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28.08.2013, 09:01
Teaching handball referees leadership qualities
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FEATURE: Sports psychologist Johann Ingi Gunnarsson, a former THW Kiel coach, will lecture at the 2013 EHF Referee Seminar on topics such as 'mental preparation' and 'goal setting' for referees. And he is prepared to take his role even further at the EHF EURO 2014 in Denmark
 

Teaching handball referees leadership qualities

Back in May 1986 Icelandic Johann Ingi Gunnarsson, who then coached German side THW Kiel, probably did not think, that when he left an alarm clock in his team's changing rooms at half-time, that this story would become associated with him for a very long time.

The alarm clock went off with - so the story goes - an horrific sound and Gunnarson, who had not been satisfied with his team's performance, entered the room and simply said to his players: "Everyone's awake now?"

When in 2008 a book on the THW Kiel history was published, the chapter about the Gunnarsson era was headlined "The man with the alarm clock".

Nowadays, more than 25 years later, he still smiles when he hears the story and admits: "I still like to work with metaphors."

Gunnarsson, who lives in Iceland where he runs a successful business together with his siblings, has become a renowned sports psychologist.

He already studied the profession while being a coach in Kiel. Besides his day-to-day business he works these days as motivational speaker for companies and as university lecturer.

And he will come to to the EHF Office in Vienna as one of the presenters for the 2013 EHF Referee Seminar (30 August to 1 September 2013) at which he will focus on topics such as 'mental preparation' and 'goal setting' for referees.

Providing a toolbox for the game's managers

The seminar is the main preparation course for the 16 referee pairs that have been nominated for the Men's EHF EURO 2014 in January in Denmark.

Out of those 16 twelve pairs will be nominated for the final tournament by mid October.

"The referees are the managers of the game," says Gunnarsson. "There is no match without the referees. We have to teach them leadership qualities.

"So the referees have to be prepared as well as the players. And in order to do things great, it depends on how well they are mentally prepared."

During the seminar Gunnarsson will touch on topics such as stress management and reframing. He wants to provide the referees with a 'toolbox' that they can rely on and draw from.

"It will contain tools for how to react to confrontational situations, how to keep calm, but also how to deal with mistakes," he explains.

"As a referee you must recover from bad matches as quickly as you recover from good matches. And don't let your confidence get blown away if you make a mistake."

And then Gunnarsson gives an insight into the concept of reframing from a handball team's point of view.

"Take, for example, the idea of 'home referees', who are said to whistle in favour of the home team. Reframing for a team then means, to say that your opponents obviously need someone's assistance to win, which subsequently means that they are not better than you are, ergo you will beat them," he says.

"It is like a new beginning. You suddenly see your chances."

Gunnarsson's aim is to take the psychological assistance for referees a step further at the EHF EURO 2014 in Denmark.

"It is important to build a positive surrounding for the referees, so I will be there all the time during the final tournament.

"It will be the first time that there will be mental coach present permanently. So figuratively speaking, if something goes wrong, I'll be there to stop the bleeding straight away."

Gunnarsson's alarm clock trick back in May 1986 , by the way, served its purpose. THW Kiel had led 8:5 against Grün-Weiß Dankersen, but the team's performance had regularly plummeted in the second half.

After being 'woken up', Gunnarsson's side took home a 23:14 victory.

Two courses at the same time

Parallel to the EHF Referee Seminar the EHF Delegate Profieciency Course takes place at the EHF Office in Vienna.

This seminar focuses on the preparation of the EHF Delegates ahead of the EHF EURO 2014 in Denmark.

A leaflet containing basic information and the courses' schedule can be downloaded here.


TEXT: EHF / ts
 
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