Attitude and Ego – Leave it at Home

By Don Dennison, NISOA National Clinician and National Assessor

Donald Trump once stated, “Show me someone without an ego and I’ll show you a loser.”

From another viewpoint, the writer, Lucille S. Harper stated, “The nice thing about egotists is that they don’t talk about other people.”

This is a topic that is seldom covered in soccer publications or at clinics, but certainly needs to be addressed.

All of us have egos and certain INHERENT attitudes, but we have to know how to harness those attributes that adversely affect our performance on the field and emphasize those that add positively and are valuable to our control of a soccer match.

Consideration of Ego and Attitude begins when you are first assigned a match.  When you are given an assignment for a Div. III, Junior College, Women’s game or Youth match, do you think to yourself, “Why Me?”.  The players don’t have that attitude; to them, every match is their World Cup final. No match assignment should ever be considered as beneath your ability level.  Treat every match with the same positive attitude.  Each level of play brings with it its own problems and unusual situations with which you will have to deal.  Even our top professional and FIFA referees occasionally work youth games when their schedules permit.

Attitude and Ego go hand in hand.  With a positive approach to both you will convey to the teams, coaches and spectators that you are professional, fit, fair-minded and in charge.  You have to have a POSITIVE ATTITUDE. Attitude is not necessarily a bad thing.

Concerning ATTITUDE, you should ask yourself a number of questions about your last match:

Did I appear confident throughout the match?  Did I inspire respect? Did I overlook major issues and decisions?  Was I fussy about trivialities? Was I a showman? Did I have any distracting mannerisms

Many of us dig ourselves into a hole by being overly demonstrative in giving excessive hand signals and using a loud voice.  We are not the main attraction on the pitch, let the players draw the attention of the spectators not the officials.  This applies to the ARs as well.  It is not necessary to snap a flag down after a throw-in or offside signal.  All that does is to draw attention to the official.  It has been said often that if no one remembers who the officials were at the end of the match, that is a sign of a well-officiated match.

Concerning Ego, what is it? It can be defined as conceit, self-importance, being better than the others, and cockiness.  It’s best to leave it at home.  Don’t give the players and coaches the impression that you are a Martinet or a robot with no feelings who referees by the book and not the heart and mind.  Show compassion and care and it helps to smile when possible.  Talk to the players when it is appropriate, but never talk down to them.  This is especially important when giving a warning or a caution.

When you interact with a coach, insure that the contact is non-confrontational and friendly (yet not overly so). Try to control your tone of voice.  Before the match, make sure that you introduce your crew to the coaches and wish the coach’s team well.

Interaction with the players is similar.  Don’t threaten them or shout.  Keep your voice calm, but firm.  When everything else on the field is inflamed, you have to be the calming influence.

In summary, you can be authoritarian with a positive attitude, but LEAVE YOUR EGO AT HOME.