The NSWRL Referees High Performance squad were kept in the dark about what to expect at their recent pre-season camp in Narrabeen in order to prepare them physically and mentally for the challenges they will face in the 2020 season.
The focus of the camp for the 38-strong squad was communication through teamwork and showing how that tied in with what the group do on the field and the qualities they need for their roles as officials.
“It was tough, we were straight into a field session on Friday at 5pm and the recovery consisted of a 400-metre swim followed by another ten laps but at the end of each lap you had to get out and do 20 push ups,” NSWRL Referee Karra-Lee Nolan said.
“The camp brought out that team element where we worked together and were tested at our greatest depths.
“We saw how the group dynamic changed when anxiety kicked in and how we all worked together to get to an end goal.”
Ex-Special Forces soldier Daniel Cooper was a guest speaker on the Sunday and told the group about the challenges he’s faced and how humans respond to stress.
Cooper spent 22 years in the army - 17 of those in the SAS - and played a key role in developing their human performance program which led to research on how soldiers prepare for combat.
“A lot of it was about creating combat behaviour and how the critical decision making impacts the way you perceive information within an environment, how you come to that decision and how you execute based off the decision you’ve made,” Cooper said.
“Coming here was about giving some of the theory relating to how that’s contextual to within the refereeing environment and then putting it into a context where they can go away and understand the process of how they pick up patterns within the game, come to decisions and then a lot around if you’ve made a bad decision, how you then move on from it.
“Refereeing is contextually a lot different to combat because the threat level has changed but the way that we respond to threat is the same, just the magnitude of that response changes at a primitive level within our context.”
Cooper sharing his research and stories with the squad and the way this relates to officiating Rugby League matches certainly gave Nolan a different perspective on the matter.
“When we make a decision in refereeing, we’re known to dwell on that decision being wrong but he said ‘at the end of the day you can’t change whether it’s wrong or right, so what you need to change is how you respond to dealing with it’,” Nolan said.
“The better your brain can deal with that response, the quicker you can move onto the next decision.
“Especially for Daniel and in the Special Forces, obviously, everything is super-fast paced.
“You don’t have time to sit and reflect on your decision, you’ve just got to keep going and it’s the same sort of principal with our refereeing.”
The NSWRL Referees High Performance squad will kick-off their campaign tomorrow (Saturday 8 February) when the opening round of the Junior Representative competitions (UNE SG Ball Cup, UNE Harold Matthews Cup, Harvey Norman Tarsha Gale Cup).