Even if you’re not actually officiating game, you have probably relived a particularly great call or imagined yourself in the shoes of a referee you admire. Our brains allow us to imagine vivid experiences in our heads.

Luckily for referees, your imagination can be used to help you improve your game. Game officials can’t practice the same way that athletes can because they usually need to wait until competitions to put their training to use.

But, by imagining yourself in different game circumstances you can effectively practice in the comfort of your own home. Robert Steven Weinberg and Peggy A. Richardson, authors of Psychology of Officiating, talk about how you can use imagery in your officiating career.

What is Imagery?

Imagery can also be called visualization, psycho-cybernetics, mental rehearsal, or mental practice. Whatever you call it, it’s all about reliving or creating experiences in your mind when you’re not experiencing them in real life. By capturing and using the sights, sounds, sensations, and emotions of game days, officials can create a realistic environment in their minds that allows them to mentally prepare to referee.

Imagery helps you practice your skills even when you are not on the field or court. This helps you establish a pattern of behavior that hopefully becomes automatic. In addition, vivid images can help produce muscle activity that you would use to move on the court. It’s not quite the same thing as being on the court, but getting your brain ready is one part of preparation. These mental rehearsals can help you can stay focused and strengthen your performance.

Types of Imagery

There are two common forms of imagery. External imagery involves visualizing yourself at a distance, as though you were a spectator. Internal imagery involves imagining a situation through your own eyes. Internal imagery is more effective at enabling officials to experience sensations more vividly, but it’s not as objective, so use a combination of the two types in your mental preparation.

How to Use Imagery to Practice Officiating

It’s good to get into the habit of using imagery, and it can be applied just about any time. Before a game, imagery allows you to mentally prepare for the situations you might run into. You can address your actions and reactions to events before they happen and feel prepared and in control.

After an event, while your memory is still fresh, you can revisit situations and analyze ways to perform better next time. If you can find a quiet spot during an extended break during your game, you can reflect on what’s happened so far and concentrate on what could come next.

More Imagery Tips

Start by evaluating your imagery skills—it takes practice to use all your senses while imagining. Practice in a place where you can be fully relaxed and free of distractions. Keep your expectations realistic and your attitude positive to maintain motivation.

If you have a hard time creating vivid images of refereeing, practice with household objects or daily routines until you improve your visualization and control. Watch videos of yourself or other officials to use as a starting point for visualization. Finally, recognize practicing imagery isn’t some miracle solution, but a tool that can help you mentally prepare.

ArbiterSports Tools for Referees

A working knowledge of the sport you officiate is one of the keys to being a successful official. Not only will you be able to add more realism and impact to your imagery routine, but you can become a better and more confident official overall.

ArbiterSports arms organizations with the tools and resources needed to manage game assignments, pay, and rule knowledge so you can focus on improving your game. For more information about our suite of products, call 800.576.2799 or email sales@arbitersports.com.

Weinberg, Robert Steven, and Peggy A. Richardson. Psychology of Officiating. Champaign (III.): Leisure Press, 1990, pp. 127-143. Print.