REFEREE MINDSET ONLINE COURSE
WEEK #3

Welcome to week 3! This week you are going to get focused and learn how to keep extraordinary focus throughout the whole game.

“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” – Buddha

THE IMPORTANCE OF FINDING FOCUS

I’ve heard a lot from extraordinary referees, who are humble enough, how lucky they were on the road. I used to think that luck has nothing to do with excellence and they are only being modest, but I needed to revise my views on this.

Luck has a lot to do to your chance of success.

This connection is easy to recognise: the less you concentrate, the more likely that you will have an “unfortunate” event of bad call that pushes you off the rock.

Even if you know the rules, you can easily decide situations on the tape, and you know a lot about the other aspects of officiating, you can still make mistakes. Why? Because sometimes you are out of focus.

You can reduce the chance of making mistakes by increasing the level of your focus on times when you need it.

That’s not a surprise you hear a lot from your colleagues, observers, instructors to “FOCUS!” or “KEEP THE CONCENTRATION!”. As it is the case with many other skills, it is easy to know why that it’s important, but you rarely hear about the how.

We will look at how to get into a focused state, how to get back when you lose it, and you will have an audio exercise that helps you before games.

WHY CAN’T WE FOCUS?

In one simple word: distraction.

You might think that for those not being referees, it could be quite “easy”: cut every distraction from life for the time you want to focus on something. Unfortunately it’s not that easy, and for us, it’s even more difficult, because there are a lot of distractions on the games. A lot of different things happen at the same time or quickly one after the other.

Mihály Csíkszentmihályi (the scientist who introduced the theory of flow), a psychologist with Hungarian roots living in the States, said in a TED Talk in 2004 that the human brain can process 110 bits of information per second. If you listen to somebody talking, it takes up to 60 bits per second to fully comprehend, so when it comes to a game with a lot of crazy supporters and plenty of action, you really should be selective in what you let in to find the perfect state for excellent focus.


WHAT ARE DISTRACTIONS?

Let’s take a look at the things that drain your focus, and some ideas about how to look at them.

Supporters

Hope there will be more and crazier over time because it means you advance for better games. From now on, if there is a crazy parent or some stupid asshole doing nothing but cursing at you, say thanks! Practice gratitude, because they teach you something extremely important.

How to focus on better games later in your career.

They are not against you. They do it with everyone else, and while maybe you are their primary target, it may only mean that they know you.

Simply thank them for teaching you invaluable lessons and let all the curses and shouts fly away without noticing. Simply ignore. You can do it when you understand that it is not important, but the game is!

Players and coaches

Sometimes they do too much trash talk. They want to put pressure on you. You need to cut it when it’s too much, because this is an obvious stuff that drains your attention from the game, and you are in control of it.

Tell them to stop, and when they don’t, take action.

Our own mistakes

Everybody makes mistakes, even the best referees, in every game. It is inevitable. How you come back from those mistakes is important.

Be aware that a mistake may endanger your focus, so you must forget it as soon as possible. Avoid one mistake leading to another ones.

Acknowledge that you made a mistake, and reframe it. It is something you can learn from, or it can be a warning sign if you use it well. If you make a stupid mistake that is annoying, it simply means that your focus is not good enough. Dwelling on that mistake doesn’t help, in fact, it makes things worse.

Access your refocus ritual, and get back into the game as soon as possible. It doesn’t matter how big the mistake is, you need to come back. If you come back from a mistake, you prove to be strong, and your observer will notice it.

“It doesn’t matter how many times you fall… what matters is how many times you stand up, shake it off, and moving forward.” – Unknown

It takes confidence, so if you find yourself dwelling on mistakes, go back to week #2 and work on yourself.

Partner

I have found that I can lose focus even when my partner makes a mistake. It can happen to you as well.

I used to blame them. Started to think about how they ruin my game, and how unfair it is. It only kicked me out of the game and into some dreamworld where I desired something I had no control on.

It is the characteristic of a weak referee. A mindful and strong referee is able to accept that their partners can also make mistakes, and takes the necessary steps to lower the chances of further ones.

Encourage your partners. Tell them how you want them to behave or call the contacts. When they are totally out of the game, take control of their area. If this doesn’t help, try different things. Try them until you find something that works.

But keep calm and strong!

The commissioner or the observer

When I was younger, I used to find myself looking at the observers during the game. When there was a questionable call, I looked out to see how they react.

Now, when I’m often on the other side, as an observer, I look for similar clues from young referees.

Your job is not to watch people next to the court. The observer will let you know what he thinks after the game, and it’s enough for you to know it then. You don’t have any control on the observer, so it’s stupid to waste your precious attention on them. You need to control the game, so ignore the reaction of anybody except for the players, coaches and official personnel on the benches.

Resist the urge. I know it’s not easy, but if you develop a habit of not giving a shit, it will work. I used this phrase on purpose!

Try it next time: think about a time when you didn’t care of something. There must be something you can find in your past. Notice how you felt back then and what you’ve told yourself. This is the state you want at game time and you have the urge to watch the observer’s reaction.

Care for the stuff that are in your control, and accept/ignore the rest!

Home/work stuff

Sometimes there are thoughts that bother you. Watch your self talk. Watch your emotions. Look for something that keeps coming back and doesn’t let you concentrate.

Maybe you had a fight with your spouse or your boss, or maybe there are a lot of things you should do and you haven’t done for a long time.

When you notice that something is bothering you, promise yourself that you will take care of it later, and write it down to your to-do list with a deadline. Write everything down.

You can trash toxic thoughts like this.

Extraordinary times

When I got back from a 1-month vacation from the USA in 2012, I got a nomination the day after I landed for the third game of the women’s final as a crew chief. I did have hard times concentrating, because I was still in the States and I had a terrible jet lag.

Let me tell you, I was lucky, because the game was ok.

It’s pretty difficult to concentrate during times like this, so here you must be wise. You can lower the chance of a catastrophe by cancelling your nominations, or simply by planning better.

If you have just lost someone, or you move your office, or there is any extraordinary thing you are in the middle of, maybe you should consider cancelling your games. Especially the ones with the highest stakes. If you cannot, take special care of having enough sleep and getting into focus before the game.

Information overload

We are living in an age where information is easily accessible. We go on Facebook 15 times a day, check emails, read, watch and listen to the news. Somehow we are addicted to information because we want to be entertained and acknowledged.

This is quite understandable, and while it can be easily handled with meditation, I understand that it may seem hard at first sight.

Therefore, if you cannot meditate at least during game-days, I recommend that you should decrease you exposure to these time consuming activities like TV, Facebook, news. They are useless and fill your mind with trash.

Read something instead, watch a movie, or develop your skills in anything.


HOW TO CLEAR DISTRACTIONS

You don’t need to respond to everything, you don’t need to be updated all the time. You don’t need to check your emails (twice) every hour. You don’t need to be angry with supporters. You don’t need to check what the commissioner writes down minute-by-minute.

Learn to separate the times when you reach out for distraction, and when you want clear focus.

Why is distraction important?

Distraction is important, because our brains need a break. We need some time off from concentration and problems. If you don’t grant it to your mind, it will fight for it, and drain your focus when you need it the most.

Watching a game, or reading something can inspire you, and can be fun, so give yourself some time for distraction.

Focus on MITs

Identify your most important tasks (MIT) and eliminate everything else. Don’t try to do everything. Evaluate your commitments  and promises. Eliminate everything that is not in line with your most important goals.

Limit your media consumption. Don’t let in too much information. Focus on the ones that really entertain you, or help in any other way, but be moderate when it comes to TV, Facebook.

Breaking news is really breaking in a sense that it sends your concentration home.

Why do we have the urge for distraction?

We are addicted for distraction because we feel satisfaction if we get a nice compliment from the observer. Our emotional needs like feeling important, of the fear of missing out on something, or the desire to shout at the fans or just give them the whistle and watch them suffer in a game.

These emotions create an urge to reach out for distraction.

Recognise distractions

Be aware. Watch yourself, and notice when your focus shifts towards things you should take care of. Look for emotional triggers, and when you find something, celebrate, because you are halfway through!

It needs only practice. Watch your emotions and thoughts are essential for a mindful referee, so develop the habit of watching yourself.

Let go of the urge

This urge to do something is temporary (like everything else, by the way). It comes, picks up strength, and goes away. You only need to ride out the wave.

Being aware of the triggers that create the urge is an important step. Watch for these triggers, and be aware that sometimes you give rational explanation why to go with the urge, but you can be stronger and get back to the game every time.

The urge will arise and get stronger first, but then it fades away. Notice when it comes and simply watch it, but don’t react. Learn to get through it. Practice. It will be weaker every time, and you will be more conscious every time you ride the waves.

Be patient here. Maybe it won’t work 100% perfectly for the first time, but it becomes better every time you try. Give yourself time and enjoy the benefits of clearing away distractions.


GET FOCUSED

Focus is the right mindset for you on the game. It usually comes from a healthy excitement and inner drive to referee the game appropriately.

Creating focus not only involves doing something right before, or during the game. You should organise your whole life around it.

These are the things you can do in your life and on your games in order to increase your ability to concentrate during the game.

Create supporting environment

Create a nice and clean environment around you. Drop out everything from your referee bag you don’t need. Maybe you notice something while getting dressed. It can plant some thought in your mind that will kill your concentration.

Clear your desk, your computer desktop, turn off notifications (…why have a notification for each email you get?), clear your floor and your wall.

Surround yourself with positive people. The ones you trust, ones who support you. Forget the energy vampires.

Get things in order inside

Slow down

Fast doesn’t mean good. If you want to focus, you need to slow down. Don’t do anything fast, take your time. Maybe you won’t believe, but it actually speeds you up on the long run.

Plan less things to do, and do the important stuff slowly instead of rushing to do many unimportant things badly.

Be in the present

Notice when you are not fully in the present. When you are in the previous game, or in the next one, when you are at home with your spouse or kids, when you get stuck in the mistake you’ve just made.

The key is to watch yourself and note what your mind is running. When you notice that you are not in the present, grab your attention, and direct back into the present. Watch around and say what’s going on to yourself. Tell yourself what you see, what you hear and feel at the moment.

There is always something happening, so take note of them and bring your attention to the present moment.

Breathe

Sometimes we tend to focus on external things so we even forget to breathe normally. You can see it for yourself, just watch how you breathe the next time there is a something unusual happening on the court.

Learn to watch your breath. It is a great gift. Breathing normally tells your mind that you are ok. You will really feel good in exchange, and it helps you…

…empty your mind

Get rid of thoughts. Not only negative thoughts, but every word, music, picture… everything. Simply ignore them and they will disappear.

I know, it’s much easier said than done, but thinking too much results in an absence of your mind from the game.

One thing definitely helps. It is an extremely powerful tool for concentration. Learn how to…

…meditate

I was on a ten-day Vipassana mediation camp in 2012 and it was great! Hard, but awesome!

On the first couple of days, I tried hard to silence my mind. And when I did, I was much more able to concentrate. I couldn’t imagine how it’s like without thoughts racing in my mind all the time. It was a liberating experience. I could enjoy small things again and felt happiness in its fullest.

Meditate daily. It is a truly powerful way to improve as a referee.

Start with 2 minutes every morning. Watch nothing but your breath. How you breathe in and breathe out. If you need assistance, try headspace.com.

See possibilities instead of problems

Think positively. If you find yourself seeing problems, reframe it instantly and think about the positive aspects of that problem. Give each situation that disturbs you a new meaning. See what possibilities come from that problem, and focus on the possibilities instead of the problem itself.

Focus on the solution

Ask yourself “how” instead of “why”.

If you dwell in a problem, break your pattern with a smile. Think about how you come out of that problem. How you solve it the best way?

Focus on the solution instead of the problem.

Effectiveness in life

You are capable of doing a lot more with less effort. You only want to be more effective. These things will definitely help.

Learn to say “no” to others

Warren Buffet says that if you want to be effective, you have to take control of your own time, and for this, you need to say “no” sometimes. In fact, he says no to people most of the times.

Don’t fall in the trap overloading your schedule with unimportant stuff. Find balance in being nice and generous, and saying “no” to stupid requests.

Find your most important things and do only them. Sometimes less is more, so you will find yourself being more effective and finishing more when you try and deal with less things.

Develop your skills

The better you are in something, the more likely you will get into flow while doing that activity. You will enjoy the games, and everybody will be happier.

You are doing this at this holy moment, so it is a great way to use your time!

Be on time

Take care, and be on time for a game, and for other events. If you are late, don’t beat yourself up. Focus immediately on what you can do.

Create a habit of being on time. It will free you from unnecessary stress.

Write down everything

If you have a new to-do, or just heard or read something you want to remember later, take a note. Write down to a place you can access it later. Eliminate unnecessary things from your mind. I use trello.com for this.

Clear up space for truly important things.

Before the game

Create time for focus

Concentrate to have pure focus on the game.

You don’t have to concentrate before and after, so do something else. Take your time to have fun (if it doesn’t stop you from doing a good job), and switch off.

Charge your batteries, and use it on the game. Make it part of your preparation. Set your mind to focus for the time of the game.

Set focus as a goal

You set goals before each game. Always set a small goal that you want to concentrate on, and set focus itself as a goal. Promise yourself that if you find yourself out of focus, you get back.

The audio exercise for this week will help you with that.

Access your ideal mental state

Watch yourself. Ask yourself how you feel. What do you think about the game ahead of you? According to my experience, the best state is when I feel a healthy excitement.

Not anxious, not too calm, but relaxed and alert at the same time.

Access this state and bring your attention to the present.

Enter the flow by this week’s audio tape

Try it, and you will see how easy it is to get into flow. This is focused motivation, so you will immerse in doing only one thing and be able to switch off everything else.

Accept what life gives you

Let’s say you have a perfect preparation for a game, but your colleague makes all kinds of bad calls in the beginning of the game, both coaches complain, the supporters are crazy and they throw in things like plastic bottles, lighter, or drumming kits. Or a pink elephant.

Unexpected things can make you feel different emotions, and push you out of focus.

You can always accept what is happening and stay relaxed. Try to accept things as they are. If you get angry or frustrated, you only lose control and focus.

Don’t try to control what you can’t control. Focus on what you can and let go of everything else.

Practice accepting things as they are. Meditation helps.

Be easy on yourself

A  very common problem also that may force you out of the game when you get angry with yourself during a game. Try and accept your mistakes as well as others’.

Be your best friend who always forgives, no matter what you do.

Keep change gradual, and accept if things don’t go straight the way you’ve planned. You will get there, believe me, but only if you are patient and try again every time you fall.


REBUILD FOCUS

Take a break and step back

It’s extremely difficult, if possible at all, to concentrate 100% of the time for a long period. Therefore, it’s wise to distinguish times when you don’t need to focus extensively and take a small break.

Reward yourself with a sip of water, or some nice words with your partners.

Focus rituals

A ritual is a set of actions you do habitually to get into a focused state. You can have rituals before the game (think about the audio), and you should have refocus rituals during the game.

The refocus rituals shouldn’t take much time, in fact, during the game it should be as short as possible. A couple of deep breath should be enough with a gentle command you say to yourself: “Focus!” You can also pat on your thigh or slap on your face if you want. Choose one that is good for you.

Before the game, we get into the flow state which is a deep focus on a challenging task that you are competent doing.

Focus on your next call

While concentrating on what’s happening in the present, pay special attention to your next call. One simple call is usually enough to regain confidence and step on the road to get back into full concentration.

Take your time

It is important to know that focus drops very quickly, but to build up again takes more time. Don’t rush, take tiny steps, and gradually you will be there.

It is also extremely important to be aware that while you climb your way back to proper focus, you can still make mistakes. They can make you lose concentration again.

Accept these mistakes. They are only signs that you are not there yet, so keep trying.

Smile and enjoy!

Ultimately, this is something very useful to keep your concentration in place. If you smile, your mind will be convinced that you enjoy the game, and it will take less effort to concentrate.

Either way, officiating is sometimes hard, stressful, and challenging, but you can always enjoy it, it’s only a conscious decision away.


FIND FLOW IN THE GAME

Flow is an experience when we are totally involved in what we are doing. Being in the flow is the ultimate and complete focus. It requires a task that you have skills to do and is challenging.

This is an extremely important state of mind for creative arts like music, writing, or painting, and it is also a very productive state when it comes to excellence in a highly distractive environment.

If you are in the flow, you totally immerse in the action that you do, and you concentrate 100%. You lose track of the time, without noticing that you are tired or hungry.

In a nutshell, you have to find challenge that matches your skills in every game. You need to find balance in your skills and the challenge. If a challenge is too easy, you lose focus out of boredom. If a challenge is too difficult, you lose focus out of anger and frustration.

Develop your skills, and set clear goals for each game. An audio is here to help you get in the state of flow before the game.


AUDIO EXERCISE – GET INTO FLOW


THE PRESENTATION FOR THIS WEEK


ACTION ITEMS

  • Read this week’s material
  • Watch the presentation
  • Write down your questions and send them to me
  • Listen to the audio before your next game
  • Watch your focus on your next easy game (where are able to watch out for stuff other than the game)
      • Find emotional triggers that drain your concentration and take note of them
      • Practice to “ride the urge”
  • Practice concentration in other areas of your life
  • Start your daily meditation habit – 2 minutes in the mornings, or headspace.com
  • Send me a feedback

take yourself to the next level