Academic journal article Journal of Sport Behavior

Gender Effects in the Assessment of Technical Fouls among High School Basketball Officials and Collegiate Proxies

Academic journal article Journal of Sport Behavior

Gender Effects in the Assessment of Technical Fouls among High School Basketball Officials and Collegiate Proxies

Article excerpt

Poor officiating has consequences for both the participants and officials of sports. Whereas participants may be placed at a disadvantage due to an inaccurate call, officials often suffer an emotional backlash. Indeed, a significant amount of negative affect is directed toward sports officials (Folkesson, Nyberg, Archer, & Norlander, 2002), which may lead to feelings of frustration, insecurity, depression, and the desire to quit officiating (Folkesson et al. 2002; Friman, Nyberg, & Norlander, 2004). Although negative affect from fans can follow from good officiating, poor officiating is especially likely to elicit a hostile fan response. Given the potential consequences of poor officiating (among officials, participants, and fans alike), it is surprising that more empirical attention has not been given to the characteristics identified with better and worse officiating. Generally, research that does exist attempts to identify specific personality characteristics of highly-rated officials (e.g., Ittenbach & Eller, 1988) or principles by which these officials abide (Russell, 1999). Despite the handful of studies in this area, many fundamental aspects of the officiating process remain unclear. The present research attempts to enhance the understanding of how gender--of both official and player--is related to the consistency of basketball officiating behavior.

Numerous athletic organization documents that address officiating (e.g., National Association of Basketball Officials, 2001) suggest that the Holy Grail of basketball officiating is "consistency." For example, in their "Standards for Basketball Observation," the Michigan High School Basketball Officials Association (MHSBOA, 2006) notes:

   The official is consistent during a game (play to play, quarter to
   quarter, half to half) when having similar or like plays.
   Violations, fouls and no-calls at one end of the floor are
   consistent with the same types of plays being called in the same
   manner at the other end of the floor. The official also works well
   with his or her partner(s) in building crew consistency during a
   contest when confronted with similar or like plays (p. 1).

Indeed, the NCAA has recently formed an advisory committee whose aim is to improve consistency in basketball officiating (Nixon & Worlock, 2006).

The characteristic of intra- and inter-official consistency has both aesthetic and pragmatic value. The "true" game is one in which the officials make the same calls for each team for the entire length of the contest thus assuring that neither team gains an advantage as a result of inconsistent calls. Calls should not be a function of when during the game an infraction occurs, the location of the infraction on the court or field, nor the particular official responsible for making (or not making) a call. From an applied perspective, consistency allows for coaches and players to make adjustments in their manner of coaching and playing in order to compensate for how the officials are calling the game. Thus, if the officials are calling a "tight" game (i.e., have a low threshold for calling infractions), the coaches and players can adjust their style accordingly. The same is true if the officials are "letting them play" with a higher threshold for calling fouls. However, it is only possible to adjust to the officials' style if each official is consistent throughout the game and if each member of a team of officials is calling the same way. Thus, the term "being on the same page" is one that is frequently heard at instructional meetings of basketball officials' organizations. The inference of this term is that each official should call the game in the same manner so that everyone knows what to expect and may adjust accordingly. Given the value of consistency for all parties in a sporting contest, it is reasonable to assume that any variables that may create differences in the way a game is called--across time, location, or official- are problematic. …

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