Referee development tips by Carol Anne Chenard

Referee development is crucial to become a better referee. But it might be difficult for you to find the best ways to progress. In this blog Carol Anne Chenard shares a few techniques and will give you tips that get in the right mindset to develop and improve.

I’ve spoken with the former Canadian top referee before about her career and fighting cancer. Since 2022 she’s back on the FIFA list as video referee, a goal she had when I spoke to earlier on.

Setting goals will keep you on track

Goals will keep you on track. When Carol Anne Chenard worked her way back to reach the Olympics, she didn’t just have that end goal in mind. “I needed to have smaller goals as well”, she says. “I knew when fitness had to be done by, I knew how much time I needed to train for that. I needed to stay current with the Laws of the Game, because I wasn’t refereeing yet”

As FIFA referee they work with a 4 year cycle for every World Cup. “But there are steps in between and you can’t be 100% fit all of that time. It is about planning the season and scheduling time off. Thinking about when you’ll work on your base fitness and when will you be adding sprints and speed endurance into it. 

Want to go in-depth on the goal-setting process? Check these principles to do it effectively.

Be able to change your goals

And the way you train changes over the years, because your body changes. “I had to work more on sprints, the older I got. Because it’s harder to maintain your speed.” Also the fitness test changed over the years, which you have to fit into your routines. Besides the regular FIFA fitness test, also the YoYo test was introduced. And recently Uefa for example also introduced the Single-Double-Single test. 

And you also need to be able to change your goals. Sometimes you can meet them consistently and you can ask a little more from yourself. “It’s not okay to change a goal because it’s too hard. It’s going to be hard, some days suck.” 

But also things change in life, so changing goals then is good. “In my case something happened I couldn’t control.” By then she didn’t know how quickly she could recover and how fast she would be when back. “It can be scary, to put a goal out there and you don’t know if you’re able to meet it. I might fail.” But you should at least have the right attitude. “I’ll do everything I possibly can do in my control so that I can pass it.”

How to keep yourself accountable

Write your goals down, that makes it easier. “And put timelines to those, as otherwise it’s easy to dismiss them, as there’s nothing other than our minds to remind us of those goals.

Take time at the beginning of the year or season to set goals. And if you haven’t yet, you can still do that before the season resumes. Chenard still sets training goals, even now she doesn’t referee. “I have training and professional goals. Not all young referees realise yet how important it is to set goals like this. It also shows your progress.” The Canadian referee loves to tick the box when you meet a goal. “It motivates you to see that you pass the goals.”

And Carol Anne Chenard also talked about sharing your habits with someone else. I (Jan) for example shared with my wife I am training at my referee association in The Hague twice a week. Chenard recognizes that. “If you’re still home, your partner can ask why you’re still here, weren’t you going to a training? It holds you accountable.”

Believe in your dream

If you have a goal, you  have to believe in it. Carol Anne Chenard tells the story of when people came to her in the beginning of her career. They asked if she wanted to become a FIFA referee. “I’d look them in the face and say “yes”, but in my head I was think “no way”.” She was still a speed skater at that time and was hoping to go  to the Olympics with the short track team.

Only after a while she started to believe that she could really achieve the goal to become a FIFA referee. And then she really progressed and climbed up the referee ladder. In an earlier interview she talked about how competitive she was and how she was able to stay at the top level constantly.

Evaluate the games

You train for things we need to put it  practise on the field of play. Be where we need to be on the field, move properly, make the right decisions. Referees are their own worst critics, she says. You can look to the stats on the watch after the game, but it’s equally important for her to realize how you feel after the game. “Your watch might tell you looked really good, but you don’t feel that way. Or vice versa. It’s important

If you made a mistake, it’s crucial to realize why you made that mistake. You need to learn from it and then be able to move on. “You can’t dwell on a decision for too long.” 

And if your games are not televised? “Your wife or a friend might be able to come to your game and bring an iPad or so. Maybe film a few minutes, not necessarily the whole game. Five minute clips about your movement. If you try to be less static around the penalty area, she can film 5 minute clips there.

It’s great to get feedback from colleagues and coaches, but it’s also great to get feedback from people who know you. Your partner knows you and can probably tell by your body language there’s positive and negative things. 

You can’t change everything at the same time. That’s why these small goals are important. That’s when you need someone who can identify these things with you. 

Be good at less important games

Chenard also touched upon a point which helps you improve too. Almost all her games were televised, but yours might not. And you might have a coach or mentor watching you quite a lot. You’ll probably give 100% then. But what about the games when nobody is watching? Especially when not filmed, these are “games that you can be lazy and nobody would know”. She has advice for referees who struggle with this and keep the same approach for each game. Being lazy or less-focused on these games will not help you get better. You can continue a good  form and always focus on a specific aspect to make that better. 

She didn’t want to just jog around with an attitude that shows she’s the FIFA referee who’s going to a World Cup. “That would not help me at all. We should not get complacent. That would not help me reach my goals.”

And these times you’ll never know with local news, clubs who broadcast their own games or a fan sharing a video on YouTube.” And you can also impress coaches or teams with a performance or approach to the game. The Ontario Soccer Association discovered Chenard after a team wrote to them that they should watch this upcoming referee. “Always referee like somebody is watching you. It can make a real difference in your career.”

More: read full story on effective goal-setting.

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