Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Advice for the newbie refs!

This blog is dedicated to the newbie ref and was written by a good friend of mine, Percy Q-tion of the NEO Rock-n-Roller Girls!
Newbie Ref

So, "someone" convinced you to check out this roller derby sport. They talked you into attending a bout or 9, or sweet talked you into volunteering. However you got interested & excited about it, at least you decided to volunteer by slipping on some black & white stripes to become a member of the Zebra Herd.

So now what??? You volunteered & have contacted the Head Ref (the newest boss in your life) to find out about how to get up to speed to start blowing that whistle. Show up at league practices learning the same skating skills as skater newbies & bring the basic gear you need (skates, pads, helmet, Fox 40 Classic whistle, striped shirt). Be prepared to throw yourself on the floor for falls, skate backwards, slalom skate, be knocked down, and build your endurance. Attend as MANY practices possible to participate in drills. Exercise on your own to assist preparing for reffing. Being a ref for a double header needs endurance, stamina, and a fit body.

Okay, I've attended 5 or 6 practices, and I'm READY to make calls. Accept that it might be a few MONTHS of attending practices before the Head Ref will put you in the Officiating Lineup for a bout. Some leagues have ref by-laws or training guidelines that indicate how many practices need to be attended before being eligible to be listed in the lineup as a ref. Don't just be a spectator as you go through your probation period, volunteer as an Non-Skating Official (NSO). This is yet another key training point to BECOMING a ref. You aren't a ref just because you raised your hand to volunteer, you have to become a ref.

I've been doing this for a few months, what else can I do to learn about derby? Being put on the lineup for a bout is tied to 2 of the most important things.
  1. Skills to skate as a ref (click HERE to see what you should be able to do)
  2. Understand the WFTDA rules, calls, hand signals, and penalties
Spend the time you are becoming better at your skating ability to read all of the documents on the WFTDA Officiating and the WFTDA Rules websites. Remember, you need to perform the skating skills, know the rules intimately, be familiar with the calls you will verbalize, the hand signals you will use, the officiating standard practices, and  ask your Head Ref and the other experienced refs in your league for guidance and training.

Get involved & watch derby whenever you can.  There are probably some other leagues close to where you are, go attend their bouts (as long as they don't conflict with your league schedule). You can overdose on derby on DNN. It certainly replaces watching the local news. When I started, the WFTDA Officiating Clinics didn't exist, but now they do. GO ATTEND ONE IF YOU CAN (click HERE for more info). I will be attending the one in July 2012 in Raleigh, NC hosted by the Carolina Rollergirls.

As a side note, some personal thoughts to know as you BECOME a ref:
  • It isn't an easy path you've chosen, be prepared to be yelled at, criticized, and cussed at by others. Don't take it personally, you chose to participate in an aggressive sport, it is going to happen.
  • Leave what calls you make on the track, on the track. Don't bring your calls into your personal life.
  • Even if you are in a relationship with a skater, leave it off the track during practices & bouts. You both have different mind sets to fulfill your duties to the league.
  • Besides your skating gear, I suggest that you get a stopwatch, a whistle on a lanyard, and a finger whistle. You never know when you will need them at a practice or during a bout.
  • LEARN TO USE YOUR TONGUE TO BLOW YOUR WHISTLE LOUD AND QUICK. You'll learn what the different whistle "chirps" are needed by reading the rules. PRACTICE.
  • Be prepared to be taken out by a skater or another ref during a practice or bout. It is going to happen.
  • Never stop learning as much as you can about derby & reffing.

Thanks again for volunteering as a ref... Maybe one day we'll run into each other... Good luck...


  1. Awesome! I know the teams in my area love new refs to practice at their scrimmages too!

  2. I love it when refs come to practice!