FEATURE: Prince describes pre-EVENT routines

The article below is as it appeared in the recent Commissaire Matters Newsletter released by British Cycling:

In the recent mental toughness webinar, we learned that Confidence plays a big part in mental toughness. Officials can take confidence through thorough preparation and striving to get themselves in the right mindset prior to the event. We are delighted that one of our top International cycle speedway Referees, Bob Prince has taken the time to document his pre-event routines and how he gets in the zone ready to officiate.

Article by: Bob Prince

Remember, GET IN THE ZONE.

Big day today. Today I am refereeing the World Individual Cycle Speedway Championship Final. No ordinary final. This one is taking place at Findon Cycle Speedway club, Adelaide, South Australia with a very strong line up including 6 top Polish riders.

The final is due to start at 7.00 pm under floodlights. The lights always make the racing seem faster.

The big final is preceded by the World Junior final and then the Women’s World final so I arrive at the venue in time to watch these two events.

Before leaving the holiday park where the British group are staying, I do a final check of all the clothing and equipment I need for refereeing: Clean black shoes and black trousers, official referee’s shirt, two whistles, chewing gum, wrist watch and a bottle of drinking water.

As the big event approaches the tension around the venue is begging to mount. There is a strong contingent of Polish riders who all know me and are accustomed to the manner in which I referee. To overcome the language barriers, I liaise with one of the Polish touring party who can speak English and is also a fellow referee, so he understands the rules of the sport. He will be present in the pits area throughout the meeting.

Forty minutes before the final is due to start I go through my pre-match routine. Talk with the event manager about the pre match parade and any presentations to be made before the racing begins. Check that first aid personnel are present, check the condition of the track making sure the track staff have freshly graded it following the two previous events.

Brief the match commentator. This is very important. He is the guy who will need to explain some of my decisions to the large crowd of spectators (At big events most of the spectators know very little about the finer details of the rules of cycle speedway so a good announcer can help overcome any misunderstandings).

Thirty minutes before the start the riders take up their places in the pits area. I carry out a pre match bike and equipment inspection, helmets, gloves and clothing.

After carrying out the pre-match checks and inspections I find a quiet spot, in the corner of the pits and I GET IN THE ZONE. This is a mental state where you can fully focus on the job ahead and ignore everything else going on around. The process
that works for me involves sitting position I begin to control my breathing, in through the nose, out through the mouth. I close my eyes and imagine I am sitting in a field of tall green corn. There is a gentle breeze sending ripples or waves through the field. The corn sways with the breeze. In and out with the breathing. I am almost in a meditational trance. This continues for around five minutes then I start concentrating of the forthcoming action. Running through all the possibilities in my mind.

Fifteen minutes before the start I make sure the pits marshal is present and I talk him through the process of liaising with the riders and making sure the riders know when they are due to race.

At this stage of the event some referees gather the competing riders together to give them a run through of how he is going to referee the meeting. I don’t do this. This puts pressure on the referee. If he says one thing and does it differently, the riders get confused and the referee loses the trust of riders. What I tend to do is have a quiet word with all sixteen finalists individually, wishing them luck and reminding them that this is an individual event and under no circumstances will “team riding” be allowed.

I make my way back to the racetrack and make sure all the officials are in position. I put chewing gum in my mouth. I liaise with the announcer and the meeting begins.

I am able to keep my concentration really focused through ensuring my breathing holds a steady rhythm and I block out everyone apart from the riders from my mind.

During the half time interval, I run through the same procedure, away from everyone. Throughout the second half of the meeting I am fully concentrated and relaxed. My breathing is controlled.

The racing is over and everything has gone accordingly with the best rider in the final being crowned World Cycle Speedway Champion.

After the presentations I make a point of congratulating or commiserating with all the riders. This process helps build up trust and respect between the referee and the riders which will help in future matches.

Then follows a sleepless night caused by adrenaline. I run through all the decisions I have made in the final. On completion of the racing I analyse every incident that occurred during the racing, satisfying myself that any decisions I made were the
correct ones through asking, could I have done things differently or better? What to watch out for next time. More importantly, how can I improve as a referee? . I then let my mind return to its natural state. This system really works for me.