A comparison of male and female sport officials' developmental histories


Most research on sport officials (e.g., referees) has been comprised of male participants, with some indications that approximately only 13% of studies have included female officials (Pina et al., 2018). The purpose of this study was to explore the differences in male and female developmental milestones related to sport official's participation. The developmental history of athletes questionnaire (Hopwood, 2013) was modified to collect information from 511 Canadian sport officials (19% female) on factors such as officiating age of debut, and highest tier of officiating achieved (recreational, provincial, national/international). Overall, female officials had younger mean start ages (years) than male officials (21.5 vs. 26.7: t(509) = 3,59, p = .001). This trend was particularly evident among soccer officials (19.8 vs 26.3, t(201) = 2.58, p = .01). Although not statistically significant, females officiated on average more games per year prior to the age of 25, and thereafter, male officials averaged increasingly more games per year. There were also no statistically significant differences in the distribution of female and male officials across the tiers of officiating, although there was a 7% over-representation of male officials at the national/international level. These results provide some preliminary information on the developmental histories and activities of male and female officials. While most findings were inconclusive, they provide some indications that female and male officials may have unique developmental histories and experiences. Going forward it may be useful to explore female officials' prior athlete participation histories, as well as their accumulated training experience related to officiating.

Acknowledgments: This research was supported by funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada (Insight Grant# 435-2018-1496)