In comparison to players little is known about how sports officials integrate perception and cognition to manage in-game decisions.
Using a naturalistic approach this paper uses first-person eye-tracked video footage to document the attentional demands and situation awareness (SA) of expert touch (rugby/football) referees in their real-world environment to inform decision training for amateur officials. Drawing directly from match performances, an applied cognitive task analysis (ACTA) technique investigated how three international referees manage complex attentional demands, to see what lessons could be learned for less-experienced referees.
Referees emphasised the importance of role clarity and game understanding as the foundation for effective match officiating. They used advanced cues such as player body language and movement patterns (SA1) to interpret game status (SA2) and predict likely actions and movement patterns (SA3).
Ordering abstraction, preventive communication and early positioning were used to lessen cognitive load and encourage game flow.
The merits of using first-person, eye-tracked, audio-visual footage with ACTA for training less experienced sports officials through expert verbal elicitation or self-reflection are discussed.
The paper proposes a decision tree for touch refereeing which emphasises a hierarchical ordering of cognitive decision points that provides the basis for training amateur referees.
Mascarenhas, D., Birtwhistle, J., & Martindale, A. (in press). First-person video recordings with eye tracking glasses and cognitive task analysis as a framework for referee decision training. Managing Sport and Leisure, https://doi.org/10.1080/23750472.2022.2134186