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"The Referee" (Part 2)

By John Phillips
August 31 2019



What Sport Psychology techniques and skills are required to help in preparing for a match?

1. Goal setting
2. Coping with distractions 

3. Relaxation 
4. Attentional focus
5. Imagery and mental rehearsal 
6. Diary/log book
7. Check lists 
8. Appropriate communication 



Distractions are those influences, happenings, thoughts, people or objects which cause a referee to lose focus on what is happening on the field of play. What can be distractions? 

PEOPLE: crowd, family, players, team management, the assessor, the big screen, the media, fans and mascots 

THINGS: banners, noise, the boss, work 

NATURE: weather; rain, wind, sun, heat, humidity, The field 

RELATIONSHIPS: family, fans, friends, media, players, linesmen, assessor, IRB, national rugby union, self, trainers 

RESPONSIBILITIES: chores, meet mortgage payments, wash the car, paint the house 

WHAT I SHOULD HAVE DONE: spent time with the family, chores at home before leaving for the game, tasks at work, telephone calls, letters to be written, reports to write, people to visit 

THINGS WITHIN ME: hunger and thirst, not being fit enough, tiredness, fatigue, uncomfortable clothing and boots, earphones and microphone, not being prepared 

When you run onto the paddock it is important, imperative, that you have parked all the distractions. You do not enter the arena with any of the 'baggage' of everyday life. It is all left behind. It is possible to develop simple but effective strategies to leave all of that behind you. In almost all cases distractions will serve only to distract you from your primary mission or doing a great job with the whistle.

We can describe and teach you techniques that go by the titles of The Black Box, The Lake, The Sea Chest. Techniques whereby you clear your mind and allow rugby refereeing material to enter. You can learn to use imagery to enhance your ability to make decisions, to see what is going on during play, to deal with the obnoxious player, to refocus, and to reinforce that you are a great referee! 

It is true that we are what we think we are. We are the result of the most effective type of self-fulfilling prophecy; our fundamental beliefs about ourselves and what we expect that we can achieve. Positive images and thoughts in; positive results will follow. 


An interesting exercise is to list all the things over which you have control. Then in a second list all of those which you cannot control. As you will have probably predicted the second list will be many times longer than the first. However, there is no reason to despair! We have an indirect way of controlling this long list. We can do it by remote control by controlling how we react to all of them. There is the remote control. We control ourselves and so they do not control us. 

Here is one technique which you can use so as not to be bothered by your everyday responsibilities. As you drive from your home stop just around the corner. Or if you are flying, find yourself a seat alone or do this exercise just as the airplane leaves the ground. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. As you breathe out imagine that you are standing beside a beautiful blue lake surrounded by mountains. See the lake in vivid colour. Now take each item which will be a distraction and drop it in the lake. Watch it hit the surface and sink out of sight. See the ripples radiate to the edge of the lake. If you have done everything at home and work that is physically possible within the time available then placing everything else in the lake will serve to eliminate a long list of potential distractions. Remember that if something keeps you awake then it is a distraction because you will be tired and tiredness is a distraction. 

As a successful referee you possess the skills and knowledge to apply sport psychology strategies and techniques. Goal setting is a traditional technique and process used by athletes. It is not an add-on process. You are setting goals all of the time.

To prove the point to yourself complete the following 'questionnaire': 

Section A: 

When did you choose to live in your present home? How did you make the choice? Do you plan to move? If so when? If not why not? When did you do decide to play sport? Or be involved in sport? When did you make your choice of your career? When did you decide to become a rugby referee? 

Section B:

 How good do you want to be at refereeing rugby? When do you think you will reach your peak? When do you think you will retire from refereeing? What do you need to improve to move up the ranks? Who will work with you to help you improve? When do you hope to complete these improvements? 

Section C:

What would you call the answers to these questions? Discussion. All of the answers are your goals. 

Some notes about goals.

1. It is important to have goals of varying 'length'; a season, one year, two years, five years - ten years, career. 

2. Goals must meet criteria S specific M measurable A achievable R relevant T time lined

Specific; relates directly to a specific aspect of your sport. Development of strength, aerobic fitness, anaerobic fitness, flexibility, speed and acceleration; control of emotions; keeping a diary, setting goals, diet, time management. 

Measurable; can you record details of your progress toward each goal? Are you able to show the percentage decrease in your 40 meter sprint time? Increase in bench press? 

Achievable; even if the goal is set at a high level can you see yourself making it?

Relevant; it is necessary to work onelements which directly impact onyour refereeing ability. Some things are nice to do but will not help you as a referee. These nice things can be used as rewards as you achieve each incremental goal.

Timed; when precisely will you reach the goal? Be precise. Not next year, or next winter, or in two years, or when I am 25! But, 31 March 2002, 20 November 2003. 

Goal setting is a popular theme or topic which is often included in self-improvement books. The research points in the direction that you are more likely to get there when you see yourself being successful, reaching your goal, which you have created in your mind in vivid colours, stereophonic sound, with taste and smell. No iron clad guarantees, but be aware that we are the result of what we think we are and what we think we are capable of achieving. 

Should you not reach all of your written goals you will, all the same, arrive at a destination which is part of your compendium of goals anyway. So why not orchestrate and programme yourself? Get to where you want to go. Be where you want to be. Do this with SMART Goals. 

Some examples of goals for Rugby referees: 

  • By 31 March 2020 my 40 metre sprint will be 5.35 seconds. 
  • In the 2001 season I will pass with honours my Theory examination. 
  • By the end of the 2020 season I will be nominated for the I.R.B panel. 
  • I will be selected for the 2021 R.W.C.
  • I will referee well in the 2021 R.W.C. 
  • My assessment rating for 2020 will average 88.0. 
  • I will decrease my critical incidents by 50 per cent.

I am reminded of an interview given by Andre Aggassi on the television program 60 Minutes in the mid-90's. Two of his comments included, 'When I am on the court playing tennis there is no where else that I would rather be.'. When asked about whether he was affected by the noise of the crowd he replied that the only thing that was in focus was the ball!



 Video Rugby Union Referee's Signals

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The Referee (Part 2)
Discussion started by , 31/08/2019 12:55
31/08/2019 12:55
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14/09/2019 08:27
Another video of referee’s signals at the bottom.


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