Friday, April 6, 2012

Why do you ref? Percy Q-Tion

 Ever wonder why someone would step up to one of the toughest jobs in our sport? 

The most often asked question I receive as a roller derby ref isn't related to the current rule set, but is "why did you get involved with derby?" I've had to answer it so many times, I thought I'd share with you as Paul Harvey always said, "the rest of the story..."

In 2009, I was searching for something to engage my mind & body while recovering from a traumatic brain injury (TBI). I studied yoga, tai chi and qi gong, but they weren't competitive enough for my spirit, and my doctor forbid me from participating in anything that would endanger my head by encountering other head injuries, including a concussion. Cage fighting, boxing, rugby, lacrosse, football and soccer were "out." But then a friend of mine, Elektra Q-Tion, began rolling down her own track of becoming a roller derby skater and she encouraged me to at least go "watch" it. I went to a lot of bouts that summer and was captivated by the WFTDA sport. After attending 8 bouts for a couple of local leagues, I was hooked, I had to get involved.

I went to a "Round Up" event with a local league (NEO Roller Derby) to learn a little more about how I could be part of a sport that was active, challenging, and how I could be involved without being "hurt." The competitiveness, physical aspects and mentally challenging aspects of it appealed to me. Yeah, I signed the papers that night... I was caught... I became a referee...

I needed to be challenged mentally, so learning all of the rules of the sport did that. Yeah, unlike most of the skaters, I've actually read them. Translating what you read on paper as a minor or major and then having only a few nanoseconds to process it as you are skating next to a pack, keeps the mind engaged.

On the physical side, you have to learn (as a ref) how to keep up with the jammer or pack, observe penalties, keep how how track of how many people on each team are in the box because you sent them there, be prepared to be taken out by other refs or out of bounds skaters, dodge the NSOs on the inside or even outside of the track... Basically "how to do your job." All of that appealed to me, so I signed.

And that is why I stay involved and volunteer to do as many bouts as possible for as many leagues as possible. Oh yeah, and attend practices. I get to keep physically active by skating miles per week and I get to keep mentally challenged by watching for penalties according to the rules. And best of all, I get to meet people, be around people, and interact socially.


  1. I ref because I wanted a challenge... and to be different... and to be part of something... however... it has been a bit of a issue at times... but so far, so good!

  2. Hooray for zeebs! Without you we'd have no sport! <3

  3. :) ... nice to hear. great article. thanx

  4. Because I moved to a new area with no rinks. I'm a life-long skater and joined derby for the opportunity to skate. quickly learned that I don't need to get hit to enjoy skating, but loved the social aspect and across-the-board-acceptance in derby. Reffing is HARD, but I love it!

    a side note - not just skaters worry about injury. The other day I smashed my hand moving a planter. my first thought was the double-header I was reffing the next day and told a friend who was helping me "good thing I don't need my fingers to skate." :)