Self-identification of group characteristics amongst hockey referees


The importance of group dynamics in relation to sport has been widely supported (e.g., Carron & Eys, 2012). Despite the growing support for the influence of the “group” on performance (e.g., Martin, Bruner, Eys, & Spink, 2014), our understanding of this process has been limited to athletes, coaches, and managers. An important “group” that operates within the athletic environment, and certainly has an impact on the execution and success of any sporting event (Dennis & Carron, 1998), has largely been overlooked – sport officials. In fact, a recent citation analysis revealed no extant literature on group dynamics amongst sport officials (Hancock, Rix-Lièvre, & Côté, 2014). Therefore, the purpose of this study was to investigate hockey officials’ self-identified group characteristics and perceptions of their group environment. Semi-structured interviews – which followed Patton’s (2002) guidelines – were conducted with 14 male, Canadian hockey officials. All officials performed in leagues that utilized the four official system (i.e., two referees and two linesmen) including the Ontario Hockey League, the Central Canadian Hockey League, and the Ontario Junior Hockey League (Mage = 30.7 years; Mexperience = 12.9 years). Data analysis was completed using Charmaz’s (2006) initial, focused, and theoretical codes. The analysis revealed hockey officials’ perceptions of the dynamic and influential group environment that they shared with fellow officials, including the importance of belonging to an officiating group. Herein, we expound on our results specifically related to communication, cohesion, roles, norms, and common goals. Participants identified benefits of belonging to a group, and as such, we offer practical recommendations that governing bodies (e.g., Hockey Canada) can implement to strengthen the dynamics within their officiating groups.