The psychological characteristics of performance under pressure in professional rugby union referees

Denise Hill, Nic Matthews, Ruth Senior

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Abstract

This study utilized qualitative methods to explore the stressors, appraisal mechanism, emotional response, and effective / ineffective coping strategies experienced by elite rugby union referees during pressurized performances. Participants included seven male rugby union referees from the United Kingdom (Mage = 27.85, SD = 4.56) who had been officiating as full-time professionals for between 1 and 16 years (M = 4.85, SD = 5.42). Data revealed that the referees encountered a number of stressors, which were appraised initially as a ‘threat’, and elicited negatively-toned emotions. The referees were able to maintain performance standards under pressure by adopting proactive, problem- and emotion-focused coping strategies which managed effectively the stressors and their emotions. However, the use of avoidance-coping, reactive control, and informal impression management were perceived as ineffective coping strategies, and associated with poor performance and choking. Recommendations are offered to inform the psychological skills training of rugby union referees.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)376-387
JournalThe Sport Psychologist
Volume30
Issue number4
Early online date15 Jul 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016

Keywords

  • stress process
  • choking under pressure
  • clutch performance
  • coping

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