Who are you, ref? Defining the soccer referee's career using a change-based perspective

Roy David Samuel, Yair Galily, Gershon Tenenbaum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Soccer referees cope with a variety of demands on and off the field, and should be regarded as sport performers on their own merit. This study aimed at defining the soccer referee's career using the Scheme of Change for Sport Psychology Practice. We examined the experience of career change-events, and the referees’ responses to them, using a cross-sectional retrospective design. Soccer referees (N = 154) completed measures of career change-event experiences, refereeing identity, and coping strategy usage. The referees reported experiencing various and multiple change-events in their careers (M = 10.38, SD = 4.54). The most common ones were a transition to a higher league (97%), excelling in a big match (86%), and a very poor performance or a decision error in a big match (74%). Change-events varied in frequency rates as a function of referees’ professional level and role. The perceived significance of change-events was related to refereeing identity, and was affected by the nature of the change-events. Referees tended to make a strategic decision to consult with others in response to experiencing change-events, and subsequently made a decision to change reflecting their active coping efforts. These results indicate that the soccer referee's career is perceived as a dynamic one, and comprised various types of change-events that require consideration and coping. Practitioners should educate referees regarding these potential change-events, providing them with adequate support, and facilitating the decisions made in their change processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)118-130
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 15 Mar 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • career transitions
  • change-events
  • coping strategies
  • refereeing identity
  • soccer referees


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