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The psychological characteristics of performance under pressure in professional Rugby Union referees

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journal contribution
posted on 2022-02-22, 16:45 authored by Denise M. Hill, Nic Matthews, Ruth Senior
This study used 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.


Published in

The Sport Psychologist


Human Kinetics


  • AM (Accepted Manuscript)


Hill, D.M., Matthews, N. and Senior, R. (2016) 'The psychological characteristics of performance under pressure in professional rugby union referees', The Sport Psychologist, 30(4), pp.376-387

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Cardiff Met Affiliation

  • Cardiff School of Management

Cardiff Met Authors

Nic Matthews

Cardiff Met Research Centre/Group

  • WCTR (Welsh Centre for Tourism Research)

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  • © The Publisher


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