I recently received a few questions from a person in Europe who is training to become a Certified Mental Trainer®. They have to do with what we should be teaching coaches and athletes about interacting with referees. Referees often have an impossible job and the game can hinge on a ref’s call. How should coaches and athletes behave?
1. How should a coach respond when a referee makes a mistake (bad call)? Does a yelling coach pressure the ref to “even out the calls” during the game? And, is there a negative consequence when the players see the coach negative (does it harm their performance)?
First, I believe referees can be influenced by a coach who loudly objects to bad calls. Refs are human and most people wish to avoid conflict even if they are trained to expect it. A ref is more likely to NOT blow the whistle on a foul than to make a bad call just to get back at a coach (so most bad calls are mistakes rather than being intentional). If a coach decides to be negative toward a ref, the players should all know it is being done for effect and they as players should not copy that behavior. With young kids though, that’s unlikely to happen. I don’t believe coaches should be crude and swear and be disrespectful – ever. Coaches can yell and be upset without being unprofessional. This goes DOUBLE for coaches of youth sports, which is echoed nicely in our CAP program (mental training for Coaches, Athletes and Parents).
2. Is it possible to teach a team to “kill”? What steps are essential to help a team build momentum throughout a game and foce the opponent to a breaking point?
“Kill” the way you are using it, I would guess means to have a “killer instinct.” Just as I have answered above, I believe it’s critical that athletes learn to be competitive without being unprofessional or using “gamesmanship.” Gamesmanship is when athletes use underhanded, disrespectful and mean tactics to “win at all costs.” Sportsmanship is positive, where the sport and opponents are always respected, even as you try to beat them. It is a sign of respect of the opponent to give 100% effort in competition. Without mutual effort, sport would be like professional wrestling (not respected as a “real” sport). We teach athletes to focus on controllable goals, and controllable actions as they compete. This is more likely to produce persistence in the face of adversity, causing the opponent to break. -Dr.Bob