Do you know the secret to roller derby?

Most people in the derbyverse will understand when you join this type of community you broaden your network of friends and you soon find that 90% of your news feed on Facebook is all derby related! This is fantastic when people are sharing links to blogs about derby and articles of interest.

One such post lately linked to Kamikaze Kitten’s blog (she skates for the London Rollergirls) and her post The Secret Ingredient. Go read it NOW!

In essence it discusses the true secret ingredient to a winning roller derby teams success is the refs and NSOs.

“Strict, accurate reffing at training creates a sharp disciplined team. It creates the kind of team that can innovate with strategies and trust their refs to learn along with them”.

I have nothing but the utmost respect for refs (this is from years of playing basketball and having my Dad as a referee) how are we suppose to learn and get better if our mistakes aren’t called out at training and we have the opportunity for things to be explained to us from our knowledgable refs.

“So why do we give our refs so much grief at training? I believe that a lot of this is down to us taking penalty calls as criticism rather than as information”.

Our refs are there to help us develop as skaters. Calling us out when we cut the track, (when we’re adamant we didn’t!) or getting inches away from back blocking, it’s not to piss us off, or target us, it’s so we learn when to rain ourselves in. To watch our feet and get more awesome at that game!

I reposted that article on Facebook which got a fantastic response from Murder City Roller Girls Ref Bear Grylled. I asked him to elaborate his thoughts on the article from a refs perspective.

“I think the skaters don’t understand and don’t often appreciate how complicated it is to be a ref and make an accurate call. Firstly you have to know what the rules are (as the rules have been written by the skaters for the skaters) and they are changed every few years by the skaters. Secondly you have to see what is going on and judge the impact, not the intent, as accurately as humanly possible. You may not see everything out there but you will see a different perspective to what the skater sees. The skater will see whats in front of her, the ref will see what’s infront, alongside, behind, what’s coming up and what she has skated away from. You have about 3-5 seconds to look, decide what you saw, decide the severity of what you saw, find your whistle, check the skaters colour and number, make the call, make the correct hand signal and then send her off, or keep skating.

When a skater has a chance to ‘fill in’ for the refs on scrimmage nights, I think they develop a whole new understanding of what being a Referee in Roller Derby is all about.

As a referee I try to take some time after calls, or during scrimmage just to explain why the skater was majored off or if there is a situation that was almost a major. I dont know how many times I would say to skaters after I have called a minor or even a major, “You just went a little bit out there”, or “Look at where you were when you were called Skating Out Of Bounds and look at the ground”… or “You were really close to the bra straps there, thats not far off a Back Block — be careful”… or “Your trailing leg just clipped her”.  I always get funny looks, like “Your an A**hole”. But really I am just trying to make them aware of what they are doing around themselves. I can see things off the track that they cant see in the heat of the moment on the track.

It’s my goal to make the skaters in my league, who are my friends, more aware of what they are doing and what the WFTDA rules say and how they impact the skater. I hate making bad incorrect calls, I feel terrible, but feel even worse when a Skater, my friend, who I will have a laugh and a beer with after the game, gives me that look that says “What the F%#$ was that call for?” and seriously has no idea why she is being sent to the penalty box, even though she just floored the entire pack with back block and low blocks and is chasing the Jammer and engaging her 25 feet out in front of the pack.

Recently I have been training with our travel team and have found that the more I can help out watching contact at Training the more aware of themselves they are getting. I think they have really appreciated that help and that’s why I do it, because I want to help my leagues travel team the HommiciDolls be as good as they can be! I want to see the skaters meet their goals, and you cant do that if you have a Jammer and two Blockers sitting in the box with another skating around the outside waiting to sit down!

Most important to me is I want to be respected! My personal goal is to be at a point where if I call something the skaters will accept my call and take a trip out to the box, because they accept my call and judgement and respect my decision. That is the hardest thing about being a Roller Derby Referee.”

Who says a Ref never smiles??
Respect is a HUGE key to success of at our trainings where we can all learn more from our Refs and likewise them from skaters. As Cartman would say: Respect my AUTHORITAH!!

As Kamikaze Kitten says in her article: “The best derby is precise, disciplined, skilled, legal derby. And you only get that with the help of the zebras in the middle.”

High-five to Refs and NSOs! Really there would be NO derby without them!!

4 thoughts on “Do you know the secret to roller derby?

    • Quite possibly Yes. Even from my point of view in the early stages I think I would benefit greatly from shadowing the refs for a few training sessions.

      • I helped out as a ref last training because of a shoulder injury and it was fantastic. some stuff was really easy…. (skating around-blowing a whistle) but the majority was uber hard. i saw things that i didn’t know how to call, i skated around thinking ‘do i call that a major or minor’ then i would miss stuff… or forget to tell the nso’s… it was crazy hard but awesome at the same time. everyone should have a go.

        • Yeah I think it would absolutely be beneficial, even as a fresh meat skater to learn some basic ref stuff. Could always be used in scrimmage if skaters aren’t up to that level yet.

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