There are some exercises that have really touched my heart. I used this one right before game 4 of the Championship Finals in Hungary, in the summer of 2013. The game was a real challenge. The players tried everything, since, for the home team, it was a win or go home, and the visitors knew that on a 5th game, everything is possible. They wanted to grab the trophy as soon as it was possible.
I was there, after some 20 minutes delay from the game, thinking that it would be the last game of the season. I wanted to do an excellent job. I needed to be in the right mental state.
But… something was wrong!
There was a feeling itching from the back of my head that didn’t let me relax and calm down. I was nervous. The whole atmosphere was very stressful. Then, after the tip off, in the first couple of minutes one player tossed the ball to my face, incidentally. More precisely, I wasn’t able to grab his pass after a basket, since I was dealing with the other two fighting for the rebound. Right in the very next offence, in a rebound situation, my ankle sprained.
I stressed out a bit, but I got myself together and could come back to the game. I did an excellent job, according to the report, my feeling and the feedback I got from the teams. The report is not important, though. I think good referees feel when they do a good job. And it was an excellent job.
I was so grateful that I could come back into that game.
How did I make my way back to focus?
It was all about preparation.
In basketball, you have a perfect time to prepare with some relaxation techniques and mental exercises right before the game, in the 20 minutes warm-up period. I tried one before that game. It came from an exercise called perceptual positions, mixed with some visualization. I took me to the ideal state to do a decent job in concentration and game control.
How did I do it? Here it goes.
- Close your eyes, breathe. Breathe slowly and deeply. Empty your mind, and focus only on the game.
- In your mind, go to a safe place next to the court, and image the game running. Imagine that your role model, the best official in the world referees that game.
- From that safe place, watch him/her, every movement, detailed. See it, hear it, smell it, taste it, feel it. See as he (or she) deals even with the most difficult situations with ease. Go over these difficult situations and watch how he solves them (for the sake of simplicity, it will be him from now on).
- From that safe place again, watch the same match, but you as the referee. It is a dissociated position. You watch yourself from outside of your body. Again, go over the critical situations, handled perfectly, but this time by you.
- Associate. Go into your body, and watch the game. Control it. Make the right calls. The easy ones as well as the most difficult ones. Feel how congruent you are, and how similarly you do your job to your role model.
That’s it! Your mind is unbelievably fast, so it can be done in 2-3 minutes. If you are disturbed, don’t worry, just go back into your head by closing your eyes, and continue.
I’m absolutely curious about your feedback on this. Try it, and let me know how it worked for you.