We’re all humans, and it’s an important thing to recognize. Coaches, players, fans, parents, and referees are all people who are coming to a game with different sets of experiences and emotions, and for better or worse, those emotions can come out during the course of a game. Whether these emotions are good or bad, they have a habit of causing us to make mistakes, see something differently and even inaccurately, and even cloud our more logical judgment.

When it comes to being a referee at games, it’s natural to feel emotions. Once your adrenaline gets going, it can be hard to keep some responses in check so that you make the right calls. The trick is to remember that refereeing is not only a mental and physical game, but an emotional one as well: focus and proper technique will be your keys to success. ArbiterSports has these tips for referees to keep tabs on their emotions so that they can perform on the field.

Watch Yourself

You already know that you’re a human referee, so start paying attention to your most human moments. Be aware of what you’re thinking and feeling during calls. Pay attention to your thoughts and not only when your emotions start flaring up, but which ones dominate and when. Consider how you handle different situations and how they could be handled differently. Also make sure to keep in mind your personal feelings toward any of the game’s participants. You could have friends or adversaries on the field, but while you’re working, those personal feelings don’t matter and shouldn’t cloud your judgment.

Remain in Control

Emotional control is essential to good refereeing, because it helps rule out your personal feelings and biases. Ideally, your emotional reaction to everything on the field should be exactly the same. Everything from a simple call to a game-changing one should be made with the same mindset. Keep your focus on the rules of the game and manage it to the best of your abilities—including your ability to control your feelings.


Practicing helps you stay in shape physically and mentally, so why not emotionally as well? Take some time to mentally rehearse any calls that you’re likely to make and decide how you’ll approach them before the game ever happens. If you imagine yourself making even difficult calls in a relaxed way, you’re more likely to have that mindset on the field. Focus on the positive: imagine previous calls made correctly, and think about good experiences that you’ve had or that you’re looking forward to. Meditation and breathing exercises go a long way toward regulating your emotions as well, so make a habit of consciously breathing even during games. The more you practice these techniques, the easier and more effective they’ll become.


An athlete’s job is to play the game, and in the course of this, they’re the ones that are making the bad plays, mistakes, and fouls on the court. When their emotions get in the way of how they perform, it’s important that yours don’t. You should be an impartial judge of their conduct on the court: acceptance of this impersonal role goes a long way toward keeping you calm on the field.

Also, accept that you might make mistakes. Mistakes are part of being human as well, and no matter how much you try to separate yourself from that idea, they can still happen. Fixating on mistakes that you make in the game means that you could get flustered, so concentrate on what you’re there to do and try your best not to let mistakes bother you. Be grateful for the learning experience and accept it, but don’t try to be perfect.

ArbiterSports’ Tools and Training for Referees

Learning on the job and being able to make decisions on the fly is an important part of any referee’s career. Making mistakes is also a part of the job: getting more games and practicing in the moment will help you be confident in making the right calls on the field. For game knowledge and organization to help you while you figure out everything else, the ArbiterSports suite of products can help. Keep up with your referee training, schedule and manage your games, take charge of your money, stay in touch with the people who matter, and more with our various products. For more information on anything we offer or a demo, call 800.576.2799 or email sales@arbitersports.com.