How to Keep Calm after a Poor Officiating Call

How to Keep Calm after a Poor Officiating Call

Do Emotions Get the Best of you After a Bad Call?

Do your emotional outbursts lead to a loss of focus and uncharacteristic mistakes?

You can’t take emotions out of the game. By nature, we are emotional beings. However, when you don’t reel in your emotions, they will intensify, and your performance will decline rapidly.

For example, Mary S. is a high school basketball player. After she received two questionable fouls early in the first quarter, she quickly became angry. She felt the referee was singling her out and not calling fouls on defenders covering her.

She lost her focus and turned the ball over three times afterward, leading to scores from the opposing team. In an act of frustration, she committed a hard foul on a player on a breakaway at the end of the quarter, and her coach pulled her from the game.

She was never able to find her rhythm for the rest of the game due to her inability to regain control of her emotions.

Runaway emotions hurt your performance in several ways:

  • Negative thoughts and negative emotions go hand in hand. Thoughts such as “This official has something against me” intensify negative emotions.
  • When you are bothered by bad calls, you lose your focus. Instead of focusing on performance cues, you are angry about past calls.
  • Intense emotions cause anxiety and heightened physical arousal. Your breathing becomes shallow; your heart beats more rapidly; your muscles become tight, and your energy level declines.
  • When you feel officials are being unfair or singling you out, you will expect additional bad calls against you. As a result, you will play cautiously for the remainder of the competition.
  • You make an increased number of uncharacteristic mistakes. Your technical game is thrown off, and your performance spirals downward quickly.

Managing emotions is an essential mental skill for elite performers. When you brush off bad calls and keep your emotions in check, you will be able to maintain your poise, redirect your thoughts, regain your focus, and perform at a high level.

In a 108-100 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, Toronto Raptors’ Fred VanVleet was upset after receiving a technical foul. After the game, where the Raptors were called for 23 fouls, VanVleet voiced his displeasure with the officiating.

VANVLEET: “You come out tonight, you’re competing pretty hard, third quarter, I get a tech, [it] changes the whole dynamic of the game, changes the whole flow of the game.”

In the postgame press conference, VanVleet criticized the NBA’s officiating and believes he has become the target of one referee in particular.

VANVLEET: “On most nights, out of the three (referees), there’s one or two that just [mess up] the game up, and it’s been like that a couple of games in a row.”

One bad call doesn’t mess up the game. Your reaction to the call messes up your mindset and thus performance. 

When you learn to manage your emotions, you can refocus your attention on the game and perform like you do when calm.

You want to stay in the moment and not dwell on the call. You do this by refocusing when you notice your mind is in the past.

You can also take a few deep breaths from your abdomen combined with self-talk, such as “it’s behind me, move on” or “that’s in the past, let’s go.”

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