Keeping up with the play is important for both assistant referees and referees in order to ensure they’re taking up an appropriate position to make the correct decision. This means that refereeing football requires a degree of mostly aerobic fitness in order to adequately officiate. This aim to keep up with play predominantly involves jogging, running, or sprinting as referees must remain at a suitable distance to the ball as it travels around the field. Additionally to keeping up with play, football-specific fitness is crucial as decision-making has been shown to be impaired when people are fatigued. As such, it is beneficial for officials to have knowledge of appropriate health and fitness requirements of officiating, with important topics outlined below.
An easy way to minimise the likelihood of injury whilst refereeing is by undertaking a thorough and appropriate warm up. The benefits of warming up include:
- Increased speed of contraction and relaxation of warmed muscles
- Reduce muscle stiffness
- Increased blood flow through active muscle tissues
- Allows the heart rate to get to a workable rate for beginning exercise
An appropriate warm up for referees will focus on warming up the leg muscles. A general structure as recommended by the Australian Sport Commission involves jogging, dynamic stretching and a specific warm up. This should take place over approximately 15-20 minutes. Jogging should begin at a slow speed, serving just to raise the heart rate and blood flow around the body. The dynamic stretching should replicate the types of movement performed whilst officiating; creating a stretch on the move that reduces muscle stiffness. For a referee, the final few specific drills should involve some short acceleration from standing and jogging starts to near maximal speed to reflect the sprints they will have to take during a game. However, there is no need to overload the intensity or length of the warm-up and officials should feel warm, with a light sweat, and ready to go.
Whilst most amateur officials do not require exorbitant fitness levels to participate in refereeing, it is a good idea to perform some fitness training outside of actual matches. This could involve sessions focusing on particular components of fitness such as aerobic endurance, agility or speed. All of these foundations are required to referee a game of football and therefore it would be beneficial some out of competition development of these areas. This could include going for a run to improve aerobic endurance, or completing interval shuttle runs to develop speed and agility. This could be completed multiple times per week if aiming to maximise fitness improvements, however this may not be necessary for all levels of officiating. Many refereeing groups have organised training sessions for their referees on a regular basis throughout the season.
The nature of football refereeing requires physical activity that must be fuelled by energy from consuming food and drink. As with participating athletes, referees should energy levels are adequate prior to matches, as well as ensuring adequate nutrients are received. The Australian Sports Commission recommends a light, high carbohydrate meal at least two hours before a match to make sure you are well fuelled to officiate as well as sufficient water hydration. During the match, fluid and hydration is most important to prevent dehydration associated with sweating and poor fluid intake. After the match referees should again aim to replenish carbohydrate levels with a carbohydrate rich meal including foods such as sandwiches, fruit, soup, cereal bars, yoghurt and carbohydrate drinks.
On non-match days, it is important to maintain nutritional standards to maximise health and any training undertaken. Particular focus should be placed on carbohydrate, protein and other nutrient rich foods to boost energy levels (carbohydrate), allow fitness to improve (protein) and keep the body functioning well (nutrients). Below lists some of the typical foods that are high in the stated mineral to give you an idea of appropriate meals.
- Carbohydrates: breads, cereals, pasta, rice, potato and fruit
- Protein: fish, low-fat dairy products, chicken, eggs, legumes and meat
- Iron: red meats, wholegrain cereals, eggs, and leafy green vegetables.
- Calcium: low-fat dairy products
- Fibre: wholegrain breads and cereals, fruit and vegetables.