Do I get nervous? Yes. And I'm not ashamed of it. I recognize that the feeling of "nerves" is because I care.
When we step out onto the pitch in that referee jersey with whistle and cards in hand, we will be judged. It's inevitable. Everyone around that pitch, coaches, players and certainly spectators, think that they know how the laws of the game should be enforced. Almost every call is questioned by somebody and rarely do they actually know what they are talking about.
I actually get my first nerves as soon as the assignments come out. I'll get the text and see my name attached to a high level, MLS Next, ECNL or Semi-Pro adult game and begin to question myself. It may only last for a few minutes, but it's amazing how after reffing for almost 8 years, I still hear that negative self-talk in my head questioning my abilities.
After a little while, I have the wisdom to recognize that the neves I'm feeling are a good thing. It means that these games will be challenging. I know, that rarely in life is anything worth doing easy. The hardest challenges can be the most gratifying to overcome and look back upon.
First, I sincerely enjoy the physical challenge. Aside from running up 20 miles in 1 weekend over 4 or 5 games, the ability to continue making sprints and staying up with play in the 90th minute is hard. It requires me to train 4 or 5 times a week to ensure I can do that on the weekends. It gives my workouts a purpose.
Second, I love the mental challenge. The knowledge that I can never be perfect (even pro's only get 90% of their calls correct), leaves me knowing that there is always room for improvement. Even after 1,000 games, there is always something unique in every match you will need to prepared for. Having that laser focus during the game is therapeutic and I forget about everything else in the world around me.
One thing I try never to do, is bring those initial nerves with me to the pitch. I try to make sure that when I show up at the field, I am projecting confidence and positivity. I am big believer that what you put out into the world, you get back. I want to have a good report with the players and coaches before the match so that we have a foundation for dialog during the match. I treat people with respect and set the tone for the match ahead.
In the end, I know it isn't about being perfect, it is about doing the best that I can. Will I make mistakes? Yes!. Will someone not like me afterward or appreciate the job I do? Yes! That happens in everyday life. You can't make people like or appreciate you. You just have to do the best that you can.
Giving myself that grace and setting up the proper expectations, gives me the freedom to perform and to keep focused no matter what comes my way. The most important thing in every match is to learn, grow and apply the laws of the game to the best of my abilities.
Yes, I get a little nervous. But that simply means that I am where am I supposed to be. On the pitch, participating, facilitating and officiating the game that I love.