Depending on what level of game you’re officiating, a pre-game discussion should be held about 15-30 minutes before a game tips off. This is a designated time when the referees can chat about what to expect from the upcoming game and to ensure that the officiating team is on the same page.
Ideally a referee should have a list of things that they want to talk about in the pre-game discussion, however this will change slightly depending on the level of game that you are officiating. Part of a good pre-game conference is getting your mind ready. No matter what level or how many years you’ve been officiating, each game is different and each time you must prepare yourself and your partner(s).
A good pre-game will include:
- Introducing yourself (especially if you’re refereeing with someone you haven’t worked with before)
- Who’s playing – the teams and any key players
- Clarifying the league directions and/or points of emphasis
- Talk about our Mechanics as a team – where our primary focus should be as the game moves around the floor
When running a pre-game meeting you should remember a few key facts:
Have a plan of what you want to address
Many successful referees will have a standardised pre-game that they then adjust to cater for the game itself – taking into account the teams, the competition and the point of the season that the game may be played at (start, middle, end). By planning out what you want to discuss and rehearsing this beforehand, you reduce the chances of missing a key point or unnecessarily chattering about points that aren’t particularly relevant.
You will meet with your fellow match referees before the game and this is when you will have some time for a nice chat and you can use this time to build rapport. Having said that, make sure that there is sufficient time for you to undertake your pre-game and to be focused on the task at hand – the game. Remember that other officials may have different pre-game rituals and practices to yourself, so be sensitive to this as well.
It’s also critical to mind your communication. An extremely useful concept is assertive communication. It means that you talk about your own feelings and state positively what you want others to do.
Avoid negative sentences
For example “don’t mess it up guys”. It only tells their subconscious minds to do what you don’t want them to do. Utilise positive reinforcement and set a clear pathway for the team to follow. When you get opportunities during the game – period breaks, time outs – remember to move towards positive language and open discussion to keep the team on the right track.
Invite all the crew members to the discussion.
Your job is facilitate the pre-game, not to talk all the time. Give them space and appreciate their opinion and knowledge. The more that you (as a team) can agree on things, the better the teamwork will be on the court. If they say something you don’t agree with, use assertive communication to discuss the differences.
“The most powerful leadership tool you have is your own personal example” ∼ John Wooden
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