Skilled Interaction: Concepts of Communication and Player Management in the Development of Sport Officials

in International Journal of Sport Communication
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  • 1 Charles Sturt University, Australia
  • 2 Glyndwr University, Wales
  • 3 Charles Sturt University, Australia
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Communication and player management are integral to effective sport officiating, but most research has focused on physical performance and decision making. The few previous studies of officiating communication tended to use “transmission” conceptualizations of communication (e.g., decision communication, impression management). Eleven officiating-development managers and coaches from 7 peak Australian sport bodies were interviewed to explore conceptualizations of communication and player management, the way officials improve, and the role of the sport bodies in improvement. Four salient themes emerged in conceptualizations of effective officiating communication and player management: personal qualities of the official, 1-way-communication direction giving and impression management, situation monitoring (interpreting player and context), and skilled interaction (adapting communication appropriately for context). The findings highlight a mismatch between (a) interpretive and interactive communication skills perceived to be most important and challenging and (b) the training that is currently provided to officials. There was general commonality in practice and training issues across sport codes. The article makes theoretical contributions to the study of sport-official communication and practical recommendations for improving approaches to training skilled communication and player management.

Cunningham, Simmons, and Redhead are with the School of Communication and Creative Industries, Charles Sturt University, Bathurst, NSW, Australia. Mascarenhas is with the Dept. of Sport and Exercise Sciences, Glyndwr University, Wrexham, Wales. Address author correspondence to Ian Cunningham at

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