Sports officials draw from similar sets of skills to manage their games effectively. Some variations occur, depending on what each sport requires its referees to look for and do, but all referees share a core set of skills. A combination of rules knowledge, physical and psychological skills, and personality traits can benefit any referee’s career, but all referees need to receive training, and some need more practice than others. Football referees may benefit from some cross-training, but which sports should they look at? The team at ArbiterSports has a few ideas.

Didactic Knowledge

This consists of the rules knowledge referees need to judge their sports well. Being well-versed in didactic knowledge means mechanics are standardized, and everyone is on the same page. With an extensive rules knowledge, a referee can make quick decisions on the field or court.

When it comes to mechanics, football referees can learn a bit from softball. Softball refs have a gift for standardization; all the umpires look and behave the same way, which leads to consistency and confidence in their calls. For tips on how to apply consistent rules knowledge, volleyball referees are the people to emulate. Volleyball referees don’t move around the court much, but from where they stand, they see hundreds, if not thousands, of decisions within a single game. As a result, their ability to recall and apply their rules knowledge with confidence sets volleyball referees apart.


When people talk about having an “it” factor, they mean values. What a football referee personally brings to the game is valuable and contributes a great deal to success. Whether this means resilience in the face of pressure or a knack for good judgment calls, some important personal skills can be applied to officiating situations.

“People skills” are important parts of any referee’s career. Basketball refs have a knack for people skills. It’s not unusual for basketball referees to manage a game with people they’ve never met, so they have to communicate with one another effectively, as well as apply standard interpretations of rules and mechanics to make sure everyone is on the same page. Basketball refs also are closest to the players and coaches their rulings affect; being able to calmly communicate with people in an emotionally charged situation is something with which they get a lot of practice.

Psychomotor Skills

These are physical and psychological skills such as fitness and mechanics that make it possible to apply your knowledge and values to officiating. Keeping yourself in good physical and mental shape makes everything else a football referee does possible.

Football referees, this is where you excel. Offense has been evolving, and there are fewer huddles for you to catch your breath. Where teams can switch out players, a football referee stays in for the entire game. NFL officials work on conditioning themselves to stand up to these rigors, and their finely tuned bodies allow their game-management skills to shine.

Referee Training With ArbiterSports

Football referees need the same skills and training any other ref does. However, to be a well-rounded football referee, it helps to take lessons from a variety of places. Consider picking up another sport during your career, or at least seriously look at what other referees do. You could pick up some techniques to help up your football game.

If you’re working on referee training for a new sport, ArbiterSports can help you. We have the tools that can get you caught up with a new sport’s rules and keep your memory fresh. See what tools we can arm ambitious referees like you with, and even request a demo, by calling 800.576.2799 or emailing