|Photo by Joshua R. Craig|
1. Actually watch the ref and not focus on the game. This is the hardest thing ever, in fact, it's harder than saying no to amazing cheesecake, or going to bed early when there is a fantastic show on TV. Watching the ref you've been asked to give feedback to can be extremely difficult because as skaters, we tend to watch the game play instead of the refs. We usually only notice the refs and NSOs when either we disagree with them, or whole heartedly agree with them because that call they just made threw the other team's jammer in the box.
2. Look for consistent calls. Are they consistently calling out of play? Are the consistently aware of skaters creating the pack? These are great things to point out, because consistency is important in a ref crew. Conversely, if they are making the incorrect calls consistently, that is something to point out. Do they constantly miss define the pack because they keep missing blockers from both teams? Are the calling 9 feet closer to 5 feet? If they are constantly consistently calling the wrong call, that can be room for improvement as well.
3. Do they know the rules? Sounds like a dumb question, but it is an important one. If they're NSOing, do they understand the protocols of the penalty box? Do the refs understand who initiated the contact? Can they keep track of their jammers and keep the the number of points earned? Having a good grasp on the rule set is essential for NSOs and refs.
4. Can they skate confidently. I know that we, as skaters, tend to be hyper critical about skating ability; we train so much to be great at what we do, but refs need to be confident on their skates as well. Do they need to be able to skate on one foot around the outside curve while spinning around? No, but it's important that they can keep up with the pack and jammers, and not worry about their ability to stop when needed. There have been several refs I've watched miss calls because they were looking at their feet instead of watching the game. Refs need to have great awareness as well, you never know when a jammer will get her world rocked and thrown into a ref at the worst moment possible.
5. Are they professional? I've dealt with amazing refs who had great interpersonal skills; they could diffuse angry bench coaches by listening and making them feel like their needs were being heard. Conversely, I've dealt with ref crews who were dismissive, or seemed flustered, or were even arguing amongst themselves. I know refs are human too, but keeping a professional front helps keep games go smoothly. And speaking of smoothly, I do tend to wonder when a ref crew has to have tons of official time outs. If a ref crew is calling official time outs every other jam to either get the score straight or correct calls, communication has broken down and the game is definitely impacted.
Is reffing and NSOing an easy job? Oh heck no! I've dabbled in both during my derby career and I have immense respect for the people who volunteer to keep the game going safely and efficiently. We all should, but both refs and NSOs should be open to constructive feedback. We all want to improve our skills, and I am sure that the dedicated women and men who ref and NSO are trying to do the same.