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"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 –

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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Source of the article: Ami nélkül Szoboszlai Dominiknak sem menne: önbizalom a sportban –

Confidence does not grow on trees like apples. It is the result of conscious effort"..

This quote comes from one of my dear to my heart teachers. And she was right. Indeed, it's not an inborn gift, an athlete needs to work on his self-confidence every day.

The three internal factors of self-confidence

Self-confidence has many internal factors to consider. Yet there are three essential aspects that are fundamental. These include confidence in physical ability and fitness, so "conscious training has its results". It has a special role when the player is out of shape and needs to be aware of what he is capable of physically and the training work he has put in will always pay off in the long run.

On the other hand, it also includes confidence in cognitive efficiency: "I can achieve my target, I can do it.". The"Big target" set small goals to achieve, so that the results achieved in the individual stages will boost the player's confidence and provide motivation for further tasks.

Thirdly, the belief in coping with difficulties is also an important factor, according to which "learning from difficulties becomes strengths". Years of endurance and effort in sport, including regular training and coping with difficulties, reinforce the feeling that "I can cope with the challenges ahead". Constructive criticism and learning from mistakes promotes personal development and optimal self-confidence. 

The athlete needs to recognise and accept his or her strengths and values. If he sees his mistakes as an opportunity for improvement during the more difficult periods, he will also focus on his positive self-esteem. But the question may arise: what is the difference between self-confidence and self-esteem? What is the relationship between the two concepts?

The relationship between self-confidence and self-esteem

It is necessary to differentiate between self-esteem and self-confidence, although the two concepts are related. Self-esteem is a more stable factor, including our strengths, areas to improve, human values, while self-confidence is more situational. So, like performance, self-confidence depends on the situation, fluctuating as a natural phenomenon. 

Let's see an example. A player is full of confidence under the leadership of his current coach and performs excellently. Over time, however, the team's performance decreases and the coach is fired from the club. With the new coach, the athlete has less sympathy, receives less positive feedback, becomes uncertain of his/her own abilities, and his/her performance decreases compared to before. If he has a positive self-assessment, he can accept that the situation makes him play worse than he does and that he is actually more qualified. I would add that in many cases, this requires the involvement of a sports psychologist.

If his or her self-esteem is low, he or she will discount his or her own knowledge instead of consciously analysing the situation, and his or her self-confidence will be reduced. Think about it, what you have been able to do for a long time, you already have the ability to do, so you can do it again and again!

External components of self-confidence

In addition to internal factors, a number of external environmental conditions can also be considered as relevant. 

This includes a realistic level of competition, or even the right sporting equipment, as well as the team's performance and its future perspective. For example, in a team where the athletes have ambitious plans but their skills are not in balance, the team's performance is probably going to be a disappointment and this will have a negative impact on the team members' self-confidence.

However, in my work, I experience that a supportive environment is the best way for a player to cope with challenges and keep his confidence stable on and off the pitch. Positive feedback and support from family, coaches, teammates and other communities play an essential role in keeping self-confidence at optimal levels. Emotional support, honest interest and well-timed positive feedback from those close to you is worth its weight in gold!

The presence of communities outside sport is also interesting. During my career I have had teammates who played guitar in a band, others who went on organised forest tours, and players can be part of a community while studying at university. From this perspective "has several legs" the athlete and emotional support comes from several directions, which speeds up the process of optimising self-confidence during difficult times.

The confidence of the team

In parallel to the athlete's individual self-confidence, we can also talk about team self-confidence. This is the belief of all the members of a group in the team's ability to perform successfully and achieve common goals. This type of self-confidence plays an important role in the quality and effectiveness of teamwork. Usually, teams with stable self-confidence are backed up by supportive coaches, supporters and management, dealing with successes as well as failures at team level.

Each player has a defined role and responsibility for the success of the team by default. When an athlete successfully completes the responsibilities assigned to him/her on the interests of the team, his/her self-confidence increases, which has a positive effect on "emotional infection" the confidence of the team. However, this requires clear obligations and expectations from the coaching side and from the club's management in terms of role efficiency. 

It is often the case that the team is productive and efficient, with members performing at a high level. However, realistic self-assessment and optimal self-confidence are also essential aspects of managing success. When team members believe that even "beans are meat" and efforts are enough, they do less and less to achieve the current target. This can lead to unpleasant surprises in individual and team sporting performance.

The team's self-confidence is also positively related to its cohesion. This is facilitated by the type of coaching attitude that does not primarily encourage better performance through criticism and competition between team members, but motivates players by focusing on the measurable improvement of the team and individual in relation to themselves and by encouraging each other.


As legendary basketball coach John Wooden said earlier: "Do not let what you cannot do impact what you can achieve". Developing a positive self-esteem and keeping self-confidence at an optimal level is a life long process, and the athlete needs to work on it both mentally and physically. Sport psychologists can support athletes in choosing and applying suitable strategies and techniques to maximise their sporting performance. 

I often hear it said that competitive sport is not healthy. I prefer to look at this from the point of view of what competitive sport can bring in a positive way. The values of commitment, dedication, endurance, focus and personal development that are built up over the years can be used not only on the field of play but also in other areas of life at the end of a career. In this way, years spent in competitive sport can also provide positive self-esteem and optimal self-confidence in civil life.

The authors of the article are Levente Szántai and Attila Szikora

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