Preparing for Your First Assessment
By David E. McKee, National Director of Assessment
Referees who have never experienced an assessment often arrive at the field on match day filled with anxiety and trepidation. This can disrupt your concentration on the task at hand (i.e., refereeing the match). This article is intended to help prepare you for the match, minimizing any anxiety about the assessment.
What should you expect from an assessment and why it is critical to your development as a referee?
The role of the assessor is to observe how the referee team performed before, during and after the match. As an experienced referee, the assessor will observe your performance with an unbiased and fair perspective. As a coach/mentor, the assessor will provide you with immediate feedback at the end of the match. The feedback will focus on the things that were done well (proficiencies), problem areas noted (areas in need of improvement), and most important, options or suggestions for improvement. The postgame discussion must be meaningful to you and the rest of the referee team, an open and honest two-way discussion between the assessor and you. The assessor should answer all questions you raise. This ensures a clear understanding of the points raised by the assessor and paves the way for an action plan on the areas needing improvement discussed. Both parties must approach this discussion with a positive attitude, a willingness to learn and mutual respect. You should leave the discussion with a path forward for improvement of performance for future matches. This discussion should not be a negative, critical or demeaning experience. It is important that you focus on the game itself, not on being assessed. You should not change your refereeing style or your decisions because you are being observed! Easier said than done, right?
How to prepare for an assessment:
1. Know the criteria under which you will be assessed.
At the end of this article you will find a checklist of the assessment criteria used by assessors when observing your match.
2. Know the Laws, their correct interpretation, and how they should be applied.
You have access to the Laws of the Game, the Referee Administrative Handbook, the Guide to Procedures for Referees and Assistant Referees, the Guide for Fourth Officials, and the Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game.
a. Review the Guide to Procedures for Referees and Assistant Referees and the Guide for Fourth Officials to be certain you use proper mechanics and signals. Review these with your referee team in your pregame discussion on match day.
b. Review the Advice to Referees on a frequent basis, to broaden your awareness when making decisions requiring the application of the Laws of the Game in your match. Always prepare for matches and expect the unexpected. By anticipating, rather than reacting to events, you will have a plan of action in mind and will be better equipped to make instantaneous decisions under the stress of the match.
3. Begin your teamwork as early as possible.
Your match preparation begins when you receive your assignment. This is a three-step process: preparation before match day, pregame activities on match day and actual performance during and after the match.
a. Before match day:
(1) You and your referee team have complete control of your own mental and physical fitness. A regular training regime to achieve match fitness requires dedication and hard work, but without physical fitness you will experience mental fatigue as you tire during the match. Mental fatigue results in diminished visual acuity and poor decisions, and physical fatigue results in being in a poor position to judge challenges for the ball as well as the ability to read the tactical nature of developing play.
(2) Gather needed information from the assignor (time, date, location, age level, rules of competition, substitution procedures, length of match, etc.). Know who your fellow officials are, and how to reach them. Gather your referee equipment and uniform to ensure you come to the pitch with all the needed equipment. It is very embarrassing to arrive at the match without a watch, a whistle, a current badge, cards, flags, shoes, etc.
b. The match itself:
(1) Agree on where and when to meet prior to the kick-off (at least 30 minutes beforehand). You must have adequate time to complete the pregame discussion, to introduce your team of officials to the coaches, to perform your pregame duties (field, equipment, ball and player inspections) and to conduct the coin toss.
(2) Allow enough time to get warmed up and stretched prior to kick-off to prevent injury. It is your responsibility to insure the game starts at the designated time.
(3) After kick-off, your focus must be entirely on refereeing the game to the best of your ability, not on the observations of the assessor. Remember the game is for the players. Your job is to maintain game control by fairly and consistently applying the Laws of the Game. You are the guardian of the spirit of the "beautiful game" and the game is for the enjoyment of the players, fans and coaches. You must establish an environment that allows the players to play to their skill level, without fear of injury. Good game control requires good fitness and field position, a good read of the game, good foul discrimination, knowledge of the laws and their application, player management and game management. Maintaining a calm and professional demeanor reflects confidence in your decisions. Do not be influenced by appeals from the players, coaches or fans when making your decisions. During half time the referee team should discuss adjustments needed for the second half. Above all, remain focused for 90 minutes and enjoy the match. Coming to the match prepared makes your job easier.
c. After the match
(1) The post-game discussion between your referee team and the assessor will provide you with positive feedback on the things that were done well, areas for improvement and suggestions on how to improve your performance in future matches. Immediately after the match you should discuss the major incidents or decisions made during the match which led to good match control or problems. You should always self-evaluate your own performance whether or not an assessor is present. Even if you are not being assessed you need to do this to maximize the learning from each match you officiate.
(2) Do not hesitate to call or contact an assessor/coach/mentor after you have had a difficult match that wasn't assessed – or even when you have questions on how you might have handled situations that created problems for you in game control. The sole purpose of the assessment process is to help you become a better and more experienced referee and to assist you in achieving higher referee grades when your game experience and abilities warrant upgrade.
Click here to read the assessment criteria.
This will give you the head start you need to perform correctly on any game you do.