How to Deal with Refs

One of the hardest things to learn as an athlete is how to deal with refs. When a ref makes a bad call, it's easy to get frustrated, but the mentally toughest athletes are able to stay calm in these situations and move on to the next play.

Here are five tips to help you better deal with refs:

1. Take a step back. When a ref makes a bad call, you need to mentally take a step back, breathe deeply, and evaluate your mindset. Once you notice your thoughts and emotions, you can work towards shifting into a more positive mindset.

2. Use positive self-talk. Here are some things you can say to yourself to help manage your emotions:
  • "Getting overly emotional isn't going to help me play better, so I need to stay calm, forget about the past, and move on to the next play."
  • "There's nothing I can do to change the ref's call, so I need to focus only on what I can control, which is moving on to the next play."
  • "It's just one bad call. It's not going to cost us the game. We can overcome this!"
  • "The ref is human and makes mistakes sometimes. I trust that he/she won't make the same mistake again, therefore, I will forgive him/her and move on to the next play."
  • If the ref actually made the correct call, you need to accept this, be humble, and learn from your mistakes. In these cases, you can tell yourself, "I made a mistake, so there's no reason to be mad at the refs. I will fix my mistake so I don't commit another penalty."
  • Remember that it's not your job to deal with the refs. It's your coach's job. Your job is to accept the ref's calls, move on from them, and keep playing as best as you can. If you believe the refs are making bad calls, you can tell your coach to handle it while you focus on your job as an athlete.
  • Lastly, you need to remember to play with sportsmanship. Instead of lashing out on refs, take the higher road and treat them with respect. Don't be the type of athlete that tries to manipulate refs by arguing//lying/flopping. While this can sometimes give you a competitive advantage, it isn't the right way to play the game. Always play with honesty and integrity.
3. Control your body language. After a ref makes a bad call, most athletes throw their arms up in frustration and express other forms of negative body language. But if you want to maintain peak performance, you need to resist these temptations and force yourself to maintain positive body language. This will greatly help you stay positive and move on to the next play.

4. Refocus your attention on the task at hand. After regaining control of your emotions through self-awareness, deep breathing, positive self-talk, and positive body language, you need to immediately refocus your attention back on the task at hand. The more you concentrate on the task at hand, the less likely negative thoughts will enter your head.

5. Rally your troops. Humans are social creatures. This means we are greatly influenced by what others are doing around us. If you notice that your teammates are reacting poorly after bad calls, you will most likely follow them. So not only do you need to resist this natural tendency, but you also need to "rally your troops" and set a good example on how to deal with refs. If a whole team helps each other stay mentally tough after bad calls, they'll perform very well!

If you follow these five tips, you'll do a much better job dealing with refs. However, if you really want to improve your mental toughness, you need to train your mind off the field. If you practice dealing with refs before games, through visualization and role-playing exercises, you'll be much more likely to stay composed after bad calls. But If you don't prepare your mind beforehand, you'll be much more likely to react poorly in the heat of the moment.