How every referee can be a coach

How every referee can be a coach: a blog story based on a session by KNVB instructor Patrick Voogsgeerd. He explains crucial factors that will make the coach-referee relationship work in the best way. Plus he explains how you can be a coach to your peers as well. A blog story about the right attitude and taking responsibility as a referee. 

Try to know what goes around in the ref’s mind

Just imagine. Watch two different football games with two different referees. Some referees make lots of gestures, but others seem very calm non-verbally. On the other hand, these referees might use their voice a lot more. But who’s the better referee? And how do you coach them? 

“If you don’t know what goes around in someone’s head, you can’t properly coach someone”, says Voogsgeerd. As a coach or mentor you might want a referee to be more vocal, but there might be a reason to talk less. That could be personal or something during the game that makes him or her more quiet. Referees and coaches should talk, introduce each other, build a good relationship – ideally for a longer period of time.

Coach from a referee’s point of view

Crucial part of coaching is to do that from a referee’s point of view. It’s not the coach who should tell his views, but very importantly for good coaching is the perspective from the referee. What does he or she need? Where does he or she benefit from? 

That comes with a big responsibility for the match official. A referee needs to be willing to learn. He or she needs to talk about the goals, development points, issues. 

Essential part of coaching 

What is the essential part of coaching? I’d like you to answer that question before you check out the suggestions below the embedded tweet. It gives a good impression of what you expect from your own coaches. Think about: how would I as referee benefit the most from working with a coach or mentor?

I hope you came up with things like this:

  • Give advice
  • Improve
  • Stimulate
  • Exchange knowledge and experiences
  • Mentor
  • Give someone a mirror
  • Help
  • Show strong points (that he/she doesn’t know of yet)
  • Ask and listen
  • Give compliments

Who’s part of your “referee team”? 

Voogsgeerd talks about the preparation of Louis van Gaal, the Dutch football coach. According to Voogsgeerd preparation is key. He shows the way Van Gaal works and adds the refereeing perspective:

A top coach can’t manage a club without help. Van Gaal had 12 people who prepared things before a match and 37 staff members. “When I arrived at a new club the whole world was thinking about selection and buying of new players”, Van Gaal says. He stresses that the staff was more important. According to the Dutch coach it’s more important that current players can get the best support. 

Voogsgeerd relates that to refereein. He wants to show with this example that every referee needs to think about who supports them. You need different mentors. Some will know you personally, some followed your refereeing career and others have refereeing experience and don’t know you at all. And everyone one of them can help you – so be open to it. 

More about types of mentors that you need as a referee..

What mentoring means for a mentor

Mentoring also means something for the mentor. You can coach a pupil on many aspects. But you need to be prepared. Do you know your pupil? Stimulating someone is something you can train. 

The crucial part is that you ask the right questions. Due to your questions a referee analyses his/her own game. Evaluation ideally takes place by asking questions after the referee takes the conclusions. A referee benefits the most when he/she comes up with a solution, not when you as coach tell somebody what works best.

Want to be a better mentor? Also check out the 10 tips from AYSO to be a better referee mentor.

What if a referee doesn’t remember

Sometimes a referee doesn’t remember what happened in a specific minute. As a coach you shouldn’t get into detail, but giving a hint is enough. Like: the moment when a coach yelled or the situation where they wanted a penalty kick. Don’t give too much details, he or she will start talking and then will start thinking. 

Most of the time you get where you want to be, because referees will recognize the moments and situations. But if a referee can’t remember anything or is not able to find a solution, then you can do that as a coach. You can contribute only then with your tips and bring your own experience in.

Everybody is a coach: help each other 

Some people are assigned as a coach or mentor, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do that. Everyone is a coach. In this blog story you’ve read what is expected from a coach. You know how questions should be asked, so if you watch a refereeing friend, help each other. Most of the time when you watch a colleague, you’ll also learn something yourself. 

Also when you go to your referee association: ask questions about what happened. The RA is a perfect place to learn from each other, where you can coach colleagues on the situations they bring onto the table. And they can also help you by asking the right questions. By doing so, it keeps you and the other referee sharp. 

Be curious. Ask and learn. Then everyone can contribute to the development of referees. 


  • Steve Kelly

    This is excellent Every Young Referee needs a Coach/Mentor

    I am a great believer in the Referee choosing his own coach to ensure you have that connection with someone you feel you can work with
    Steve Kelly England

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