I touched lightly upon this in my year-end reflections post for 2014 but I didn’t let on to all the insight I really had.
Observation has been a major source of learning for me on the refereeing journey. As you get the opportunity to assist referees further along the journey and hierarchy than you, you get to see some of the qualities that make them successful.
“Body language is your greatest tool… or your worst nightmare”
It begins here.
Referees start their careers out on the field. Many of them with plenty of experience having played, coached and watched football. Most quickly realise that despite having a good knowledge of the game, the nerves and pressure quickly work on the psyche and composure.
After mentoring and a lot of experience on the field and experimentation, the hesitance becomes less frequent and officiating at a certain level becomes easier. I claim three levels of confidence can be displayed.
- Average confidence
- Elite confidence
As a referee begins to take on more challenging games, the confidence needs to be almost re-built from the beginning. This is because the experience has changed. The surroundings have changed and even the style of play may have changed.
Since we all strive to achieve the best through hard work, I’ll focus on what I’ve learnt about this.
Unwavering confidence is built through nothing but experience. If you watch referees at this level, you never seen them flinch or detect their confidence waver through their body language. Their confidence is so strong that it oozes from them when they walk and talk. They know what they are doing and every action has a clear purpose on the field. This along with getting the big decisions right is the key to making a very strong impression of elite match control to the satisfaction of the coaches, players and spectators. The enjoyment of the game improves as a result.
Certain teams have players that attempt to toy with the referee’s match control and it takes a referee with this confidence level to deal with them and keep the game beautiful.
The line can be very thin though because over-emphasis can lead to the referee appearing to have a large ego. This is having gone too far and leads to the following memorable impression by spectators:
The game isn’t all about you ref!
This can have a huge negative impact on the referee’s reputation and affect future games.
Keep a closer eye on this as you watch referees now. It sounds basic but it is far from it.
Self-confidence from a football coach
The ideas presented in this post is solely based on the observations of the writer (no proven research/facts). On a semi-related side note, have a read of this article.
Note: The picture doesn’t implicate that the writer believes Howard Webb suffers from the ego issues made in this post. He is undoubtedly one of the most gifted referees who have this elite confidence when it comes to officiating on the field.