Being in charge of twenty-two players can be a difficult task at the best of times for just a single person. Then you have to take into account substitutes, club officials and sometimes even supporters, who all add their own pressures to the game. When you’re that lonely single person, the referee, there’s nothing wrong in asking for a little support and guidance in the form of a Referee Mentor to help you through your development as a match official.

Most mentoring takes place on an informal basis and more experienced referees are always willing to share information, ideas and advice at society meetings, grounds or even by telephone. There is sometimes a need, however, for more structured schemes, particularly for new referees and for officials seeking to progress to the higher echelons of the game.

Any referee can apply to have a Mentor, and it could be argued every match official should have one in some shape or form. You can even be a Mentor as well as being mentored as the spirit of sharing information and experience is the main key to the scheme.

People progressing to more senior levels of the game are often ‘taken under the wing’ of someone who is officiating or who has officiated at higher rungs on the ‘refereeing ladder’. There is even a formal scheme for each referee at the highest level in this Country to have his or her own ‘coach’ to provide such assistance.

Newly-qualified referees invariably find the mentoring scheme particularly helpful. Absolutely every referee registered with the ECFA is, however, welcome to benefit and should fill-in the Form at the bottom of this page if they would like a Mentor appointed to help them.

What’s Involved in Being a Mentor?

One evening training session needs to be attended in order to be accredited by The Football Association and the ECFA arrange these on a periodical basis. Mentors are asked to watch the people to whom they are allocated as they officiate from time to time. The key points for any Mentor to remember when watching a referee are to:
*say “Well Done!”
*ask the referee how he or she feels about the game
*congratulate the referee on the three strongest features of his or her game, encouraging them to maintain those strengths
*discuss possible solutions to the weakest feature of the referee’s game

Three strengths but only one weakness? Yes. Remember it’s all about encouragement! The mentoring relationship is, however, an ongoing project and is not strictly limited to the Mentor occasionally watching the person being assisted. The person being guided should also watch the Mentor officiate from time to time if they are still active, discussing the game perhaps at half time and certainly afterwards. Both people should also sometimes go to watch a game together, whether a professional game, semi-professional or on the parks, again discussing the performance of the official(s).

It is important that Mentors should be available to assist people whenever the need arises. Normally this is done by telephone - why not arrange to speak on the phone, say, every Thursday evening? Meeting-up every now and then, perhaps at functions organised by local Referees’ Societies, is also very helpful.

A small amount of paperwork has to be completed by the Mentor - periodic Feedback Forms have to be submitted to the co-ordinator of the scheme so they can keep an overview of its operation and so any widespread training needs can be drawn to the attention of the organiser.

Who Can be a Mentor?

The key characteristics of a good Mentor are friendliness, approachability and patience. Experience as a referee is helpful but it’s not necessary for this to be particularly lengthy. In many ways, someone who qualified a year or so ago will be an ideal Mentor for someone who is newly-qualified as the issues that challenge a new referee will still be fresh in the mind of the Mentor. Even if the Mentor doesn’t know the answer to every particular question, he or she will normally know who can provide it. Guidance can, of course, always be obtained from the co-ordinator of the scheme. In summary, absolutely any referee registered with the Essex County FA can become a Mentor . If you are an ECFA-affiliated Match Official please fill-in the Form below if you’d like to become a mentor.

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