for Sports Professionals

Providing Content for Sports Officials, Coaches, and Athletes

Referee Stress & Coping

How to better manage referee stress with effective coping strategies:


Research studies from scholarly journals such as Stress and Health, Sport Management Review, Psychology of Sport and Exercise, and Journal of Sport Behavior, provide research data on the most common referee stressors. 


Cognitive strategies:

The most common stressors that explain our stress management techniques & strategies for coping methods

Coping technique results were assembled from these studies:

Basketball (Anshel & Weinberg, 1999)

Soccer (Wolfson & Neave, 2004) and (Voight, 2008)

Hockey (Dorsch & Paskevich, 2007)

Aussie-rules Football (Kellett & Shilbury, 2007)

Are here cited to explain factors that cause referee related stress, perceived reasons for stress, and coping methods for stress, including referee responses to stressors that create proactive stress management techniques (called cognitive strategies).

Surveys, questionnaires, and interviews, found the following were common in the studies:

External Sources --

1) Verbal abuse or threats from coaches, players, and spectators

2) Working with partners

3) General confrontation

Internal Sources --

1) Making controversial calls

2) Being wrong or making mistakes

3) Having a ‘bad’ game

(Longitudinal analysis of 5 independent Sport-Official studies listed above)

A Review of Cognitive Techniques:  Coping strategies can be viewed as either Approach or Avoidance techniques                                                 

The difference between coping style and coping strategy is explained as:  *Style = consistent manner of dealing with stressors across time and situations. *Strategies = reaction to an immediate stressor.

Approach Technique

Means confronting the source of stress and attempting to reduce its intensity
or better understand it: this style is preferred when the situation is controllable, when the source of stress is known, when the outcome measures are long-term, or when immediate action is required.

Avoidance Technique      


Means ignoring or discounting and is the preferred style when emotional resources are limited, the source of stress is not clear, the situation is uncontrollable, or when outcome measures are immediate or short-term (Anshel & Weinberg, 1999, p. 143).

Anshel and Weinberg explain,
“Effective coping with stressful situations in officiating can serve as a
buffer against burnout”


Depth and complexity of this topic may benefit from further,

1) participatory or interactive discussions on techniques for stress-coping

2) assessment of usefulness or popularity for website elements that can be used to explain more about the topic of referee stressors

3) intentions of the category to clearly list referee-stressor information in general (passive/read-only), and also an advanced online ability to direct and initiate discussion among members (participatory/interactive),

Additional benefits of research and participation include a sophisticated design that will allow referees to cope with stress by applying stress management and intervention techniques to assist incorporated programs of stress-management.