How to recruit female sport officials: A qualitative exploration


Sport plays an integral role in society and it is unlikely that competitive sporting events would exist without sport officials (e.g., referees, umpires, and judges). Research, however, has shown a decrease in the number of officials (Canadian Heritage, 2013), highlighting the need for evidence-based recruiting strategies. Extant literature mostly focuses on male officials, with little understanding of how to recruit female officials. The purpose of this research was to explore female officials' perspectives on recruiting other female officials. This research is part of a larger study whereby a link to an online survey was sent to officials throughout North America. Our analysis focuses on female officials (N = 990, representing 16 sports) who answered an open-ended survey question, "How can we attract more women to officiating?" We adopted a pragmatic analytic approach, aiming to generate results that were meaningful for officials and officiating organizations. To achieve this, we performed a content analysis on 40%-60% of participants' responses from each sport. Results revealed three dominant strategies that might facilitate recruitment of female officials: (1) An increase in advertising of women; (2) Increasing the sense of belonging; and (3) Providing more opportunities for mentoring and education. When investigating sport differences, volleyball officials emphasized providing greater incentives as an additional strategy, officials in soccer included giving better assigners/assignments as a strategy, and gymnastic judges gave less thought to increasing the sense of belonging. Discussions will be geared towards practical applications and future directions.