An Expert Guide to Referee Assessments

By Sonia Denoncourt

An Expert Guide to Referee Assessments

What are the best ways to assess a referee’s performance and to get the maximum results from it? This article will answer the Why, What, When, How and Where. To clarify the terminology, a referee assessor is called by various names around the World. They can be called an assessor, observer, advisor, controller, mentor or a coach, however the main role remains the same.

The assessor is ideally a friendly person who is primarily there to constructively support officiating the team and not to intimidate the match officials. The assessor does not want to be the faultfinder but rather the person who identifies points of improvement and strong abilities. Bottom line: the assessor needs to be willing to help the referees, so they get better at their job.

Why are Referees Assessed?

The main objective is to give valuable and personal support to the referees’ team by offering accurate advice and guidance on the various aspects of the job. The referees need feedback, want to receive positive and constructive criticism in order to improve their abilities, especially at an early stage of their career. Any forms of support will help retaining them in the job, which is often ungrateful.

What is an assessment comprised of?

The assessor’s role starts before the game starts, it goes on during every minute of the game, at half-time, at the end of game for a wrap-up talk and concludes with the final writing of the report. Keep in mind that like the VAR saying… “a minimum interference” is preferable during the game to let the crew do their job unless something major happens and needs immediate attention. 

An assessment includes a review of performance on various aspects of the game. The most common topics covered are: pre-game instructions from the referee, teamwork, positioning and movement, fitness and running style as well as the ability to read the game, angle of vision and proximity of play, signals, communication amongst the team members, players’ management, fouls and misconducts and very importantly… crucial decisions and the control of the game.

Each assessor may have a different way and style of delivering their messages, but a good practice is to start by asking the referee to provide a self-analysis at the beginning of the session. The key is to identify areas where there may be room for improvement and to help the referees to get more accuracy in their decision-making.

Marks vs comments? Quantity vs quality? A formal assessment often includes marks for each area identified and some comments attached. The comments must be clear and precise with specific examples of situations that happened during that match. The marks and comments must be relevant and reflect respectively one another. Remember that sometimes, “less is more”.

When should an assessor provide feedback?

The assessor must find the proper timing to interact with referees. First and foremost, the referees need to fill out the match reports and all forms required. Sometimes referees need some space to clear their minds before being receptive to the assessor’s comments. Too often, the assessor is rushing to the locker room and wants to “get it over with” but it is often not the best time to give advice. Find the right moment when you have their full attention.

How should an assessor interact with referees?

Accurate and relevant feedback is key. Give clear guidelines for them to apply on how they can improve in the future. The relationship must be friendly, and each learn from one another. It is meant to be an honest discussion and a positive interaction. Effective and appropriate language as well as a two-way communication will bring the best results. There are tougher days than others, be sensitive to the difficulty of the game and challenges encountered.

What happens after an assessment?

A good assessor will give proper tools to referees. A good referee will use these tools appropriately in future games. Each game is a challenge and another chance to get better. Referees should tackle the “biggest” difficulties they have, to finally work on smaller details in their game. BIG to SMALL!

In my opinion and to conclude, a good assessment will respect the modern teaching method by being “SMART”.  SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Reasonable, and Timely.  This approach has been helping me to achieve my goals of being the best help, a great source of inspiration and motivation as well as getting tangible results and critical outcomes from the referees. Assessors will get successful over time, the same way as referees are not judged only on one single performance but rather through a period of time and multiple games.

And finally, the assessors also need to be assessed! Continual education, to stay tuned and up to date is a crucial part of accurate delivery. Trust and credibility are essential to establish a professional relationship with the referees. Above all else, assessors should help you to show your best.

Sonia Denoncourt is a former FIFA level referee, achieving some incredible accomplishments including 3 FIFA Women’s World Cups and 2 Olympic Games. She now works with a range of referees and leagues to focus on education and development. You can follow her updates on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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