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The Keith Hackett column - The basic principles of decision making

I am often asked what makes a good referee. I usually give a different answer almost every time I respond, because of the myriad of skills that a referee must possess and continue to develop.

I might answer:
• That a referee must have an ability to communicate well
• That a referee must have the ability to handle and deal with conflict
• The Referee must be fit and mobile
• The referee must be pro-active NOT reactive
• The referee must have a good knowledge of the laws of the game
• The referee must be a good manager
• The referee is an event manager

Of course these are all important strengths.

However one of the referee's main strengths must be the ability to make good accurate decisions, during the course of the game.

I want you referees to take a few minutes of your time to discover how I believe I can assist you in enhancing your decision making, particularly around foul challenges.

Basic Principles of Decision Making

If we look at the process of decision making then we must:
• SEE
• RECOGNISE
• THINK
• ACT

This is what we are doing every time we get into our car – when we are driving we are making decisions and remain alert and aware of those other drivers around us, road signs etc.

Refereeing brings into focus similar criteria.

We must of course SEE incidents in this process:
• Fitness – mental/physical
• Viewing positions
• Dropping zones
• Scanning radar
• Reading and anticipating play

I have raised the need for referees to be fit. As a referee you need to train on a regular basis and to ensure that speed sprinting is introduced into your exercise regime.

You need to develop an ability to apply some explosive sprinting into your performance. Speeds in excess of seven metres per second must be achieved. The average number of explosive sprints in a game by professional players may reach 50 in number.

I expect you in your ongoing development to hone your skills to RECOGNISE incidents and to deal with them.

Take on board and judge the legality of the following:
• Messages from players
• Speed of challenge
• Fair or Foul?
• Player’s reactions

Look at the four points that I have made and introduce them into your thought process.

The good referees develop time and an ability to THINK when they see incidents before them so:
• Take your time, do not rush!
• Look at the severity of challenge
• Your scanning radar should assist you in looking and making a judgment on the next phase of play. You may be able to apply an advantage that assists game flow
• Advantage? If you apply advantage is it putting your control at risk?
• Credibility?
• Refereeing is about Your Control

The above are the thought processes that will further enhance your decision making and lead to greater accuracy try to adopt them.

When you look at top international players one of the things that separate them from the ordinary is how they have developed an ability to expand time and in a way slow things down and improve their actions with regard to the next pass or shot on goal.

From a refereeing perspective we have of course to ACT - we do this in the following way if we are in top form:
• Whistle, arms, voice – with great clarity
• Calm approach
• Air of confidence
• Firm but fair
• Correct application of Law

So now let’s look at ensuring that in our future games we look to improve our decision making.

I am still a strong believer that with a good knowledge of the laws of the game my on field performance will improve

On another day I will let you have my thoughts on VISUALISATION a process that is used by top sportspeople to enhance performance.

Finally I just want to take a moment to look at those foul challenges and how the law differentiates the challenge and the sanction:

A CARELESS CHALLENGE:
A player attempting to challenge for the ball in close proximity to an opponent, puts a great deal of honest effort into the challenge, but mistimed it and in doing so catches the opponent.     
DIRECT FREE KICK OR PENALTY KICK ONLY

A RECKLESS CHALLENGE:
A player who makes a challenge in a manner where there is a clear risk of endangering an opponent and pays no regard to the possible consequences and the safety and/or welfare of an opponent.
DIRECT FREE KICK OR PENALTY KICK AND  CAUTION 

EXCESSIVE FORCE:
A player who makes a challenge which may be malicious or violent and may be designed to hurt or maim an opponent.
DIRECT FREE KICK OR PENALTY KICK AND SEND OFF  

Enjoy your officiating.

Keith Hackett

You are the Ref – Paul Trevillion/Keith Hackett


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