Fitness Tracking for Soccer Referees: Understanding the Basics

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As GPS trackers and fitness watches become cheaper and more accessible to larger audiences it comes as no surprise that soccer referees have began to utilize them during training and games.

I previously wrote an in-depth article about GPS tracking and what to look for as a soccer referee. You can view that article HERE. The purpose of this article is to provide a brief overview of what the data from your watch is showing you. I am using a personal example from a recent U13F EDP soccer game. The watch that I wore was a Garmin 235.

FYI: The game duration for this age group was 2 x 35 minute halves.

The dashboard highlights some key metrics from the first half. I had an additional minute due to some stoppages. You can see that I covered 1.90 miles and burned approximately 310 calories in the first half. Beware: While the algorithm for calories burned does work off of a previously inputted bodyweight number the research has shown that this number is often over-inflated. So when you do look at your calories consider it off more of a ballpark or range versus an exact measurement.

The average pace per mile was 19 minutes and 10 seconds. This is around my pace for a brisk walk so you can probably tell that this game was not very challenging from a physical perspective.

1st half stats

The blue chart highlights my pace during the first half while the red chart highlights my heart rate. On both of these charts you will see a horizontal white line which is the average. I haven’t looked at the pacing chart with much detail but at a quick glance I can see that I had maybe 20 to 30 moderate to fast runs in the first half.

I typically don’t pay too much attention to the pace chart as these can change depending on the type of game being played by both teams. However, the heart rate data can offer an important insight. When looking at your own heart rate data from training and runs here are a couple of questions you should be asking yourself:

  • Does my heart rate data reflect my perceived difficulty of the game?
  • Did I have a hard or easy time recovering from my harder runs and sprints?
  • Did my heart rate continue to climb throughout the game?
  • How does this average heart rate compare to games in the past week, month or year?

Increases in perceived exertion and increases in heart rate are typically linear. When one goes up the other goes up…but not always. If you thought that the game felt easy but your heart rate is telling a different story you might want to ask yourself why that is?

The ability to successfully recover between harder runs and sprints to a baseline number will be determined by your current fitness level. If you notice a lot of ups and downs in your heart rate- this is not a bad thing! However if you find that your chart is a sloping line whereby it starts small and gets gradually bigger as the game goes on- you might want to take a moment to reflect. Is the game too challenging for you from a physical standpoint? This could be an indication that you are not physically prepared for the demands of the game.

For those of you curious: the second half was not much different.

As I stated in the beginning these metrics are just scratching the surface but I hope it’s enough to make you interested and realize that there is more to your watch than counting steps.


Performance Characteristics of Champions League Referee, Howard Webb

FIFA Fitness Test for Football Referees