No matter how much experience you have as a game official, and no matter what sport you’re in, tournaments can be much different from weekly games. When you’re officiating a tournament, you’re looking at the best among competing athletes, meaning that the level of play you’re going to experience is higher than it would be in a typical game. What’s more is that, because of the higher stakes of tournament games, emotions are bound to run higher among players, coaches, and fans than they would normally—and sports events are often home to people that are already very passionate.

While you should be preparing for any game you officiate, you should pay special attention to tournament preparation. Here are five tips that the ArbiterSports team recommends for officials who are gearing up for a tournament.

1. Health Matters

In a tournament, it’s entirely possible that you will officiate more than one game in the course of a day or weekend. It’s not an easy job for anyone, and you’re bound to get tired easily. However, fatigue leads to poor decisions on the field, which can be devastating at a tournament. Make sure that you take care of yourself physically so that this doesn’t happen. Stay in shape and properly nourished so that you have the endurance to handle the more intense competition, warm up and cool down properly, and make sure that you have clear liquids available to hydrate with during the game.

2. Know the Rules

It’s true of any game, but especially for tournaments. Many tournaments are very strict about their time constraints, and in some sports that means rule changes. Be familiar with the tournament rules of the event that you’re officiating before the day of your match in case things like forfeits, tiebreakers, and time stoppage come into play. You don’t want to get something crucial wrong during an important game.

3. Stay Calm

A high level of competition leads to more passion and more intense physical play. Things will get heated on the field during the tournament: this doesn’t mean that you have to be. Set the tone for your matches early on by being professional and reasonable with everyone, and no matter what happens, keep your composure, but don’t tolerate abuse. Don’t let fatigue wear you down, either: treat the opening rounds of the tournament the same way you would the final rounds.

4. Go With the Flow

It’s not just brackets that are changing during the course of a tournament. There can be changes on your end that you weren’t expecting or prepared for. You might have to work as an assistant referee instead of a referee for a game or two, or your schedule might change on the fly. The only thing you can fairly expect in a tournament is that something unexpected is going to come up. Be flexible and adjust to what’s going on around so that you can be focused on the games and not on changes in plans.

5. Network

Sports tournaments are places where referees from all over come to do a lot of work together. There might not be much downtime, but that downtime does provide a great opportunity to network with other referees. Keep in mind that everyone can learn from each other, and that lessons can be pulled from every single experience. If you’re a new official working your first tournament, talk to veteran officials and listen to their advice; if you have more experience under your belt, reach out to newer officials to help them out. You’re all here because you’re passionate about the sport, so you already have something in common: why not have learning experiences and connections in common, too?

ArbiterSports Referee Training

Whether this is your first tournament or your fourteenth, or if you’ve just gotten started with your game officiating career, the ArbiterSports team is here to work hard so you can play hard. We can help you brush up on your skills or learn some new ones; we can take care of payday and tax day concerns; we can keep you organized and in the loop on and before game day; and we can come up with a solution to any of the problems that you’ll face as a referee. For more information about our referee training or a demo of any of the ArbiterSports product suite, email or call 800.576.2799.