Avoiding DistractionsPosted by SCRRS Website Committee on May 27th, 2010
By Pat McNally
The first rule for refereeing a rugby match is to give your undivided attention to the game and the players.
Anything that interferes with focus will increase the potential for mistakes and impact the referee’s ability to win the player’s trust and respect.
This doesn’t mean referees should be wound up so tight that they’re not open to what is going on around them and can’t enjoy the game.
Better to find a middle ground where one’s mind is not cluttered with static and focus on what is clear and obvious.
This is much easier said than done, with all that goes on in our lives, both inside and outside of rugby. Here are some steps referees can take to avoid being tempted by distractions.
Poor physical fitness can be a major source of distraction. Having confidence in one’s ability to perform physically is important because when a referee is not fit, the first thing to go is mental focus.
Establish a regular workout routine that builds and maintains physical conditioning. Healthy routines should include proper nutrition and rest.
It should be varied enough to avoid boredom and complacency, but well timed so referees reach peak fitness when the demands of the season are the greatest.
Many referees enjoy an adult beverage now and again when out on the town with friends. Just remember that there is a right time and place to let loose. When it impacts your performance on game day, it can have a negative effect on one’s reputation, and is a short road to a bad destination.
Getting ready for a match or tournament is another opportunity to get sidetracked. Have your kit clean and your equipment ready to go early. Do not wait until the last minute to pack, which just gives you one more thing to worry about.
Make sure your travel arrangements are sorted out – plane reservations, directions to the pitch, etc. Get to the pitch early and set aside enough time to take care of the necessary preliminary details before the game.
Allow yourself enough time to prepare at your rate. Being in a hurry is a sure recipe for getting flustered because trying to fight time is a losing battle.
Upon arrival at the pitch, make sure you take care of business first and talk to all the principals; coaches, managers, fellow match officials, old friends, etc. Be sure to ask if anyone has any questions, where the medical personnel will be, or if there any unique conditions to the playing field you need to know.
Respectfully inquire when the best time would be to conduct the cleat check, front row talk and the captain’s coin toss.
This will put the teams at ease and minimize any distractions they may have. Find a semi-isolated section of the grounds where you can warm up, mentally and physically.
The referee should be visible enough so people can approach for something important, but be far enough away to discourage unnecessary interruptions.
Don’t forget to file away any off the field issues from work or home. Don’t expect these distractions to go away completely but learn to keep them in perspective.
A big part of the appeal of refereeing, and sports in general, is to leave the pressures of everyday life behind, even if only for a short while, and just have fun.
It is important for the referee to continue to keep distractions to a minimum during the match. Keep the majority of one-on-one communication to the two captains. Do not get drawn into a debate with the players over calls or decisions.
Don’t let the sidelines divert attention from your purpose, and don’t EVER address the crowd. Everyone has a right to an opinion, no matter what, but referees should not let themselves to be derailed from the task at hand.
Learn to enjoy the overall atmosphere, but don’t get lured into any banter (positive or negative).
Allowing distractions, external or internal, to dissuade match officials from performing their duties sets everyone up for dissatisfaction.
Referees that don’t give anything less than a full effort and attention to their match are not giving teams their due. Staying fit by regular exercise, healthy eating and adequate rest supports concentration and control.
By avoiding some of the many distractions that life offers, we can fully enjoy our roles by staying on track.
After all, you can always find a distraction if you’re looking for one.