"Spori, that's why I like you, because you honestly accept your mistake!"

Source: “Spori, ezért bírom magát, mert őszintén beismeri a hibáját is!” – interjú a legjobb magyar játékvezetővel – nb1.hu

There are 17 rules in the referees' code which can be taken as basic principles. In addition, there is an 18th unwritten rule, which refers to how you apply them. We talked about these pedagogical and psychological skills with the professional chosen as the best referee of 2023. This article on sports psychology is based on a personal in-depth interview with Balázs Berke.

Then and now

Balázs Berke, 40, is one of the most qualified referees in the NB I. He has been on the pitch for almost 20 years. He is a prominent example of the new generation of referees, where physical fitness has become crucial as football has speeded up. But to choose this profession, it was also necessary to have a love of the game. "I have always loved the sport. As I was not so talented as a player, I started learning to be a referee at my father's suggestion. I wanted to stay in the football environment," he said. From a very young age, he watched the matches of well-known colleagues and learned from them the refereeing skills that were useful to him, consciously building them into his developing refereeing character.

In the beginning, Balázs found it difficult to cope with his mistakes on the pitch, even spending weeks ruminating on them. He said that a sports psychologist could have been a solution in those times to help him deal with his mistakes more quickly. However, in the early days of his refereeing career, he had to deal with these situations alone. He trained himself and developed the practice of honest self-criticism. He still sees this skill as one of his greatest virtues. " Mistakes are still painful today, but I move on sooner. I watch the game back, learn from it and move on," said the now experienced referee.

n the beginning, the community of referees in Zala County meant a lot to him, from whom he received a lot of professional and mental support. However, there were occasions when, despite the referee supervisor's rating of his performance in a certain match as good, he had a different opinion. "I was striving for perfection even then and that has been the case since the arrival of VAR," said Berke, who has a strong character.

Video Assist System (VAR) through the eyes of the referee

In the Debrecen - Paks match in the summer of 2020, Balázs made a good judgement on a ball bouncing off the goal line, and did not award a goal to the home team. This meant the survival of Paks and the relegation of DVSC, which had a great impact on the professional future and existence of teams and players. And "justice won". At that time, there was no video assistant system, which nowadays can make it easier for referees to take action in match- deciding situations. However, he says of the VAR system: "My first priority is to resolve the situation, a hundred times out of a hundred. That is the aim. For me, VAR is a confirmation that I made the right decision." Adding that the video assistant system is very useful in judging decisive situations.  

Partner relationship

In addition to physical fitness, self-criticism and a strong character, Balázs says that his ability to deal with players as partners has helped him to reach a high level in his profession, game management. But this also requires adapting to the player's character, which requires pedagogical skills. There are athletes who ask for a gesture and it is necessary to keep a three-step distance with them. Sometimes, however, the player's request for a gesture may be followed by a handshake, a stricter vocal command or even a more direct request. "It's important not to lose the team, the players. Therefore, I prepare for the upcoming match consciously, taking into account how I can keep in touch and at the same time keep my distance. That's how I'm credible."

This kind of attitude is also respected by athletes. A good example of this is a previous championship match, in which the referee made a mistake in judging a foul, which the visiting team player complained about. Balázs responded, "You may be right that I made a mistake. At the end of the match, the same player walked up to him and finished with the following feedback: "Spori, that's why I like you, because you honestly accept your mistake!"

10 seconds

As a former goalkeeper, I can see a correlation between the responsibility of goalkeeping and refereeing. A goalkeeper can save a whole match brilliantly, but one mistake can have a huge impact on the outcome. In the same way, a referee can be perfect, but a critical mistake can cost one team three points. The question is, how can this pressure be compensated for? What can motivate a referee, apart from the love of the sport, to choose this career and to stay in it in the long term? Balázs said, "I wish my young referee colleagues to experience the 10 seconds when Ferencváros and Újpest are led out for a derby. It's an inspiring feeling, that's why it's worth choosing this profession."

We rarely think about the mental world of referees. Nowadays, it is completely acceptable for referees to visit a sports psychologist to cope with the difficulties of a bad decision or even for development aims to become an even better professional. This is also a possible way for the refereeing society to develop professionals such as Balázs Berke.

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6th International Scientific Conference - Novi Sad, Serbia

It was my first time performing in English in front of a sport professional audience! I am grateful to the Sports Science Research Group of the Gál Ferenc University for sponsoring my participation in the VI International Scientific.

In the company of Josip Lepes, Gábor Herczeg, Dr. Ferenc Győri and Szabolcs Halasi

In the sports psychology section, I presented my case study on optimizing self-confidence in a 19-year-old athlete. I thank Milan Hosta and Milan Cvetkovic and the interested audience for their questions, comments and positive feedback.

Sport psychology is for everyone, and this weekend proved it again!!!

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