“Stay positive when you’re a relegated referee”

Quote of relegated referee Ronny Mulder

All promoted referees posted happy things on Facebook after the end of the season. There was one positive message from a referee that has been relegated. His motto: don’t quit, but work even harder to get back on a higher level. “Giving up is the easy way”, says the relegated referee. “You can get back if you really want to.”

It wasn’t the first time Ronny Mulder got the news that he was relegated as a referee. He refereed in the Topklasse, the highest amateur level, when it was introduced in 2010-2011. But he was already relegated twice before and worked his way up again. “I know how it feels to relegate. I am 56 now and it’s my 28th year as referee. You should always have a goal as referee – no matter how old you are. I was already 50 when I reached the national amateur level.”

His most important message for referees: don’t quit if you have a setback. “Giving up is the easiest way. That is not an option for me.”

We don’t learn to lose

“As a referee on the higher amateur levels we know that 3 or 4 out of 12 will relegate”, Mulder says. “It can happen and you should take it into account. But the problem is: we don’t learn to lose.”

Mulder is also a coach for young talented referees. “What would those refs think if I would quit?” When his pupils get a bad mark he learns them not to complain about he assessors. “I ask them how they will try to improve on that aspect of the game. They need to make reflective reports about their performance. Everybody wants the pat on the shoulder, but somotimes you need a kick in the butt as well”

The road to the top is long for referees. Mulder has much respect the referees in the lowest groups. “Only 3 or 4 out of 75 will make the step up. Then you need persistance, because the chance you won’t earn a promotion is so high”

Lessons from Ronny Mulder

  • Determine for yourself what your top level will be. Don’t set a goal that is too high, not everybody is good enough to reach the top. “If you’ve don that, you will really appreciate your games.”
  • Don’t call off your games when you know you will have a stern assessor. “Yes, that is what happens a lot.”
  • Don’t complain about the assessor, but have a look in the mirror after every game. Ask yourself how you did and what should improve.
  • You are never too young to reach the top. Mulder was 50 when he reached the national amateur level.
  • And the most important one: don’t quit when you relegate or have a bad mark.

Have you ever been relegated? How did you find the power to go for it another season and did it pay off?
For our Dutch colleagues. Ronny Mulder was referee in the game which tv host Hans Kraaij jr. threw away his jacket.

PS: Ronny sells Acme whistles. Check out his website.

How to do a proper coin toss as referee

Svein Oddvar Moen, a Norwegian referee, didn’t do a proper coin toss earlier this month. It was quite a funny moment. He flipped the coin in the air, but it didn’t land in his hand or on the ground. It landed on the head of one of captain Espen Bugge Petterson

Watch the clip from the toin coss in the game between Strømsgodset and  Lillestrom.

Has this ever happened to you as a referee?

 

Procedure for proper coin toss

  1. Gather the captains in the middle circle before the kick-off for the coin toss.
  2. Introduce yourself and shake hands.
  3. It’s polite to ask the visitors to choose for heads or tails – although it’s not a written law.
  4. Flip the coin in the air. If you can catch it, do so. A tip I got from a referee mentor: If you let it fall on the ground, pick it up later when the captains are back to their teams. You shouldn’t bow down to “the captains”. The blog l’Arbitre shows a good example of that from Swedish match offical Jonas Eriksson.
  5. The captain that wins the coin toss decides which end his team will be defending in the first half. The winner always kicks off at the start of the scond half.
  6. Always write down who will kick off on your game card. I also write down the time the half starts in case my watch stops working. You can then always check with someone on the sideline how long you have to play based on the clock and don’t have to deal with timers coaches have set. Some other referees will use two watches, but that’s not what I prefer because wearing two doesn’t feel comfortable with me.
  7. Do another handshake. Wish the captains and then your teams a good game. Let your AR’s check the goal nets and count the players on both halfs. Then everything’s ready for a nice game of football.

David Beckham as referee awarding penalty against his son

The Graham Norton Show had a wonderful episode about refereeing. I did not expect it, but have you ever thought of David Beckham as football referee?

What he told was a nice story of how difficult it could be to referee a match of one of your kids.

“I ref’d one of the games of Romeo. Romeo is the most emotional of all of my kids actually. He was playing at this game and the referee didn’t turn up. All the parents were looking at me as if to say …”

“I went on the pitch and started refereeing the game. It went great, they were winning 4-0. And then one of the opposition players went towards our goal.” The he realises he should be neutral as referee and adds: ‘I shouln’t say it was our goal’.”

“Then Romeo went to make a tackle. He missed the ball and took the player down. It was an obvious penalty and I am thinking: “Oh no, I really don’t want to be making this decision. But then, I looked at our parents and I know I had to give the penalty. I give the penalty and Romeo is looking at me and see his eyes are wetting up. The kid stepped up and took the penalty – and I shouldn’t say thankfully – but he missed it. And as our team, as Romeo’s team was breaking he ran passed me and said: ‘I can’t believe you did that, daddy’.”

A great story to learn from. Be honest as referee – even when you have to referee your own kids and give a penalty kick against them.

Interested in more youth football lesson. Check out how a coaches teaches his pupils to respect the referee.

How FA’s can retain talented referees

Jeff-Weiner-linkedinI heared a story of a few talented referees who quit refereeing before they reached the top level. Not because they were not good enough, but they felt they were not treated the right way. Such a waste of quality!

And when I read a story from Jeff Weiner, CEO at LinkedIn, I thought it would be useful for my blog. It gives an answer to how football assocations can retain talented referees – and what referees should do themselves!

And it’s not only 3 musts for national football assocations. If you want to get a better referee you should ask the following 3 things from your FA and work hard to make the most of it:

  1. Mentorship
  2. Career path
  3. Recognition

Mentorship

Jeff Weiner: “The primary role of a mentor in this case is to help the mentee determine what it is they ultimately want to do, and ensure they are well equipped to pursue that path.”

What mentors should do: listen to young referees and help them in their needs.

What refs can do themselves: As a talented referee you maybe need tips for better training, nutrition or you want to improve your non-verbal communication. Tell your mentor what you need and he will provide useful info for you.

Career path

Jeff Weiner: “Understand what it is you ultimately want to accomplish.”

What both mentors and referees should do: talk together and share your expectations of each other. Plus make a plan for your career.

Two important factors here:

  1. The football association should keep promises towards referees
  2. Referees should work hard to achieve the set goals

Recognition

Jeff Weiner: “Every individual you work with, regardless of their position within the organization, not only wants to be recognized – they need to be recognized. It’s a fundamental part of human nature.”

It’s not just financial compensation. It’s also recognition of hard work. Most professional referees will get a very good match fee, but young refs spend lot of time in their refereeing career without earning a lot. I’ve heard examples of talented referees being a fourth official on Dutch 2nd League on Friday night, having their own game on Saturday, being a mentor themselves of young kids on Sunday and being a 4th official again on Monday. Quite a busy weekend.

FA’s can motivate young refs by giving them recognition for their hard work. Show your appreciation. Give a call after a good assessment, share the good performances of talents on local meetings or ask regularly how they are doing. Get personal!

And the most crucial lesson from Jeff Weiner: “Recognize a job well done (good refereeing performances) consistently and you’ll not only be more likely to retain your most valuable people, you’ll motivate them to do their best work along the way.”

Barry Kelly: lessons from a hurling referee

Barry Kelly is a top class hurling referee. I have to admit I didn’t know what kind of sport it was when I went to Dublin. But eventhough I am not familiair with it, Kelly gave me some wonderful tips and lessons I can use as football referee.

If you don’t know hurling either, check this out:

Here are some nice lessons and quotes from Barry Kelly:

  • Always make decisions on it’s merits
  • Get some people skills
  • You’ll make mistakes whey you’re tired
  • The best place to watch a game is from the center of the field
  • You can even loose controle after 10 seconds
  • There’s less intolerance of mistakes
  • No one starts refereeing with dreams of getting to the very top
  • Refereeing can be easier in stadiums with big crowd

Barry Kelly worked out a few of them in his speech. I’ve added that below.

Always make decisions on it’s merits

Barry Kelly: “The pressure is on after a red card or a second yellow. In hurling they might have almost decapitated an opponent with their stick. But they expect you to do them a favour. And I know people don’t like it when players are sent-off, especially in finals. My advice: Always make judgements on it’s merits.”

Seems obvious, but you only will do that when you keep it in mind. This season I gave a penalty kick and a player of the other team fell in the penalty box just a few minutes later. I did not give it, but that’s when they will ask you for a penalty kick too.

Get some people skills

So you need to be psychologically and socially strong. Wikipedia writes: It’s “the ability to communicate effectively with people in a friendly way”. You need to build relationships of trust. Barry Kelly: “I work at a secondary school and that’s how I learn a lot of those skills. Others should maybe work on that.”

There’s less intolerance of mistakes

Barry Kelly: “People want referees to be perfect. There is less intolerance of mistakes. You can ref well for 88 minutes, make one mistake then and you are the bad guy.”

Big crowd

Barry Kelly: “Refereeing can be easier in stadiums with big crowd. You just hear the noice. You don’t hear individual comments any more.”

Read other stories from the referee conference in Dublin:

Nonverbal communication as a referee

The modern game as we love it, is a game that’s undoubtedly challenging to referee in this ever growing technological era where referees are constantly under scrutiny. However I’m writing this article on nonverbal communication as a referee to show you that refereeing isn’t all about what we say, nor the countless disputed decisions we make. But this focuses more on the psychology of refereeing and in particular how our nonverbal communication effects the game.

There are 3 elements to how everyone communicates in life and surprisingly people interpreting your conversation does not come from what we actually say, in fact only a mere 7% of the interpretation comes from the words themselves. 30% of interpretation comes from our tone of voice (called our paralinguistics) but the other 55% of interpretation is non-verbal. Therefore getting our non verbal communication correct is key to a good game. Nonverbal communication is the body language we use, as well as our facial expressions and hand gestures.

4 things that are in important for nonverbal communication as a referee:

  1. Hand gestures
  2. Postural echo (what? It’s copying another persons posture)
  3. Touch
  4. Personal space

Hand gestures

First of all the communication with players is essential to having a good enjoyable game. Hand gestures are very important as not only are there a set of hand gestures we are required to use by the Laws of the Game, but also the other gestures used and general hand gestures we use to communicate in general life. What we need to do in order to ‘sell’ the decision is make sure that our hand gestures are complementing what we say. By that I mean when we’re speaking, hand gestures are a fantastic way to back this up as long as they are used correctly. For example when telling a player to calm down the widely known and used gesture of using open palms complements being calm and non confrontational. The open palms can be used a lot during a game.They can be used for telling players to leave by simulating a pushing action with one hand, and also used for telling a player to come over to you. By keeping your palms open it’s seen as non confrontational and shows that you’re the one that’s in control.

Postural echo

Something that Psychologists call postural echo can be used to build a rapport with the players. Postural echo is in essence copying the other persons posture, so this could mean walking a bit more like they do and standing a bit more like they do. Although consciously the players don’t recognise this, this will be telling them that you’re more like them and will enable you to build a rapport with them. However this is very much situation dependant. If one of your games gets flared up and you need to assert your authority this
can be done by something called the peacock. This can be done by lifting your chest up more and shows a sense of superiority and dominance. However it’s best not to over use this otherwise you may be seen as over officious.

The power of touch

The power of touch is something that can have an influence on the game too, although I would recommend only using this for open age football and not youth football, as we all know what child protection is like these days. A piece of research carried out by Fisher.et.al suggested that touch can have an unconscious and positive effect on attitudes. Fisher conducted an experiment in a library where the Liberian touched half of the students on the hand and didn’t with the other half. All of the students who were touched rated it as a better experience. Therefore in refereeing we can use touch to our advantage and to build that key rapport with players. And the RESPECT hand shake at the start of the game is a good way of doing this.

Personal space

Personal space is something that’s described as an emotionally charged bubble which surrounds each individual. If personal space is invaded we can feel exploited and very uncomfortable. There are 4 types of personal space. Whilst cautioning or dismissing a player the LOTG says that we should isolate the player but what it does not say is the
amount of space there should be. The player that you’re dealing with should be around 1.5 – 2 meters away, this is called the social space. Your personal space which is 0.5 – 1.5 meters should not be invaded on most occasions and anyone that enters that space has no right to do so, if a player does enter that space in a hostile manner you are well within your rights to rebuke that player and caution them for adopting an aggressive attitude or dissent. The public space is over 4 meters which is where all other players should be whilst you have isolated the player to talk to them, apart from the captain, if appropriate. So take a few of these tips away with you and see if they work in your game. Psychology in refereeing #2 is to follow next season!

The story is written by Michael Jones on nonverbal communication as a referee. Michael is a Level 7 Referee, studying Criminal & Forensic Psychology. Thanks for writing this story for my blog

Visualise game situations as match preparation

It’s not over yet with tips I got from the referee conference. I will share a longer blog post with rugby referee Alain Rolland’s story later. Now you’ll get one tip you will benefit from every game. Rolland’s advice: visualise game situations as match preparation.

Visualise game situations you need to judge in the future.

Visualise game situations you possibly need to judge in the future.

Ever wondered why top referees look so calm on the pitch?

“Some referees look so comfortably because they know what they’re doing”, Rolland says. And to be able to “read the game” a referee “needs to visualise game situations”, Rolland says. “Think about what to say during a match and how to say it.”

How is the Irish World Cup final referee doing that? He’s sitting “comfy on his sofa with no disturbances. Then I spend 20-25 minutes by thinking what you will say in certain situations. I’m exhausted after that period. I am forcing myself to think about what I need for that. This match preparation works for me.”

Please try it and share your experiences with me!

Do you have any specific technique or training that helps in your match preparation?