Situation criticality and basketball officials’ stress levels

Jason Ritchie, Itay Basevitch, Ryan Rodenberg, Gershon Tenenbaum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Officials are expected to perform impeccably despite the wide range of stressors they experience. A stressor that officials frequently report is situation criticality. Situation criticality is comprised of score differential (i.e., more pressure in close games) and time remaining in a game (i.e., more pressure as time expires), which affects athletes’ stress levels. The present study explored the effect of situation criticality on officials’ stress levels. High school basketball officials (n = 108) with an average of 18.1 (SD = 11.2) years of officiating experience were given a survey packet containing game situations that varied in criticality. For each game situation (n = 9) officials completed the overall stress and appraisal portions of the Stress Appraisal Measure (SAM). Results revealed that situation criticality has an effect on officials’ perceived stress levels. Both threat and challenge appraisals were positively correlated with perceived stress. Overall, these findings indicate that officials’ stress levels fluctuate within games depending on score differential and time of game. The findings encourage officials to recognise and manage their stress, possibly through their appraisals. Additionally, the findings can affect the training of officials in the management of stress, as well as prompt the consideration of potential rule changes that reflect the increased situational demands on officials in critical situations (e.g., expanded instant replay).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2080-2087
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Sports Sciences
Issue number21
StatePublished - 2 Nov 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Stress
  • appraisals
  • criticality
  • officials
  • referees


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