November 28, 2005
In obtaining a job analysis for a football referee, I chose to use a work-oriented method. The principle of work-orientation is to understand the job in terms of the outcomes and the activities used to achieve those outcomes (http://changingminds.org/disciplines/hr/job_analysis/job_analysis.htm, 2005). Three of the more popular ways of pursuing a work-oriented method are: process analysis, observation, and self-reports. I chose to use a work-oriented method over a worker-oriented method because all referees perform the same duties, so in essence if one observes one referee, he is almost certain to see the same job done by another referee. However, in the case of professional officials, the parameters they are assessed upon are much more strict than any other football official. Furthermore, as a result of collecting data from many different officials, we can better understand the best and most efficient way to officiate a football game.
A process analysis can be done by starting with higher-level processes and decomposing the hierarchy of the tasks. For each process, one should consider the outputs created and the inputs that are required. For example, if a referee sees a penalty, he will throw a yellow flag; that is the input. The yardage assessed after the penalty has occurred is the output. The referee put in his knowledge of the game of football, and as a result made the correct call.
The most challenging duty of a football referee is to understand the rules of the game and be able to apply and assess these rules properly. I have watched countless hours of football, both live and on television, and I know what a holding penalty is, but I have no idea what constitutes it. In every sport there is a fraction of human error when it comes to officiating. In basketball, it is very difficult and controversial for a referee to call a foul from halfway across the court based on a player's reaction. In baseball, every umpire has a different strike zone. And in football, the place a referee spots the ball can determine the outcome of the game. The point here is that being a professional official is not about being perfect, but rather about making as few mistakes as possible.
O*NET, an Occupational Information Network, lists knowledge, skills, abilities, and other personal characteristics needed for a referee, but it doesn't specifically list the roles of each individual official. As a result, a process analysis is done by observation, questionnaires, research, and/or interviews. For example, a National Football League (NFL) referee has seven specific jobs for which he must account, separate from his fellow officiating crew members. They include: announcing all penalties, explaining penalties to the team's captain and coach, positioning himself in the backfield (approximately 10 yards behind the quarterback) before each snap, monitoring illegal hits on the quarterback, watching for illegal blocks near the quarterback, and determining whether the yardage chains should be brought on the field for a measurement (Alder, 2005). A month ago in Ann Arbor, Michigan, at the Penn State-Michigan game, I tried my best to use the observation method to successfully analyze the head referee (I realize that it's not the NFL, but it was the closest thing available to me). I was amazed by the leadership role a referee must take on throughout the game. In addition to the previously listed responsibilities, the referee also decides when the game starts and who gets the ball and when. He also makes crucial instant replay decisions and is the hub for every penalty another official makes.
When it comes to critical incidents it is hard to criticize a referee. Before "instant replay" was instituted, a referee had a tremendous amount of pressure to make the correct call, because once it was called there was no taking it back. Five years ago, the NFL adopted...