Work, rest and fatigue - Survey of Surf Life Saving Australia officials at the National Championships in 2003

Surf Life Saving
Author:  Angela Calder, Centre for Sports Studies, University of Canberra
Issue: Volume 4 Number 1

Workloads of volunteer officials

Surf Life Saving Australia was concerned that officials were working long hours and getting little rest especially during major competitions. It was recognised that it was important for officials to be able to perform consistently over several days without any detrimental effects to their performance, health or enjoyment.  A one-page questionnaire was developed to gauge work, rest, and fatigue of officials at the 2003 national Surf Life Saving Australia tournament.

What did the survey cover?

Eighty-two officials from seven categories were surveyed for three days of the tournament (see Table 1 in the related downloads below).  Each day they reported on the non-climatic factors that contribute to fatigue.  Workloads, sleep quality, health, well-being, nutrition and competition life-style stressors, were recorded to provide a picture of the official’s life during a major competition.

Most officials had been in good health before the carnival with less than 10 per cent indicating they had been ill or injured in the month beforehand.  However 40 per cent reported that in order to get time off work or leave home to attend the carnival, they had worked longer and harder than usual in the week before nationals.

Patterns of work and rest

Workload
Individual workloads varied markedly between categories with some working up to 13 hours a day and others only 5-6 hours.  However the average ranged between 9.5 to 11 hours a day (see Figure 1 in the related downloads below).

Sleep

In contrast to this those officials who worked longest had the least amount of sleep.  Most officials averaged between 6.5 to 7.5 hours a night with many reporting they had poor quality of sleep on the first night of the tournament.  Other factors contributing to poor sleep quality included increased workloads before the carnival, travel fatigue, adjusting to a different bed, and the excitement of the competition environment (see Figure 1 in the related downloads below).

Health, wellbeing and fatigue

The incidence of reported injury and illness over the three days was extremely high with eyestrain and headaches the most prevalent.  The onset of these conditions coincided with increased fatigue and muscle soreness in the mid to late afternoons.

Nutrition, and competition lifestyle stress

Although most officials had breakfast early (5.30 to 6.30am) they did not have another meal for at least six hours (mid-day to 2.00pm).  Most reported having a light snack or drink around 10.00am but few reported having an afternoon snack and dinner was often eaten after 7.00pm at night.  Many officials had an alcoholic drink or two with their evening meal.

Lessons for other sports

A simple survey can provide a reliable view of officials’ work, rest and fatigue over a competition period.  Long working hours, limited and disrupted sleep, inefficient eating patterns, and the competition environment contribute to increased fatigue particularly in the afternoon.  It is important that NSOs recognise and manage these factors to ensure their officials perform effectively and continue to enjoy being involved.


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