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How to Combat the Nerves


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I don’t know about anybody else here, but when I’m getting ready to try something new for the very first time, I get nervous. And I don’t just “get nervous.” I get nervous stomach aches, I chew on my hair, I bite my nails, I forget how to breathe, so on and so forth.

For you lucky folks out there who can just jump into unfamiliar situations feeling nothing but excitement, I truly envy you and ask that you please share your god-like powers with me because here I am, three years into my officiating career, and I can never banish the nerves for good.

Maybe for a lower level squirt or peewee game, I can go into it fairly confidently, since these are kids who somewhat resemble baby giraffes just learning how to walk, but for a higher level that I haven’t tackled before—the nervous shakes come back. Getting a higher level game means you’ve slogged your way through enough 7 am squirt B games to earn your chance at skating in the big leagues. It means that your hard work has paid off but for someone like me, it means the chance to question every game I’ve ever done and wonder if I actually am good enough for this.

The very first time I got a game assignment, I stared at my computer screen for a while. I didn’t want to do the game. I was horrified. It really shouldn’t have been a surprise, because the point of being a referee is to actually get on the ice and do some games, but that very first assignment stunned me. I was too scared to accept it, and my dad had to tell me several times to just take it. It was a squirt game. I was a good skater. I could handle it (probably).

Long story short, I barely handled that game. I was thankful to be partnered with a ref who knew exactly what he was doing and even went and told the coaches that this was my first game ever so they wouldn’t yell and scare me off the ice forever. Because everyone has to start somewhere, and more likely than not, you’re going to be nervous, so I am here to give you a few tips on how to combat the nerves.

  • Remember that breathing is important. You may find yourself wondering why you’re getting lightheaded and the room is spinning. It’s because you forgot you need to inhale and exhale. Try it.
  • The day of the game, try to think positive thoughts. If you’re a brand new ref, keep telling yourself that everyone had to be new at one point, and probably sucked also, and you will start there, but you will learn. (Tip: learn fast.) If you’ve been in the business for a while but are getting your chance to do a higher level, just remember that the assignor thought you could handle it (or they had no one else available, but try to think of the first thing).
  • Always remember that YOU ARE IN CHARGE. You have the whistle. The whistle = power. The fate of the game is in your cold, frozen hands (to go along with that cold, frozen heart that all referees possess).
  • Don’t let the coaches intimidate you. This was a tough one for me, because when I watch other games, the referees are always older (and they’re men). I knew getting into this that I would have to work hard at being confident and aggressive, because I’m younger, I’m smaller, and I’m a girl. You are the boss. Don’t let them forget it.
  • Everybody messes up. You will mess up. You will miss calls. You will do things like raise your arm for a penalty and then forget the number of the kid you’re calling it on. (True story.) Just accept it.
  • And then remember that you can never do as bad as this linesman:

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