Mark Weidhase from AYSO Region 47 in Riverside, Ca., has created a comprehensive program to mentor new referees.
Beginning this month, Weidhase and the region’s group of advanced and nationally-certified referees will begin mentoring first-timers using physical and psychological techniques known to improve responses to stress.
“The training of referees is almost entirely rote learning and very compressed,” Weidhase writes. “The typical entry level course covers all of the laws of the game and required knowledge in eight hours or less.
“We teach them the basic laws, throw them a whistle and a shirt and off they go. Most often they go to a U10 or U8 game, where no one, including the referee, really knows anything.”
Weidhase says it is the program’s intent that new referees are trained in stress management.
“Stress results in physiological reactions. That is undeniable and a proven scientific fact,” he said. “Very few people understand these reactions; know how to recognize them and, most importantly, how to work through them.”
He says several sensory conditions are typical in new referees.
“Have you ever noticed that young kids can’t seem to hear anything no matter how loud their coaches and parents scream? Which causes them to scream even louder and then insist that they were not screaming at all? Welcome to auditory exclusion.
“(And) none of those players can see the legs of the other player as they are flailing away at the ball. For the referee we include what’s around the ball, but I will tell you now that you will not be able to see your assistant referee. This is tunnel vision,” he wrote.
Combine selective hearing with peripheral blindness and then toss in a rush of blood to the head.
“The adrenaline that floods our bodies slows down our ability to make a decision when faced with an unexpected situation. … Many referees can’t find their whistle and when they do, the whistle doesn’t fit in their mouth,” he wrote. “The more stressed you are the slower you are to react.”
He will utilize an entire referee development curriculum but what’s his best advice to any referee?
“We must share our experiences and this is only possible when you are part of a team. The players, coaches and spectators are all part of a team. When you are working with other referees, you are a team,” he wrote. “Come over, grab a cold drink and chat about it. Then again, you should have asked for a mentor before the game.”
Weidhase is accepting applicants with AYSO Regional Referee certification. He can be reached at email@example.com