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Title: Helping the man in the middle : assessing and training referee performance
Author: Mascarenhas, Duncan
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2005
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Using a multi-modal approach, the first investigation used referee performance profiling, three sources of RFU literature together with academic literature to establish the key areas of referee performance. The Cornerstones Performance Model emerged, overarched by the psychological characteristics of excellence and featuring knowledge and application of the law; contextual judgment; personality and management skills; and fitness, positioning and mechanics. The model was subsequently adopted by the RFU to guide the support, development and selection of the English RFU referees. As the model reflects, referee performance largely hinges upon their decision-making. Consequently, a thorough review of decision-making literature revealed a relatively new paradigm for exploring high-pressure decisions, in environments such as refereeing, known as naturalistic decision making (NDM). Therefore, adopting a naturalistic approach, 45 referees, 47 touch-judges, 27 assessors and 13 referee coaches made immediate decisions on 10 videotaped tackle incidents of real game scenarios. Examination of the decisions and the reasons underpinning them revealed surprisingly low levels of accuracy amongst all groups. Given such apparently low scores, a referee coherence training programme was designed, in order to reinforce accurate interpretations. Over a six-week period an experimental group studied training tapes consisting of 5 sets of 5 tackles, in each case with an expert providing his interpretation of the correct decision. All groups improved their performance with the lowest ranked referees significantly improving their performance at the posttest. These results suggest that such shared mental model training is an appropriate method for improving referee decision-making. However as the referee performance model presents, referee decision-making is influenced by many factors beyond a simple application of the law. Accordingly, the final investigation explored how the context of the game influences rugby-union referees management of the game. Following the nominal group technique, two groups of referees listed any contextual factors that they felt might affect their decisions during a game. Individual ratings of this list with both groups revealed the most important factors to be the ‘temper of the game,’ ‘the level of player respect/rapport,’ ‘position on pitch,’ ‘scoreline,’ and the ‘time left in the game.’ To verify these factors a think-aloud protocol was conducted with three international referees, assessing how they weight their decisions based on the context and how this affects their management of the game. The results suggest that ‘preventative refereeing is a crucial aspect of referee performance. This research program highlights the need for empirically based interventions in order to assist in the monitoring and training of high performance referees.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available