Pre-season fitness tips for referees

Some pre-season fitness tips for referees to get back into officiating. When the professional season starts many amateur referees will officiate friendlies and get ready for their season too. But some of you might have just come back from your holidays or are still relaxing on a sunny beach. This story has a few great pre-season fitness tips to get you back on track, so you will be ready for the season.

Personally, my season starts at the end of August. My fitness test is mid-September. That’s why KNVB’s professional referee fitness instructor Hilco de Boer send out some pre-season fitness tips. These tips might be useful for you too, that’s why I share them on my website as well.

Start in time

If you have to do a test, make sure you start in time with training sessions. That’s you you will build up your physical ability. My FIFA fitness test is on the 20th of September, but I can’t start two weeks in advance. I have to build up my physical ability.

Pre-season fitness tips: quality vs quantity

Don’t go for quantity, but choose for quality. Going out for just a run five times a week seems sporty, but you can train your body better with two or three specific training sessions for referees. And the day after a game there’s no need to run for twenty miles, but another recovery training method can be much better. Make sure you pick the right intensity every time you train.

Starting with friendlies

Refereeing friendly games is the way to get back into the rythm. Being on the football pitch stimulates you to get ready for the season. However, the first thing you do after your summer holidays should not be refereeing a game. Make sure you have done five training sessions before you whistle your first friendly game. And during three of these sessions you should have done sprints.

Pre-season fitness tips for referees

Only refereeing doesn’t make you fit

Being out there again is a great feeling. Officiating games is our hobby, the thing we love. Teams want to practice as well at the start of the season. Plenty of games available for you as referee. KNVB referee fitness coach advises: “Only refereeing or assisting games won’t make you fit and you will not be able to carry on until the end of the season. Make sure you do enough specific training sessions [for referees].”

So a massage or recovery training the day after a match is important, because that specific training helps you improve your physical ability due to a good recovery.

Do core stability 3 times a week

To prevent yourself from injures, make sure you add core stability 3x to your weekly schedule. And this is not just one of the pre-season fitness tips for referees, because it’s important all the time. 

Not sure what to do? Read more about core-stability exercises.

Train during your holidays close to the season

Holidays are nice. And many of you will be off for a few weeks. But don’t forget your physical ability. If your holidays are right before the season starts, make sure you remain fit. “It is needless to say, you should continue your training sessions then”, Hilco de Boer says.

Work on your routines

A tip from PGMOL is: “Pre-Season is the perfect time to explore and optimise pre-match routines and in-match movement patterns”. If you officiate a few games, you get that feeling back for the game. You get used to them, because it’s crucial you’re not rusty when the official games start and you might be observed.

Which pre-match routines will you optimise before the season?

Example of training session to start with

I got a document from KNVB with some examples of good training sessions for referees. I’m not the fitness expert and can’t see you personally. So always make sure you’ll listen to your own body and adapt the intensity of training sessions to your own possibilities and needs. During the coming weeks I will publish tips on fitness for referees on every Monday that will help you get your fitness schedule for the week ready.

After a summer break the following excercise is a great start. It’s a so-called  extensive endurance training session. The intensity is not high, but due to the duration it can make it feel intense. This training improves your endurance level.

Make sure you do a proper warming-up and cooling down yourself.

KNVB has added three different levels. If you use a heart rate monitor: maximum Heart Rate (HRmax) should be 60-75%.

  • Level 1: 3 times 10 minute running with two minutes rest (walking) between the periods
  • Level 2: 3 times 11 minute running with two minutes rest (walking) between the periods
  • Level 3: 3 times 12 minute running with two minutes rest (walking) between the periods
Pre-season fitness tips to start the season: extensive endurance training

More on physical training

Every week I will share tips on physical training and examples of exercises. In an interview I did with Hilco de Boer, he shares why fitness is important for referees. Already curious what a weekly training schedule looks like? Harvey shares his training schedule with you.

What does your fitness schedule look like before the season? Please let me know via a comment or on


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