Eye Tracking Research Shows Touch Rugby Referees use a Decision Priority System

Research conducted by Jack Birtwhistle (Masters student at Edinburgh University & Supervisor of Dr Amanda Martindale) in conjunction with colleagues at Edinburgh Napier University used eye-tracking glasses to test officiating expertise with 3 international touch rugby referees.

I’ll save you my ramblings on the theoretical contributions of the paper, but from an applied perspective it makes some significant findings. Given the complexity of officiating the touch and roll-ball in parallel to managing the offside line it appears that expert referees use their advanced knowledge of the game to predict and prevent infringements before they occur. This allows them to preload the defenders on where the eminent offside line will be by both communicating to them positioning themselves on that line before it comes into play.

Although this may not be groundbreaking news to those referees operating at this level, it is the first scientific study to use in-game footage with the addition of eye-tracking glasses to examine such cognitive challenges for match officials. The table below reveals the ordering system that helps referees to manage these demands.

Mascarenhas, Birtwhistle & Martindale (under review, 2022)

The three referees in the study, each who have officiated over 50 international games of touch rugby, all cited the importance of teamwork, and how they rely on their sideline officials to manage other aspects of the game, so that they can remain focused on the more central players.

It is expected that the protocol employed here, using first-person, eye-tracked footage, together with postgame review (known as applied cognitive task analysis) will for the basis for future online digital training for sports officials across all sports.

Learn from the best

Edinburgh Napier University will soon release a series of bitesize online learning resources for the aspiring sports official.

Condensing the latest research evidence alongside interviews with top flight international referees and referee managers, each module is designed to help your performance.

Arriving in January: Effective Verbal Communication for the Sports Official brings to life research from Dr Ian Cunningham and Dr Pete Simmons (Professor of Communication) with videos of hockey, rugby union, touch rugby and netball.

Hear from top international rugby union referee Hollie Davidson and RFU National Referee Academy Manager Chris White on the characteristics that are important to be a top official.

For more information contact d.mascarenhas@napier.ac.uk

How to Make it as a Top Referee

International rugby union referees share their experiences of what took them to the top. Hollie Davidson – International Rugby 7’s and 6 Nations refereee from Scotland and RFU National Referee Academy Manager Chris White discuss their ideas on how to make it.

Chris White refereed the world cup semi-final in 2003 and was tipped to referee the RWC final had his home nation England not made it to the championship game. He works closely with Englands Premiership referees and is now responsible for developing the next generation of referees to reach that level.

For more tips from top sports officials – go to Napier University

CPD Modules for Referees: Understanding Players

Screen Shot 2019-03-14 at 13.49.03Edinburgh Napier University is soon to launch its CPD platform for sports officials. You can learn strategies on how to enhance aspects of your game, including; verbal communication, non-verbal communication, understanding players, conflict management, coping with pressure, pre-game briefings, mental toughness, managing distractions and mental well-being. By condensing the latest research and drawing upon experts in the area, you can learn strategies to help you make more accurate decisions under pressure and communicate more effectively with players. Here’s a taster of what you can expect from our module on “Understanding Players”….

World’s First Masters Degree for Sports Officials

The brand new MSc Performance Enhancement in Sports Officiating is designed for national and international level referees/umpires. This part-time masters degree runs 100% online, so you can complete it in your own time, wherever you are!

Based at Edinburgh Napier University you will have checkpoints through the year designed to help share expertise with other national/international level officials. You will meet your tutors who will mentor you through your degree with ongoing online support and video based activities.

Course Structure:

Trimester 1 – Work Based Learning for Sports Officials: You will complete a 360 degree profile, including peer/coach/self-reflections to identify areas for your personal development.

Trimester 2 – Communication & Game Management: Through extensive use of video you will learn the different ways in which players try to influence you, your own typical conflict management style and how to enhance your verbal and non-verbal communication skills for developing more effective relationships.

Trimester 3 –¬†Leadership and Organisational Management for Sports Officials: You will learn contemporary theories to relate to your own leadership capabilities and evaluate them in relation to effective organisational, team and game management.

After year one you have the option of exiting with a PG-Certificate Performance Enhancement in Sports Officiating, or you can continue to year 2:

Trimester 1 – High-Pressure Decision Making: Using theories developed in the military, fire-fighting and NASA space control you will learn about principles of decision training. Addressing a hot topic in your sport you will be guided through mechanisms to assess and train more accurate in-game decisions for you and your colleagues.

Trimester 2 & 3 – Independent Study: In this module you will be encouraged to research a practice-based problem, tailored to suit your own personal needs in your sporting context. The module is designed flexibly to develop your critical and reflective thinking in relation to your own professional needs.

IMG_1075 Whistle-cropAfter year two you have the option of exiting with a PG-Diploma Performance Enhancement in Sports Officiating, or you can continue to year 3:

Trimester’s 1, 2 & 3 (September to August) – Research Project: This module will require you to conduct a programme of independent research within your practice, led by a supervisor with expertise in the area.

Interested? Drop Duncan a line at d.mascarenhas@napier.ac.uk, or click here for information on Fees and to How to Apply.

#refereecpd  #science4refs

NSA Women's Football

Not So Small Talk

Associate Professor Duncan recently teamed up with research colleagues Dr Ian Cunningham from Universit√© Clermont Auvergne in France and Associate Professor of Communication Dr Peter Simmons of Charles Sturt University (Australia) to write an article on communication for the sports official, in Referee Magazine. The Official Publication of the National Association of Sports Officials in north America recognised the contribution that this team of researchers have contributed to the area with a 6 page spread in December’s edition… Ref1

Eye-Tracking Glasses Trial

IMG_3236Early in September we trialled a pair of Eye-Tracking Glasses in a pre-season friendly between Sony Centre Fury and the Glasgow Rocks. FIBA basketball referee Chris Dodds wore the glasses for the duration of the game (some might say its about time he put some glasses on!) and the following night we talked through some of his decisions. Here’s an example of what we found in a charge-block call.

Want access to this sort of technology to help your performance – Apply to Edinburgh Napier University for new MSc Performance Enhancement in Sports Officiating or contact d.mascarenhas@napier.ac.uk.

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