If you plan on working as a referee or other sports official, you know that there are certain things that you need to be able to do. Any game official needs to be able to keep up with the sport’s physical demands, including when it comes to reflexes and eyesight, and be familiar and up-to-date with their sport’s rules. There are courses and conventions that teach these things and many others to potential game officials.

What about what goes on in a referee’s head? There are a lot of mental and psychological demands of game officials that don’t get as much focus as the physical ones. Part of this is because so many of these traits are considered innate or part of who someone is rather than something that can be taught. However, there are ways to work on the following important qualities:

Respectful Communication

Not everyone is going to like you, and you’re not there to make friends, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t be respectful. Good communication helps keep the game flowing and helps the players, coaches, and other officials be clear on what’s going on. Treat everyone with courtesy and respect, but with some distance. Be receptive to questions, complaints, and attempts to communicate with you, and make sure that you clearly communicate with them, whether through your game’s approved signals or through other means.


You can’t be biased in this business. Your job is to conduct a match regardless of what players, coaches, or spectators feel. Keep your opinions private—don’t talk about players or teams that you might see again in the future, don’t bet on matches, and don’t get into positions where conflicts of interest could end up compromising your on-the-job values. Athletic events might be your passion, but it’s also your job—keep the two separate, and everyone will appreciate it.

Common Sense

Common sense gets easier with experience. Sure, you have to know the rules for your sport, but every game is different, and when a situation arises, you need to know how to handle it. Your knowledge of the rules combined with your experiences on the field make a formidable combination when it comes to making decisions on the field and thinking of ways to improve your own game.


Confidence is as much about how you feel as what you project to everyone around you. Look confident in your body language and happy to be there and other people will see and respect that. You’re going to be making decisions that affect games, and that can be a nerve-wracking prospect, but the trick is not letting your nerves, past or present, affect your belief in yourself and your job. Maintain a positive attitude, be firm but respectful, and make your decisions as soon as it’s possible to get the full picture to show that you know what you’re doing.


Players, coaches, and spectators like knowing what to expect, so be reliable and consistent in your decisions. Make sure that your interpretations and decisions make sense in whatever situation you’re in and that your decision-making process is as stable as possible. A stable state of mind helps as well when you’re dealing with a high-energy situation, which brings us to our next point of:


A lot of a game official’s success on the field is about remaining clam when other people aren’t. You need to be able to keep your head on straight in high-pressure situations ranging from a bad reaction from the crowd to a fight on the field. Focus on being in the zone while you’re on the field, and leave the reactions of other people out of it. Keep your decisions objective and free from the fear of upsetting anyone, and don’t lose control of your own emotions.

Preparation and Training with ArbiterSports

There might not be that many workshops where you can practice concentrating, staying calm and confident under pressure, and maintaining relationships. However, learning all you can about the job can help get one thing off your plate. Let the ArbiterSports family of products help you with training, management, scheduling, and much more. For a demo, call 800.576.2799 or email sales@www.arbitersports.com.