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Referee Performance Assessment Program Update

06/02/2016, 4:45pm CDT
By USA Fencing

USA Fencing and the Fencing Officials Commission are pleased to provide an update to the Referee Performance Assessment Program.  The pilot program, under the direction of Doug Findlay, a member of the FOC and the 2012 FIE Outstanding Foil Referee of the Year,  began at the 2015 January North American Cup and has since collected data on 62 foil referees in 293 sessions (pools and direct elimination bouts), including 9,069 touches over six national tournaments. 

USA Fencing partnered with CoachMePlus, a sports science and performance tracking company, in the fall of 2014.   Using the FOC’s existing paper evaluation form as a starting point, a web-based application was developed.  

The three assessors, Doug Findlay, Tasha Poissant and Derek Cotton, assessed referees on the following:

  • what type of action occurred
  • whether it was an easy or hard action to call
  • whether or not the call was made correctly by the referee

Assessors awarded points based on the following matrix:

  • easy/correct call =  1
  • easy/incorrect call = -2
  • hard/correct call = 2
  • hard/incorrect call = -1

In addition to the assessment and awarding of points, each action was condensed into four categories in order to help identify particular strengths and areas of improvement for each referee:

  • attack/counterattack
  • attack no/response
  • single blade action
  • multiple blade actions

“Though a sizeable amount of data has been collected, it’s only a small sample of the work our referees do,” Findlay noted. “That said, the assessment program is a step in the right direction towards quantification and transparency of referee performance assessment. The identification of trends and personalized feedback provided in the data will also assist in referee development. Assessing right-of-way calls was the main focus, but three ‘strip presence’ categories [inspection, hand signals and management] were also assessed.” 

In addition to the notes and feedback provided, each referee also has the ability to upload and review video footage of the bouts in which he or she was observed through the Referee Performance Assessment Program.  “It is our hope that we continue to expand this program and create a workable database for our referee cadre,” Findlay said. “Next steps include collection and integration of feedback from the referees and discussion of the modification and expansion of the program for epee and saber.”  

The assessment program will be in use by referees at the USA Fencing National Championships and July Challenge in Dallas with plans to expand the program during the 2016-17 season.

"I want to thank Doug for taking the lead in developing the assessment program," said FOC Chair Sam Cheris. "He spent countless hours working with CoachMePlus and the National Office customizing the software to track the information that would be helpful to the referees and the assessors. Doug, Tasha and Derek, watched many hours of bouts not only assessing the referees, but also brainstorming ways in which each referee could improve. We look forward to receiving comments from the foil referees that were part of the pilot program and then modifying and expanding the program in the next quad.”

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