Referees benefit from technical and mental support

NEWS: Officials head into the tournament armed with a wealth of knowledge and guidance thanks to a hugely intensive and comprehensive preparation programme

Referees have been using video replay system technology at EHF EUROs since 2016

From mental coaching with a renowned psychological coach to watching and analysing hundreds of clips of decisions from elite level handball, referees at this year’s championship will be among the best prepared ever.

Given the unprecedented nature of this year’s championships – which will see officials isolated in a red bubble – the European Handball Federation offered the referees in-depth online courses in the build-up to the championship.

The programmes were given in order to train the officials as safely and effectively as possible with focus on different levels of expertise from mental preparation, recommendations on physical preparation and, of course, the technical aspects of refereeing.

Mental preparation in times of Covid-19

For this year’s championships the referee couples will be isolating inside the red bubble – as per the EHF’s hygiene protocols.

In order to not only help them prepare for the challenges of being in isolation, but to also guide them through the intense stresses of being a referee, the officials receive special psychological support from mental health coach Jürgen Boss.

The former handball player has been helping EHF referees since 2012, and his remit for the Women’s EHF EURO 2020 focused on dealing with, amongst other things, solitude inside hotel rooms as the officials isolate away from others.


Jürgen Boss is helping this year's referees

“Isolation is a special burden and challenge,” says Boss, whose company specialises in neuroscience and psychology in business and sport. “It is important to create a structure to combat the loneliness in the hotel room during the three weeks in order not to get under stress.

“Stress leads to performance – hearing, seeing, deciding, appearing – being negatively influenced. 

“I am aware of the effects of isolation through the experiences of the German Boxing National Team, who were surprised by a positive test during a training camp and had to spend two weeks in quarantine.

“The emotional experiences and the stress were very intense. The referees also all received a voucher for the use of frequency modulated music, with which you can activate your parasympathetic nervous system for better sleep and also activate your sympathetic nervous system for better presence in the game.”

Boss will not be on site in Denmark, but he will be available throughout the championships to support the referees online, to assist with what some might refer to as ‘normal’ preparation – the mental preparation for taking charge of a game.

Decisions, decisions…

In the lead up to the start of the championship, their technical support saw the referees immerse themselves in the world of a thousand clips, as Dragan Nachevski, the EHF’s competition commission refereeing representative, guided them through a library of decisions in one of their online sessions.

The clips took the officials on a journey of good and bad decisions; controversial ones and those that provoke a healthy debate.

Not only do the clips analyse decisions, but they also help referees improve their on-court positioning, movement and behaviour.

A helping hand from Video Replay System

Decision analysis remains a hugely important part of the referees’ training but when the tournament throws off officials will be able to call upon technology for added assistance on court.

For the third Women’s EHF EURO, referees will also be able to call upon the video replay system. 

Referees are able to make decisions in two circumstances: to see if the ball has crossed the line; and to review footage of whether a player has committed serious foul play or unsportsmanlike conduct.

Delegates are also assisted by the technology when it comes to the identification of substitutes, as well as whether there has been an illegal use of the timeout buzzer – for example, coaches must not press it when the opposition are in possession of the ball.

Importantly, the EHF embraces the use of video technology with a philosophy different to other sports, where all decisions are down to those on or by the court – and not by an official sitting in an external room away from the arena.

written by ehf-euro.com