One of my good officiating buddies and I chatted a few weeks ago about how there is very little training on how officials handle the mental stress of a game or the stress that comes after making an error. We study the rulebook and the mechanics manual. We ask questions from the more experienced officials we work with. We call one another to go over weird situations that we ran into, or try and create the most outlandish situations that could possibly happen to stump our friends. Still, as my friend and I chatted, neither of us thought that there was much information out there to help officials become more mentally strong especially after making a mistake.
While at the US Lacrosse National Convention a few years ago I was introduced to an acronym that I marked down on my pre-game sheet:
There is an old officiating saying that goes “officials are expected to start out perfect and improve from there.” Pretty much every official I’ve spoken with or worked with abhors making a mistake on the field, but they also understand that a mistake is going to happen one way or another. When players make mistakes the coach subs them off so the player can gather himself, but officials don’t get to come off the field after we mess up. We have to stay out there and endure the external anger being hurled our way by the negatively effected team and their fans, while simultaneously handling the mounting disgust rising within ourselves for screwing up something we knew how to do correctly.
I write more about my mistakes on the field than my successes for two reasons. One, when the crew does a good job no one notices us and there isn’t anything juicy to write about. Two, writing allows me to acknowledge my mistakes. I get to release my internal negative feelings in a positive way and other officials can read my mistakes and hopefully not repeat them when they are on the field.
Most of my officiating is decidedly unoriginal. I’ve taken, and continue to take, the advice from more experienced officials and integrate what works best for me into my game. However, officiating tips and tricks only go so far and very few deal with how to handle mental stress. My next few posts are going to follow that theme by examining a few books and corresponding game situations that I’ve used to help me become not only a more resilient official, but a more mentally resilient person as well.
The next post is going to be on a different techniques you can use to better prepare for a game from the moment you receive the assignment to right before the first whistle. While I’m posting if anyone has any resources or ideas for better mental resiliency feel free to post them in the comments section below.