Expertise and talent development in rugby refereeing: An ethnographic enquiry

Ollis, S., MacPherson, A., and Collins, D. orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-7601-0454 (2006) Expertise and talent development in rugby refereeing: An ethnographic enquiry. Journal of Sports Sciences, 24 (3). pp. 309-322. ISSN 0264-0414

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We explore how expertise is obtained in the domain of rugby refereeing. The research data are qualitative and are drawn from an 18 month period working in collaboration with the Rugby Football Union Elite Referee Unit. Adopting an ethnographic mode of enquiry, the study combined long-term participant observation with in-depth interviewing, indirect observations and the collection of artefacts including existing protocol, coach feedback forms and strategic reports. The diversity of methodologies allowed us to examine how expertise is developed across various domains of analysis, including the intrapersonal, interpersonal, group and social perspectives. Building on expertise studies in “deliberate practice”, further prerequisites for expertise, at least in this domain and with these participants, incorporated “deliberate experience” and “transfer of skills”. Additionally, a key issue in the findings concerns a shift from “descriptive” towards a “non-linear processes”-oriented model of development. We conclude by identifying opportunities and limitations associated with the adoption of ethnography as a method for studying expertise.

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