Coping under pressure: cognitive strategies for maintaining confidence among soccer referees

Sandy Wolfson, Nick Neave

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Referees are routinely subjected to a wide range of potential physical and psychological stressors, yet little is known about the extent to which these are perceived as aversive or the mechanisms which motivate officials to maintain their activities. The purpose of this study was to give experienced soccer referees the opportunity to offer explanations for and responses to criticism and abuse. A 4-page postal questionnaire was completed by 42 referees. Results indicated that an average of over 16 hours per week was spent on refereeing duties, and 71% of the respondents felt physically drained after matches. However, 100% asserted that the time and energy they put into refereeing was worthwhile. A number of strategies to cope with negative evaluations were noted. The referees expect to be the object of censure by players, coaches and spectators, but use external attributions such as people’s bias and lack of knowledge to explain dissent. While admitting to making errors, they perceive their misjudgements as representing opportunities to improve. Although respecting other referees and making use of support systems, they believe that their skills are superior to those of fellow officials. They also identify their devotion to soccer, rather than the desire for power and prestige, as the main reason for their involvement. The findings portray soccer officials as confident and resilient individuals who admit to occasional errors but interpret these are positive opportunities for self-improvement. A range of coping mechanisms serve to enhance self-esteem and help referees resolve the mismatch between their perceived competence and the criticism received from others.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)232-247
JournalJournal of Sport Behavior
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2007


Dive into the research topics of 'Coping under pressure: cognitive strategies for maintaining confidence among soccer referees'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this