Mental toughness is no accident

“Serenity is not freedom from the storm; it is calm within the storm.” – Anonymous

I found the above as an intro to an article I read called “The Emotional Side to Officiating“. While the author of the article writes particularly about officiating men’s lacrosse games, the advice applies just the same to officials in other sports.

(I suggest that the tips and strategies apply also to parents dealing with children or professionals dealing with clients, customers, employees and vendors.  Basically anyone who faces circumstances that require high levels of intensity, focus, awareness, communication and repeated, rapid decision making. Nonetheless, I’ll keep the focus of my writing here on the subject of men’s lacrosse in particular.)

The lesson here is not that there is some magical formula for achieving a permanent state of calmness, but rather that there are deliberate things you can do before, during and after an emotionally exhausting event to help keep your emotions in check, even while things around may be spiraling towards chaos.

Improvement comes through practice, so if your goal is to get better at managing your own emotions in big moments, then practice every chance you get – on and off the field.

Learn to notice when emotions around you are starting to escalate so that you can develop the ability to clamp down on yourself and your emotions before you lose control like the players, coaches and fans among which you find yourself.

How can this be done?

Proper preparation : know the rules, know where the game is, know who your partner is and how to get in touch with him/her should you be late for the game or have another issue.

Breathing techniques : you can change the depth and length of your breaths in order to directly change your physiology. If you take slow deep breaths, your body will slow to match and the agitation will begin to dissipate.

Positive self-talk : develop a habit of reminding yourself of your mental toughness several times daily. Build this belief and confidence, and it begins to become a self-fulfilling prophecy that continues to feed into itself over time with practice. (A well-timed word to your partner after a big call can help with this tremendously as well if you sense he or she may be “on the edge”)

Game management : learn to have a sense for the game, and know when to slow things down a step or two. Taking an extra moment to report a penalty, whistle the ball back in for a restart or even taking the opportunity to address one or both benches are ways to help settle tense situations. (Keep in mind – heightened emotions cannot be maintained for long periods of time; just by allowing a few moments to pass you can help a player or coach regain composure and get back on track)

Shrug it off : remember, nobody is mad at you the person, they are mad at you the official – so don’t take every criticism so personally.

If you work on these 5 areas consistently, and most importantly maintain adequate fitness,  you will develop the belief in yourself and the confidence in your ability as an official to maintain your composure while everything around you falls apart.

Posted in Leadership.