The AFL High Performance Umpiring academy recently discussed the topic of developing mental toughness. The teleconference discussion, that involved the academy umpires and AFL mentors, established that there are various techniques available for preparing mentally to umpire games and preparing for the season.
These various methods and techniques can be used to deliver consistent performances across various aspects of umpiring including:
- decision making
- coping with errors
- rule/interpretation knowledge
The first point to identify is that each umpire will have a different personality and the same approach might not necessarily work for everybody. Therefore each umpire needs to determine or trial what works for them personally and use those strategies when preparing for games.
Possible strategies discussed at the teleconference included:
- Regular reading of the rule book and watching positive decision making examples to reinforce correct decision making and confidence in your ability to apply all the rules and interpretations appropriately
- Using visualisation for correct free kick interpretation, good bouncing technique or handling conflict situations
- Meditation for relaxation and focusing on particular aspects of umpiring
- Recognising what anxiety level you operate your best at and finding a technique to replicate that prior to the game
- Have a routine for bouncing with a couple of key focus points. For example, get yourself close to the ground when letting the ball go and follow through.
- Have a good work/umpiring/life balance. Don’t live and breathe football.
- Putting time and effort into things that are in your control.
- Reminding yourself that some errors will be made, recognising when you have made one and moving on to the next act of play. Have a trigger or action that can help you to move on.
- Have a match plan to identify possible scenarios for the game. When things occur that you have identified, you will then already have an action plan to respond appropriately.
With games being played on various days, times and venues it is important to have some flexibility in your preparation. However, it was established that most umpires have a consistent point prior to the game where an umpire then implements a consistent routine that best suits them to perform at their best.