Physical vs mental fitness: how being top fit helps you better deal with pressure

Physical vs mental fitness: how being top fit helps you better deal with pressure and gives you more energy to focus on making the right decisions. Some great tips by Bundesliga referee Patrick Ittrich and World Cup and Euro final assistant referee Leif Lindberg.

Webinar on physical vs mental fitness

I’ve followed a webinar from Norfolk County Referee Association and Referee Abroad. Both Leif Lindberg and Darren Cann were present

“Normally the best way to deal with pressure and mental things is to be fit”, says Leif Lindberg during the webinar. ““If you’re the fittest guy on the field of play, you don’t have any problems. The easiest way to prepare mental training is to train your fitness.”

That intrigued me during the session, but how does it work for him? Leif Lindberg explains. “You make mistakes when you are tired, so make sure you’re fit.” He also recognizes the lack of focus referees sometimes have during the last 10 minutes of the game. Because referees are not physically fit, they struggle more with keeping up with play in the final moments of the game. You can’t pay full attention to making decisions or dealing with pressure, but statistics show that the last part of the game has more goals and fouls. 

Patrick Ittrich on physical vs mental fitness

The fitter you are, the more oxygen is left there to go to your brain. “That’s something I need as well, like my legs, to follow play.” That’s what Patrick Ittrich writes in his book Die richtige Entscheidung (German for: the correct decision). Fitness is crucial for the German Bundesliga referee. He says he can’t compete with a 20-year-old player half his age, but needs to be able to position himself well. 

Football has changed and there’s less time to relax. Players have thought of the next few steps, which means a referee has to do so too. And to be top fit referees have to do more. Training methods have changed over the years. At the start of his career he would have just started running. Now he does 10-15 minutes of core and stability exercises and makes a good training plan for every week. 

Not fit and then focusing on the wrong things

Leif Lindberg also says that you might start thinking of something else. Something which distracts you in what you’re on the field for: making the right decisions. “Maybe you’re already in the dressing rooms and the showers with your head. Then you are not focused and can make a mistake.”

During his career Werner Helsen really helped him, says Leif Lindberg. Werner Helse is sports scientist and Uefa’s referee training expert. He had a big role for example with the recently introduced Single-Double-Single fitness test for referees. Helsen helped Lindberg to stay top fit. “Training sessions during long tournaments were not enough for me”. So he could do some extra sessions. “My secret: always train very, very hard.”

These days you have to look as a sportsman, says Lindberg. But he also wants to look fit after his career and he can stay very fit in this covid period. “I am lucky to live in a country where I can stay fit now. Most outdoor things are open. It’s important. As coach or instructor I always try to look like a (fit) referee.”

Tips by Leif Lindberg for Paris World Cup referees

In an earlier blog post attendees of the Paris World Games share the tips they received from Leif Lindberg and Michel Vautrot. Check out their valuable tips for you as referee.

Below this image you can also watch the full webinar with Leif Lind Berg and Darren Cann.

With Ross Mortimer (second from the left), Milan Vyhnanovský and Bryan Bijnens
Referees from the Paris World Games

Webinar with Leif Lindberg and Darren Cann

Below you can follow the full webinar from Norfolk County Referee Association and Referee Abroad. Both Leif Lindberg and Darren Cann were present.

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