Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Professor J.L. Starkes




The deliberate practice theory and the expert performance approach were used to explore expertise in open-sport referees in four related studies. Study 1 used questionnaires focused on deliberate practice training activities. Findings showed that world-class level soccer referees specialize early in referee training activities, with an emphasis on physical training to the virtual exclusion of perceptual-cognitive training. Similar to studies with athletes, activities rated high in effort were also rated high in enjoyment. Distinct from studies with athletes, however, highly effortful activities were not always rated high in relevance. Study 2 combined biographical experience and practice data with performance on video-based laboratory tasks. Findings indicate that part of referee skill involves anticipation of movements, but not necessarily superior strategic decision-making. Studies 3 and 4 moved to the sport of basketball with more detailed tests of video-based laboratory tasks. Study 3 findings indicate that referee skill in video-based infraction detection and decision-making tasks may be influenced by features of the video display (e.g., speed and camera angle) and the inclusion of secondary, visual processing tasks. The visual processing style used to interpret and classify video clip actions may also interact with expertise level. Finally, study 4 indicates that the choice of game clips as well as their sequencing relative to the signals contained within needs to be examined closely when creating testing and training tools. As one of the first focused programmes of research on expertise in open-sport referees, this work highlights a number of areas of future research.

McMaster University Library

Files over 3MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "save as..."

Included in

Kinesiology Commons