Official talking to his mentor
Author:  Australian Sports Commission
Issue: Volume 5 Number 1

Mentoring is nothing new, particularly in sport.  Most sportspeople and many coaches and officials would freely admit that they have sought the advice of an experienced player, coach or official at some point in their career.

Mentoring is a highly effective way for new coaches and officials to learn the ‘art’ of their role, and apply theory that they may have learnt in a classroom or through independent study.  Mentoring relationships can be formally structured, with mentors assigned to officials, or they can grow out of a chance encounter with a like-minded official and remain very informal.

Mentoring for officials’ development can serve a variety of purposes.  It can be used as a:

  • key learning experience for officials to gain their accreditation
  • means of supervising officiating practice associated with accreditation
  • means of professional development for officials at any level of accreditation
  • means to ‘fast track’ officials with potential, through their accreditation.

The benefits to the organisation of establishing a mentoring program include:

  • easing the difficulty and costs involved in conducting lengthy residential training courses
  • tapping into the expertise of experienced officials in your sport
  • re-energising experienced officials who take on mentoring roles
  • developing officials so they become future mentors and better people managers
  • encouraging officials to progress to next level of accreditation through the motivation and assistance they receive from a mentor
  • being a particulalry useful tool to recruit, educate and retain female officials.

The benefits to the mentor include:

  • renewed enthusiasm and commitment to their own work
  • opportunities to share their knowledge and skills
  • recognition of personal expertise
  • new learning for themselves
  • promotes lifelong learning through relationships

The benefits to the official include:

  • increased confidence and motivation
  • constructive feedback on performance
  • helps translate theory into practice
  • networking opportunities and enhanced career prospects
  • promotion of lifelong learning through relationships
  • minimising the difficulties of attending training courses.

Some do’s and don’ts for officials being mentored:

  • Be clear about your goals and desires and be able to express your needs and accept responsibility for your decisions and choices.
  • Take responsibility for ‘driving’ the relationship – don’t wait for your mentor to initiate action.
  • Have reasonable expectations of your mentor – respect your mentor’s time and needs.
  • Look for a mentor with similar values and with the skills that you wish to gain.
  • Acknowledge your mentor’s role in your achievements.

When can mentoring occur?

Some opportunities for mentoring include:

  • At training - a mentor can be invited to observe some of the officials training sessions, or they may even take a part of a session to give the official an opportunity to see them in action.
  • At competitions - you need to consider, however, the effect that any mentoring will have on the performance of the athletes.  Perhaps scheduling some time with a mentor after competition to review the officials performance is the best compromise.
  • Video analysis - it may be difficult to have a mentor attend a practice session or competition, particularly for officials in rural areas.  A good alternative is to video tape the official in action and send the tape to the mentor for comment.  It is also important to provide the mentor with some background, as they will not be aware of the context in which the video is taken.  The video process should ideally be a catalyst for discussion of the officials performance, not become the focus of the exercise in itself.

Characteristics of successful mentoring relationships

  • Good rapport between mentor and the official
  • Trust and confidentiality
  • Demonstrated interest and enthusiasm
  • Clear objectives and goals
  • Mutual respect
  • Clear communication and feedback – the mentor becomes a ‘critical friend’
  • Physical environment for meetings is comfortable
  • A shared experience
  • Fun and enjoyment
  • Acknowledgment and celebration of achievements
  • Others are aware and supportive of the mentoring relationship

Adapted from Making Mentors: a guide to establishing a successful mentoring program for coaches and officials,  Australian Sports Commission, Canberra 2002

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