in front of a fence and move the leg from left to right. You’ll find more online for standing leg swing sideways.
  • Examples of core exercises: stepping out and moving your knee out/in, jump forward or backward and land on one leg, lean on one leg and bend the knee. Check out core and stability exercises you can do at home.
  • 5 minutes of sprints
    • You can do a few sprints of 10, 20 or 30 metres. When you walk back, you get some rest as well.

Below you’ll see me check out the warm-up of the refereeing team at the TD Place in Ottawa.

Credits plus KNVB newsletter worth checking

The blog post is based on lessons I followed as a referee and notes I took. One part of these lessons were videos by pro referees fitness coach Hilco de Boer. KNVB has also a monthly newsletter with tips and fitness exercises. Subscribe via the KNVB website and pick KNVB Assist Scheidsrechters (the Dutch word for referees).

Training session at the Hague’s Referee Association

A training session at your own referee assocition, that’s awesome. And I don’t get one per week, but two. What does a training at the Hagues Referee Association (HSV in Dutch) look like? Check out our 1 hour session in the blog post below.


We started off with warm-up laps around our pitch for 8 minutes, followed by a dynamic warming-up. What we did is jog for 10 metres then an excercise, like lifting the knees or walking side-ways.

Check out this story on how to do a proper warm-up.

3x a Steigerung of 50m

After doing a proper warming-up we did a Steigerung. It’s a German word we use for it, but I don’t know a proper translation. Over a length of 50 metres, there are cones every 10 metres. What you’ll notices is that the speed goes up at every cone. Between the fourth and fifth cone you’ve reached your maximum speed. Make sure there is room to slow down. Walk back to the start and totally do this exercise three times.

Exercise 1 

Our training field is about 60 metres long. We use it to the max. 

In the following exercises you’ll vary your speed constantly. For one series, you’ll follow all steps five times. After one serie, you’ll have two minutes of rest. Then do the second serie of five laps.

example of referee fitness training

Exercise 2

In exercises 2 we use the diagonals of the pitch. The diagonal is about 70 metres. 

  • We jog up to the kick-off mark for about 35m. 
  • Then we sprint to the corner of the pitch. 
  • We walk for 15m on the short side, followed by 15m of jogging. 
  • Then follows a long 70m sprint to the other corner. 
  • Back to start with a 30m walk.

Repeat for five times.

Second example of training session

Exercise 3

The third and last exercise is what we call the pyramid. You have different variations. We have 8 cones over the length of 60 metres. 

  • Jog up to cone 1 and back. 
  • Then jog up to cone 8 and back.
  • Jog up to cone 2 and back.
  • Then jog up to cone 8 and back. 
  • And so on, until you’ve had all of them.

Tip: do a cooling down after the training sessions.

How many km’s did we train?

I made a photo of one of the referee watches, because it was quite an intense session. That gives you an impression of what the hour looks like in total distance. Check out below how many km’s we ran.

Polar watch