Hi ref, are you in control? Self-control, ego-depletion, and performance in soccer referees

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Abstract

Objectives:

Soccer referees are challenged by physiological, professional, and mental demands which require them to exercise self-control for optimal performance. We applied the strength model of self-control (e.g., Baumeister & Vohs, 2016; Baumeister et al., 1998) to examine the relationship between self-control strength and performance in real matches.

Design and methods:

Sixteen soccer referees (M age = 30.06 yrs, SD = 7.38) completed a trait self-control scale. Then, over 2–4 matches they completed measures of daily hassles prior to the match and state self-control prior to and after the match. Personal, situational and performance indices were also collected. Data were analyzed using several statistical procedures, including hierarchical linear modeling.

Results:

The referees exhibited higher levels of trait self-control compared with professional soccer players and the general population. Their state self-control scores were also high. A noticeable decrease (10% or more) in state self-control strength (i.e., ego depletion) was evident in almost half of the matches. Experience of daily hassles and travel time to the match were related to lower pre-match self-control. Ego depletion was associated with self-reported match difficulty and was negatively related to self-rated match performance.

Conclusions:

The findings are in line with previous studies and the strength model of self-control, highlighting the importance of self-control strength in soccer refereeing. Practitioners and Referee Unions should support referees in planning match day routines to maintain self-control strength.

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