Not many people talk about Olympic referees. In fact, the Olympic athletes are not the only ones that have to face the stress and the Olympic pressure – with all the expectations related to them.
Despite the Olympic referees are often seen as the enemies of the athletes, they’re not evil people. They are meant to check on the athletes and make sure that all the rules are respected, that’s it.
In modern sport, the referee’s role is becoming more and more important, due to the number of challenges requested by the team in many sports (es tennis, volley etc), and the extreme fast and powerful actions that someone has to oversee and check. On top of that, we have to add the many TV cameras that are always ready to “tell the referees off”, and the fact that either teams managers, athletes and the audience feel free to complain every single referee’s decision.
It goes without saying that today, if you chose to be a referee, you haven’t picked an easy, serene life.
To avoid the risk of referees going burned out, the International Volley Federation got its referees ready to face complicated and critical situations that may happened during a match.
This decision follows the idea that the professional experience is not always enough to allow referees to manage complicated situations in an easy way. Olympic referees have to be able of coping with their emotions and the athletes/audience’s. To achieve that, referees have to be mentally trained.
The Federation has hired a Swiss sport mental coach, Mattia Piffaretti, who have trained the volley and beach volley Olympic referees with the help of five disciplines: yoga, meditation, role games, breathing exercises and visualisation techniques.
After every match, the Olympic referees gather in a hotel near Copacabana to talk about the mistakes that might have made, doing yoga, breathing routines, and walking on a rope.
“The referees are showing a large dose of calm”
Said Fernando Lima, General Secretary of the Volleyball Federation.
This does not mean that the referees are going to be infallible, while doing that.
“We are human, and we can make mistakes”
Stated Pristovakin Roman, a 38 year-old Russian referee. Pristovakin brilliantly managed to deal with a blatant challenge by the Brazilian star Alison Cerutti, during the Olympic opening beach volleyball match. Pristovakin successfully went through this ‘crisis’ by mastering breathing techniques. Pristovakin explained these moments:
“The most important thing is breathing, to find the calm. I always try to appear calm, but inside of me I’m not. It is a good way to handle difficult situations”
In a nutshell, the next time you see a referee in trouble, think of the psychological preparation that they may have gathered to deal with the stress overload.