The last two days were spent at the WFTDA Officiating Clinic in Manchester. This was my first officiating clinic, and part of my journey to becoming a certified official (once the certification process re-opens).
The clinic was hosted by Umpire Strikes Back, Hi Refinition, and Nine Inch Wheels. Support came from Matt the Knife, Jens, and Pettichoke.
The first session was going over the major changes and updates in the new ruleset, and the purpose of the casebook. It helped clarified a few things in my mind, and it makes sense how the rules were restructured so drastically.
We also talked about discretion, which feels like a newer concept actually written in to the rules. There was a lot of discussion about when to apply discretion and when to follow the rules, and how to keep the game flowing smoothly and fairly.
There was a session on giving and receiving feedback, which was really useful as head official for my league. Coupled with information from a coaching summit from last year, it helps build my ability to train and develop newer officials joining the league.
We covered scoring and points too, plus the change in terminology (pass, earned pass, trip), and how NOTT points are different to jammer lap points (blog post topic in the future?). NOTT/JL points have been a tricky thing for me to get my head around in the past, and having it explained so succinctly and perfectly really helped.
The referees then were given tips and pointers on how to position correctly, and ensure optimum track coverage. It was information I was already aware of, but it’s always useful for my self-taught knowledge to be confirmed by the top level officials in person.
That concluded day one, which ended with dinner in the Travel Lodge and an early night!
Day two started bright and early in the Thunder Dome, with some on skates drills. Jens gave us some great drills, many of which I can do in the corner of the sports hall during the team training time. I took away some things to work on, especially keeping my shoulders square to track and improving fast acceleration and stopping.
After lunch we quickly went over staffing officials, and some psychology - very interesting stuff, and something I’ll do more research on later.
We then went in to a scrim, and the referees were split in to four full crews who did three sets of five jams. The coaches were watching and gave feedback and points to work on.
As FIPR I need to be more aware of the RIPR and position myself better when ‘pack is front’. FIPR has to deal with a lot of communication, more so than any other position, and it’s something to continue to improve.
As OPR, both times, I had good position and good coverage. Sometimes I felt myself out of position slightly, but I quickly corrected. I signalled an NP/NP to the inside, which I got right (something that I have struggled with in the past), and gave clear penalty calls (except one time when I flubbed a roster number).
It was great to get feedback from the coaches, and I’ve got a few things to continue to work on.
I have a new commitment to becoming a powerhouse OPR! I think many officials overlook OPR, but I believe it’s a critical role for communication and pack coverage. I also love FIPR as well, as it’s the centre for all officials communication.
I can’t wait to get back on track and put in to practice everything I’ve learned, and to share it with the officials at my league.
I’m so glad I went to the WFTDA Officiating Clinic, and I’m excited to be progressing on my road to certification.
Me (far right) with ‘referee crew 2’ from the scrim. [Photo credit: Alice Robinson]
Wow, another month gone, I can’t believe it’s March already!
Well, the biggest news this month is getting new skates! Bobby at Skate Hut set us up with some custom built skates.
• Bont Quad Star boot • Roll Line Blaster plate • Spitfire bearings • Gladiator 91a wheels
They’re gorgeous, and a delight to skate on. Having skates that are my size makes a huge difference! All aspects of my skating have improved, and I feel much more confident and stable.
In other news I’ve been refereeing a lot of scrims all around the midlands, including three days in a row! I’m rapidly approaching 40 games refereed, which will be a nice milestone.
Today I hosted my first officials workshop at my league. I invited anyone interested in officiating along to the Thursday night ‘A team’ training session (who isn’t cleared to skate at that level yet) who’d like to learn NSOing or refereeing. We went over the penalty box paperwork and procedures. It went well, and I’m excited for this becoming a regular thing.
This Sunday I’m refereeing British Champs again, which I’m looking forward to.
Wow, it’s February already - time flies! I’m glad to say that I’ve been busy.
I’ve refereed two scrims already this year - one in Leicester as a Jammer Referee, and one in Sheffield as Front Inside Pack Referee. Both went really well, and came away with new learnings and improved confidence.
I feel I’m getting more proficient at IPR/JR positions, and find myself willing to volunteer for them more often.
My fear of Jammer Reffing is now gone, and I’m confident to keep track of those important hip passes, but more importantly, I believe I have enough knowledge to understand and deal with the common-uncommon star pass situations. The uncommon-uncommon situations will always be tricky, and it’s something to keep working on.
I’m getting a much better understanding of pack definition too. I’m still somewhat slow to call no packs and out of plays, but it’s getting considerably better. Something that will continue to improve in practise and at scrims.
I have a few more scrims lined up in the coming weeks, and I’m keen to continue my pack skills.
Yesterday was Game Day 1 for T4WN. I was selected to OPR the first game and ALT the second. This was my first time officiating a Champs game, so I was nervous but excited.
It also means I’ve checked off one of my goals for the year!
I felt comfortable OPRing, and confident making calls. Feedback from fellow referees and the HR were all positive, with a few tweaks and areas to consider in future. I fell out of position two or three times, but that was due to not anticipating the pack speed suddenly changing. Something to work on in the future.
I also did a rather epic knee slide in to the ‘danger zone’ seating area. My wheel stopped dead under me on the exit of corner two, and I lost directional control. In a split second, I decided the best course of action was to take a knee and fall in a controlled fashion rather than attempt some kind of recovery. I managed to keep eyes on the pack (for the most part) and didn’t injure any of the spectators. I was told later that it looked awesome, so that’s the main thing, right?
ALTing was also a great experience. I have never done this position before, but I found it incredibly interesting and useful. I spotted a few technical penalty types and fed them in to the OPR crew who issued the penalties. I handled four foul-outs and two expulsions, and all the paperwork that goes with them.
I had a fantastic day, and I’m excited for more Champs level refereeing in the future!
Exercise and Fitness
I’ve changed my weightlifting programme from ICF to PHUL. This means I’m basically at the gym four days a week instead of three. On Wednesday, I squeeze in a 5k jog. I’m getting stronger and fitter, but so much further to go!
As the year draws to a close, it’s customary to reflect on the efforts and progress of the last twelves months of officiating.
Since starting with roller derby, my aim was to be an official with hopes of becoming a referee. My goal for 2016 was to get the confidence and skills required to achieve this, even if it’s just to referee training sessions and drills.
With help and support from my home league, and with an ever-growing network of experienced and new officials to call on for advice and information, I achieved this goal.
My first outing as a referee was on the 16th April 2016 at a scrim hosted by Nottingham’s Hellfire Harlots. Their head referee helped guide me and gave me confidence to actually give it a go. I didn’t call any penalties that day, but I do remember seeing penalties occur and agree when other referees called them. For me, this was a breakthrough moment.
Over the following months, I clocked up a total of 31 outings as a referee at regulation games. Some closed doors, some open doors, and even two at championship level. This breaks down to 17 OPR positions, eight as IPR, and five as JR.
I also officiated at Nottingham’s Louisey Rider Cup (as NSO) and at Wakefield’s Harry Potter themed tournament (as SO). I attended two referee boot camps and received guidance from internationally renowned referees such as Righteous Oxide, Igor Maniac, and Rollin Rat.
My league also supported my application for the league head referee (which later developed to head official), and I feel I’ve done well in this role to foster a learning environment for those interested in officiating. I felt proud representing the league in my officiating, showing impartiality and fairness in all games I officiated in any capacity.
I couldn’t have achieved any of my goals without the support from my home league and coaches, and from all of the referees from neighbouring leagues - especially those in Nottingham, Derby and Leicester. I feel I’ve helped develop a welcoming and supportive environment for all officials at Mansfield Roller Derby, both for home-grown officials and those visiting our league.
Next year will see new challenges, including the new ruleset and supporting documents, and will be a great opportunity to further my abilities and skills.
I have a few goals for 2017: - Lead the training of officials at Mansfield Roller Derby - Head referee an open door home event - Apply to referee British Championships T4W - Apply to referee at least one open door tournament - Apply for referee certification
I’m excited and inspired for 2017. Watch this space!
Yesterday, Mansfield Roller Derby hosted their first ever open door game in Mansfield. Our previous open door events have always been in Nottingham, but we found a venue in our hometown and organised a great double header.
The first game was an Open To All scrim, welcoming all genders to a friendly Game of Thrones themed scrim. The second game was Mansfield Roller Derby vs Sheffield Crucibelles.
As the league’s Head Official, it was my responsibility to arrange the officiating crews for both games, supply required equipment, and assist with track set up.
I drafted a full referee crew and delegated HR duties to someone a little more experienced, and shadowed on the day. It was more difficult to get a full NSO crew, but those that did attend were highly skilled and professional. I’m impressed that even with a skeleton crew we still managed to get full paperwork done.
I was FIPR for both games, allowing me to shadow the HR in RIPR position. It was his first time as HR at an open door, but he had experience prior. It was a great learning opportunity for us both, and I feel more confident about taking the HR role next time.
Both games went without major incident, and all officials did a fantastic job. The feedback from the skaters was all positive regarding both the officiating and the event in general, which is always great to hear.
I was lucky to have a great team of officials and finish the year strengthening those connections before the end of the year.
Mansfield Roller Derby did a great job of hosting the event, and everyone put in a lot of time and effort to organise and arrange the day. And, as a huge bonus, they won their game!
Nottingham hosted a referee and NSO bootcamp today in my hometown of Mansfield, and I’m pleased to say I went to the referee portion of the bootcamp, and refereed three of the four mini-games they arranged.
The bootcamp was lead by Igor Maniac (from Southern Discomfort and England Roller Derby fame), and Rollin Rat (from CCR). Both incredible referees and role models for all officials to aspire to be.
The classroom session left me feeling confident and positive about my choices to devote so much time and effort to the sport, and excited to start the 2017 with renewed energy and excitement.
There are new rules and supporting documents coming up in February and I’m keen to learn the changes and get them in to practise.
We had a little taster of that, with four thirty-minute games (otherwise ran to regulation).
I was OPR for the first with two respected referees from Nottingham, who I always enjoy being crewed with. I felt I did well, and received positive feedback for positioning and communication.
The second game I watched from the sidelines and took mental notes of positioning, calls, no-calls, and communication. It was also good to chat with the other officials during this time too.
The third, I was FIPR. I feel I need to work on this position the most, so it was good to get feedback. I entirely dropped the ball on the open/closed communication once, but thankfully the helpful NSOs were there to correct my error. Feedback was to be more relaxed but more engaged. It took me a few jams to get in to the swing of it, but when I did my positioning got noticeably better and I was calling out of plays and penalties clearer and more accurately. Useful information to know!
The fourth saw me JR. Something I’m becoming to enjoy the more I do it. Positive feedback again, especially with good lead calls and clear communication to my fellow JR.
It was a really great day, and I came away with new information, new areas to work on, and a new excitement for more oppertunities in 2017!
At one point in history, bibles and Catholic religious ceremonies were all in Latin. If you didn’t understand Latin you were dependent on clergy members to interpret the holy writings for you. You couldn’t read them directly to learn what they said.
Gradually that practice faded, bibles were translated and in 1967 The Vatican gave permission for Catholic Mass to be conducted in the whichever language was commonly used by the congregation.
That same thing basically just happened last week with WFTDA’s derby rules.
Ok, ok, I know they weren’t literally in an arcane dialect that nobody but officials spoke…but they were organized so badly, and so lacking in examples and explanations of what they were supposed to accomplish, that they might as well have been.
The 2017 rules are a major step forward in presenting the same content (the vast majority of gameplay looks to be unchanged) in a format that can be easily taken in and understood by skaters as well as officials.
So why are people freaking out about it?
Aside from waiting for the other shoe(s) to drop, in that the standard practices and other officiating documents all have to be rewritten as well and aren’t scheduled to be released for another two or three months, this represents a major power shift in derby.
Skaters no longer have a valid excuse for not reading and fully comprehending the rules.
Hand in hand with that, officials have lost a significant part of their power in the derby relationship.
With the rules no longer behind a wall of incomprehensibility, they aren’t the holy translators anymore. And they’re going to have to enforce rules on a much more equal footing than before.
For good officials this won’t be an issue. For insecure, power hungry, authority craving officials it’s a major blow.
Officials who have spent hundreds of hours over many years doing the mental gymnastics required to understand and put into practice the hot mess that was every previous WFTDA ruleset have just watched that effort evaporate in front of their eyes.
It’s like they learned Latin for nothing.
People who had a big-picture, conceptual understanding of the previous rules seem to be adapting pretty easily. People who learned rules by wrote without understanding how all the different parts related to each other are not.
The next few months are going to be interesting, seeing who can adapt to the more holistic nature of the rules and who can’t.
Yesterday, I was in Harrogate refereeing for the Spa Town Roller Girls’ double header. It was a public event, a debut game for newly mins-passed skaters followed by Spa Town vs Furness Firecrackers.
I was jammer referee for both games, and this was the first time I had done this position outside of a training session. As followers of my antics will be aware, I’m most often placed as OPR. However, I welcome the challenge and did lots of research and reading, so I felt about as prepared as possible. Extra focus was spent on jammer lap points and what happens when jammers are in the penalty box.
The first game, the debut, was rather eventful! Equipment malfunctions, flying toe stops, and flying skaters! My nerves soon calmed after the first few jams and I quickly got in to the rhythm of the game. I kept good pace with my jammers, and I enjoyed every minute! Communication was a little shaky at the start but I found my voice and started chattering away to the other jammer ref and the FIPR.
The second game was with more experienced skaters, but it wasn’t without a few moments of confusion and weirdness. Let’s face it though, it wouldn’t be Roller Derby without something unexpected happening!
This time, it was my toe stop that flew off! A quick official timeout and I was good to go. I think that just shows how fast and how much stopping and starting is involved in jammer refereeing.
By the second game, the other JR and I had a good synergy going - especially as the jammers chased each other and jostled for position.
I did fall, but I’m not totally sure what happened as it all happened in about a second. I narrowly avoided the other JR as our jammers swapped position in a tight pack. However, I didn’t see the blocker down on the infield and I was unable to avoid her - I fell over her feet and basically belly flopped. Skillfully(!) I kept eyes on my jammer, leapt back to my feet, and didn’t lose my position.
The crowd gasped, and that was pretty cool.
Aside from that drama, everything went really well. Great feedback from the other officials and from my scorekeepers. All the skaters and bench staff seemed happy too, which was quite a relief!
I’m really glad I got to fill the jammer referee role and I had good fun doing it. That now means I’ve done every NSO and every SO position! A milestone!
Since my last post, I struggled a little with my confidence. But, with huge thanks to my friends from the league, I think I’m over it. I went back to Nottingham on Tuesday to their B team training session where I helped watch drills for penalties and received some pointers from more experienced referees.
They ran a little scrim practice at the end, where I took the role of Jammer Referee. Something I’ve barely done, but need to work on.
On the 16th, I’m at Harrogate to referee an open-door double header, and I’m down as jammer referee. I’ve asked to switch to a role I have more experience with, but I don’t think anyone is willing or able to switch. I’m okay with that, as I don’t mind being challenged. If anything, it might be good fun! It’s important to keep pushing those boundaries and challenging yourself. A little of what scares you will do you good.
The weekend after I’m in Sheffield for another open-door double header. I’m not sure what I’ll be doing that day, but it’ll fun! Concord is the first place I saw roller derby happen, and the first venue I refereed an open door event.
Then, the week after THAT I’m in Nottingham for a Halloween scrim.
So there’s lots on the calendar, plus all the training as normal.
Referee training at Mansfield is on pause for the time being as the skaters progress and get promoted to other sessions, and the Beginners intake starts up. During this transition, I’m on the prowl for more scrims and different training sessions to work on my refereeing skills.
I reached out to Nottingham Roller Derby, and they invited me along to a scrim. I’ve not had my stripes on for about two weeks, and that feels like an eternity in the life of a trainee ref! Needless to say, I was really looking forward to it.
I was assigned FIPR. It is one of the positions I really want to work on, as pack definition sometimes takes up a lot of my brain power. I’d love to get more experience at pack work, so it starts becoming almost instinctive. When I watch more experienced referees manage the pack, they seem to do it effortlessly - issuing penalties, defining the pack, calling out of play - all without skipping a beat. This is where I want to be.
I was pretty nervous, as I’m more comfortable and more experienced on the outside. After the first few jams I got my confidence up a little, although not as much as previous scrims. I think because it’s been a while since I refereed, and because I was on a crew with referees I look up to as examples of ‘how to do it right’.
While I didn’t actually call any penalties, I did manage the ‘out of play’ calls as needed, but I do need to tighten up my twenty feet awareness and be more alert to the RIPR defining the pack. The good news is I did see penalties, and I did see things I was 90-99% sure were penalties, and they got called by other referees. So there’s validation in those calls, which is good.
A few unusual things happened, as there often are in scrims, but it’s a learning exercise - for us all. I’m pleased to say I did learn a few new things and have some reflecting to do.
I feel a little out of practice and like I’m slipping behind. This makes me sad, but also more motivated to get out there and do some more refereeing! I really enjoy refereeing this crazy sport on wheels.
I need a personal development plan, some actual goals to achieve, and perhaps more importantly, someone to help tutor me. Currently, I have no kind of feedback cycle other than my own self-doubt and self-analysis. Neither of which ever provide a true picture of the actual situation.
The next time I get to wear my stripes is in three weeks. That feels way too far away, so time to dig around for some more scrims/training!
On Sunday I went to Northampton with two other officials from Mansfield to referee a triple header tournament in Northampton.
I went with Hawkeye and Bizzle, two experienced and skilled skaters from the travel team who are getting more involved in officiating. Between the three games we were all on a crew with each other for at least one game, which was really nice. I always enjoy officiating with league-mates.
We kitted up and skated around, getting used to the slippery floor. The venue was really nice, and I could tell a lot of effort went in to organising everything. The whole day went without a hitch, which is really impressive considering it was the host league’s first three-game event.
The first game I was OPR, with Bizzle as JR. I rather enjoy OPR at the moment, especially in the middle or rear positions. I enjoy watching for blocker-on-blocker and blocker-on-jammer action, and I’m getting much better and knowing where I should be positioned in order to see the most of the pack.
I like being on the outside too, as it’s a great position to support the infield. I echoed the hand signals for ‘no pack’ and 'pack is here’ when skaters weren’t hearing the calls, and indicated to the jammer referees that their jammer was attempting to call the jam when hidden from the JR behind other skaters.
Another thing I enjoy is ensuring the skaters entering and leaving the penalty box do so correctly, and rejoin the jam legally. I called two 'illegal re-entry’ penalties, which is often met by the skater in question dropping their shoulders in disappointment they get to do a lap of the outfield before sitting back down for another thirty seconds.
Watching the track boundary is also something I enjoy, to ensure jammers trying to squeeze past on the outside do so without stepping out of bounds. That happened a few times and I caught a few cuts that the JR perhaps couldn’t see from their position.
Being OPR really feels like being part of the team and I like supporting the other referees in their duties. I was also supported too, and had a few penalty calls echoed from the IPRs on skaters who had sped away from my position and didn’t hear my call.
After a break and a bit of food, the second game started. I was OPR again, and this time Hawkeye joined me on the outside. The second game was of a faster pace, but once again everything went really smoothly.
I wasn’t rostered for the third game, so instead Bizzle and Hawkeye were on the same crew at JR and OPR respectively. I watched a bit of roller derby, and watched the referees.
I had a great time refereeing with Hawkeye and Bizzle, and it’s always good to be alongside friends from neighbouring leagues too. I think we all did really well and can take away some feedback to continue improving our referee skills.
I’m looking forward to the next event we can all attend together!
Tonight was the End of Season party and awards for Mansfield Roller Derby. We had lots of food, played games on skates, and presented awards and medals.
It was a great evening, I had lots of fun with great friends!
The league voted me for the ‘Extra Credit’ award, for the second year running. It’s very nice for my efforts and dedication to be noted and rewarded!
The travel team were presented with their medals for coming in third in the tier. Once they were all presented, I was called up and given an honorary medal too. It was given for my contribution as an official in every single game of the season.
This was really nice of the league, and I’m very honoured to be presented with the medal. The team worked really hard to come third and I’m flattered to be considered part of their journey.
It was a pleasure to NSO every single game of the 2016 season, and I’m hopeful to represent the officials from Mansfield again in 2017, either off skates or on!
But I’m not about to take a break! I’m wearing stripes in Derby next week for a scrim, and refereeing a tournament the week after. It’s all go!
Last weekend saw my first outing as Head Referee for a closed door scrim, hosted by home league Mansfield Roller Derby. Mansfield B team were playing with friends from Nottingham B team against Northampton B. The officials were from all over the midlands, as they often are, and we’re quick becoming a regular crew.
The planning for the event went really smoothly, all official spots were allocated quickly and things were organised pretty efficiently. The head NSO from Northampton did a great job of organising the NSOs.
On the day, everything went rather smoothly. Derby happened, and everyone had fun (from what I could see). A few official reviews that were handled okay with thanks to the more experienced members of the crew, and a couple of weird situations that again were handled well thanks to the support of fellow referees.
For a first attempt, I’m pleased with the overall outcome of the day. Everyone had fun, nothing serious happened, and the world continued to spin.
A few lessons learned, and a few areas to me to work on in future. For example, I need to work on sounding more authoritative and take firm control of any situation.
The rest of this month is going to be rather quiet in regards to officiating. This coming weekend I’ll be in the audience for the Mens T2 Final. Weekend after that is open, but hopefully we’ll plan a hike somewhere. And the last weekend of this month is the league’s annual picnic-in-the-park.
There’s still training, so I’ll be on skates at least two days a week as normal… Or maybe more, if something unexpected pops up midweek. Derby has a tendency to spring out at you sometimes.
Today I was in Leicester, refereeing for the Sweetabix Cup, an open door intra-league event hosted by Roller Derby Leicester.
There were five referees for this event, so I took OPR on my own while the other referees took JR and IPR roles. I was happy doing this, although it is rather exhausting!
The first thing that really struck me was the floor in the venue. It’s perhaps the nicest floor I’ve skated on so far. It has a soft springy feel to it, but with enough grip to get some speed and perform stops adequately.
The venue is also really noisy. We had to adjust the music volume a few times to get it at the right level. Sadly, this affected gameplay early on as a few penalties were unheard. For one, I was absolutely shouting at the top of my voice but still wasn’t heard. Thankfully the volume of the music was adjusted and this stopped being an issue for the rest of the game.
It was really difficult being the sole OPR. I mainly positioned myself as rear or middle OPR, depending on the action at the time. Occasionally, mainly due to the pack travelling backwards, I found myself as front OPR. To conserve energy and to try to give as much benefit to the other officials as possible, I didn’t stick to one true OPR position throughout.
There were some issues with pack definition, especially on the edges of the engagement zone, but this was difficult for me to keep an eye on as the only OPR. The larger proportion of my attention was mainly on the highest concentration of skaters within pack, especially when engaged by the jammers.
I’m happy with the amount and variation of penalties I assessed, and I have no regrets about penalties issued in error or penalties missed. I know I missed a whole bunch, but that’s why there should be another two OPRs.
The important part is that from my perspective penalties were assessed correctly and swiftly, and gameplay was kept as smooth as possible.
I almost forgot - Evolution Roller Derby gave me (and all the NSOs) this lovely hand-made thank you card on Saturday. What a lovely gift, and such a nice way to wrap up the championship season. Thanks, Evo! You’re a lovely bunch.
Sunday saw me refereeing at my first open door event for a Tier 2 Mens championship event. I was originally down to OPR the first game which was downgraded to a scrim due to one of the leagues forfeiting. The second game, which was sanctioned, I was down to Alt.
One of the referees was injured, so I stepped in as OPR for the second game.
So, a big day of firsts - not only my first time refereeing a mens game, but also my first open door event.
Once I got my gear on and starting warming up I kind of tuned out the presence of the audience and the noise of the announcers. I told myself it’s not that much different to the closed door scrims I’ve done in the past, it’s just noisier.
The first game, the scrim, went pretty well. I made some good penalty calls which were heard by the skaters, other referees, and the PT on the infield.
Mens roller derby is very different to womens, as the men tend to front up much more and use their upper body to initiate contact. Women tend to block with their backs to the opponent and use their hips to initiate more. This basically results in a larger number of forearms and elbows penalties being assessed.
Overall, I was pleased with my performance on the first game. I felt I kept my position as rear OPR well and maintained a good view on the pack for the vast majority of the game. There were times when the pack sped up suddenly, and all the OPRs were out of position. I dropped back and picked up the front of the pack as they came around when that happened, and it kept things smooth.
The second game was Crash Test Brummies vs Quads of War, and it was fully sanctioned. My first actual championship game as referee. Much the same as the first game, but as it wasn’t a scrim it was much more controlled. The referees were noticeably quicker at calling various positional penalties, and often assessed much sooner than I would have. That was a really good experience for me, as it gave an insight how different championship level refereeing is to scrim level refereeing.
I managed to call one penalty properly - a star pass violation. I think if I’m going to only manage to get one penalty out, that’s a good one to get!
The day was mentally exhausting and physically demanding, but a lot of fun. I’m glad I had my first taste of refereeing an open door event - and as a bonus I realised that it was at the same venue where I first ever saw live roller derby almost exactly a year ago.
What a year it’s been - starting from watching my first roller derby game and not having a clue what’s going on, and now actually refereeing in front of cameras and the public.
I’m rather pleased with myself, to be honest. I wonder where I’ll be this time next year…
Just got back home from the final game of the Tier 4 West Roller Derby British Championships.
I was NSOing both games in the double-header as Penalty Tracker. I wasn’t paired with a wrangler, so this was the first time doing PT without the backup and support of a PW.
The first game of the day was a gender-inclusive scrim due to a forfeit. A shame the team had to forfeit, but everyone who screamed had fun - including myself. It was a good warm up for the main event that was the second game.
The championship game was Evolution Roller Derby against my home league Mansfield Roller Derby. Mansfield needed a win to ensure a third place finish in the tier table.
I’m not a great commentator of the sport, so I’ll spare the suspense and say that Mansfield did indeed win. And, at the cost of sounding biased, Mansfield played incredibly well. I could see their training coming to fruition as they seemingly instinctively did in the game what they’ve been working on during practice sessions. It was a tough battle, and a close game on the score board, but Mansfield earned the win in my opinion. I’m very proud to be part of the league.
Talking as an official again, the day had it’s fair share of hiccups but nothing too serious as to cast a cloud over the event. I managed to solve a few issues with the penalty paperwork with support from the penalty box in between jams - something I’m really pleased with. There’ll always be discrepancies due to the nature of the game, a few jams were much more penalty heavy than others, so things can stack up. But I was able to communicate what I needed from the box, and they communicated what I needed to know, and no interruption to the game flow occurred. To me, that’s as close to perfect as it gets.
I can’t help but feel sad the championship season is now over, but I’m very proud of myself for my progress. I’ve worked with some incredible people and I’ve been let in to a few circles of fellow officials, both on and off skates.
With some luck, hard work, and continued commitment I may well be officiating on skates at the next T4W championship games! But failing that, I’ll be just as delighted and honoured to be wearing grey.
Talking of… I’m officiating the mens T2W game tomorrow in Cannock. My first time refereeing an open-door event. The first game is scheduled to be a scrim (another forfeit) with me as OPR. The second, the championship bout, I’m rostered as the Alt. I’ll write another blog post about that later.
Last weekend I was in Milton Keynes for a referee bootcamp held by Internationally renowned referee Rocky Horror Ho!
I went with a friend from the league who’s getting more involved in refereeing, and we both enjoyed the learning!
The day started out with a presentation he did at UKRoc, but since I had only seen the slides it was really good to hear Rocky walk through and explain them. Quite a few good drills too, and it highlighted some areas of my skating that I want to work on - especially backwards skating.
We did a few drills and exercises (creepy hands was … creepy!) and tried some things out. As with the presentation, a few areas and skills to work on, which is fantastic. It’s really useful to have a list of areas to improve, so during free practice sessions (or any moment I can steal in the middle of the track during contact drills) I have something to do other than looking a bit lost.
The remainder of the time was spent refereeing a scrim. We had a full crew plus four, so referees swapped in and out every third jam or so. I had a go at every position, and it cemented my feeling that pack referee is my favourite position. I’m happier on the outside, but I don’t mind inside pack. I’m pretty happy keeping pack definition too, although I need to work on my awareness. I’m a little quick to call “no pack” when actually there is a pack, it’s just the pack defining skater is obscured behind other skaters.
I’m not particularly a fan of jammer referee, but after some thought I believe this is mainly due to skating ability. I have no problem tracking points and positions. I think my fear is keeping up with the jammer when they duke, turn, and accelerate randomly. Once my skating skills have improved and I can mirror the jammer’s position on track more closely I’m sure I’ll be happy in that position.
Overall, a very useful day! A few obscure edge cases were explored in the scrim which is always fun. But mainly, it was great to hear feedback from Rocky (both directed to me and to others) and learn from that. Even if it’s just to reinforce what I already know, hearing it from a seasoned and respected referee is fantastic.
I have now refereed ten scrims in total! This is a big achievement for me, and a nice milestone. It was made even nicer by the fact it was a home scrim at Mansfield Roller Derby, and friends & skaters from around the area came to both play and officiate.
I was OPR today, with referee colleagues from Derby, Nottingham, and another from Mansfield. It was really great to be on a crew with a fellow Mansfield referee, and it makes me excited for August when there’ll be even more of us in stripes!
Once again, Mansfield’s home-grown NSOs did themselves incredibly proud and handled a few tricky situations fantastically. They all challenged themselves and did superbly. I’m one very happy and proud league head-ref!
I called a couple of penalties, including a new one for me - ‘late block’. The other referees agreed on my call, so it’s good to get that feedback.
Apparently, I’ve also found my referee voice! One of the spectators commented how clearly they could hear my verbal cues, even from the opposite side of the track. That was great to hear, as I did struggle to find that voice when I first started. Now though it’s very much a natural reflex. I just need to work on finding that voice when talking during training sessions and explaining rules to the beginners! But, talking to a group is very different to assessing a penalty to a skater.
Personally, the day was a success. The NSOs and officials were all present and knew exactly what they needed to do. Mayra, the HNSO, handled everything perfectly and professionally. Fantastic communication from everyone and all issues dealt with.
So, yes - ten outings as a referee! I’m getting more invites to other events too, so this networking thing really does work! I had to turn a few things down though due to scheduling conflicts or the sad fact I can’t teleport (yet). Referees are in demand, and it’s incredibly good fun. If you’re tempted, even slightly, maybe have a chat with your friendly Head Referee…. ;)
Today I was over in Lincoln refereeing a scrim between Lincoln and Leicester. There were five referees in total, and I was FIPR. It was a good scrim, and while it was fast paced in places nothing too unusual happened.
There were some moments where communication could have been better from myself, but overall I’m pleased with my efforts.
This was confirmed by the head referee giving positive feedback, especially on my echoing and handling no pack situations and assessing penalties where appropriate.
Both team benches also had positive feedback for the referee crew, saying the calls were consistent and clear, and they were happy with the officiating overall.
A personal first, I called a double-penalty on a skater - the second one being for illegal reentry after being waved back from a full penalty box. Took me a moment to figure out what happened, and how to communicate it to the PBM, but it was a good experience!
This brings my total up to 8 scrims refereed! Next up, 28th June in Derby.
This morning I was at Nottingham Hellfire Harlots refereeing their closed door scrim against Oxford. This was my seventh time refereeing a scrim, and second as RIPR.
There were only four referees, and the teams insisted on jammer referees so we were all on the infield.
It was a challenge, mainly because of the high level of the players and the lack of OPR referees, but it was really good fun and a great experience.
I had two of my penalty calls challenged in an official review - one from each team. This was also a good experience, as I needed to explain my actions for calling the penalties and keep with the language of the rules while doing so.
It was noted how my referee skills are improving too, which was really nice to hear. I’ve been putting in some extra effort studying the rules lately, and the Sunday scrim practise sessions at home league training have been really helping.
Actually, tonight, I’ll be talking rules to the beginners during the coaching session. I’ll be covering relative position, cutting, and skating out of bounds. Fun times!
This evenings Sunday scrim practice went really well! I had a couple of great NSOs who all knew their jobs and just got on with it - pretty much no input from me required! A very proud moment. We also had a full inside track crew and one OPR for the corner (small sports hall, no OPR lane).
I took on jammer referee and did scoring for the first time, and it was actually rather enjoyable. I found keeping score and keeping track of passed blockers not as difficult as I had imagined, but it was a challenge to keep track of jammer lap points and ‘not on the track’ points.
Personally though, I think I prefer watching the pack for blocker penalties and pack definition, but that’s not to say I am opposed to JR. Maybe it’s just because I’ve done that far more often so it’s more in my comfort zone.
But my main reason for putting together this post is to express how pleased and proud I am that the officials at Mansfield Roller Derby have improved and grown in to a very efficient and knowledgeable team!
Yesterday saw Mansfield Roller Derby hosting a double-header closed door scrim against Dundee first, and then against Borderlands.
I was tasked with organising all officials for the day, making sure that all the required referee and NSO positions were filled. Dundee brought a few referees, one from nearby Derby, one from Borderlands, one from Nottingham, and me.
Mansfield supplied all the NSOs, which was absolutely fantastic. Training them on our Sunday scrim practises really paid off. Every NSO did a spot on job, there were no problems or last minute training sessions, and I’m incredibly proud of the little crew of NSOs I’m helping to build!
It was an absolute joy to work alongside the referees, and I was absorbing as much as possible from Head Ref Righteous Oxide on the day. Fantastic communication from him towards referees, NSOs and skaters. Always cool and collected, and took everything in his stride. Referee goals.
I was OPR for both games, and that brought my total to six. We worked in the “skate and wait” rotation, which really does work well if done properly. I’m getting more comfortable with it and knowing when to recycle back to the other corner. Although sometimes I did get a little caught up in watching some action and overstepped my position.
Called a couple of penalties as I saw them, and also did several conscious no-calls. I even remembered to signal NP/NP when appropriate, which I was pleased about.
Feedback from referees was positive, along with some suggestions on areas to work on, which is very useful.
Mayra was Head NSO for the day, and with some small assistance from me in preparation and set-up, she did a fantastic job. She handled pretty much all the organisation on the day and ensured everyone was set up and ready to do their roles.
I had a fantastic day, and by all accounts, all the officials and skaters enjoyed the day too. Everything went, from my perspective, without a hitch and as smooth as clockwork.
I was in Leicester yesterday evening refereeing some roller derby scrim fun. I like travelling to Leicester, as I’ve gotten to know a few of the NSOs and referees in that area.
There were a few new names and faces on the officiating crew, and that’s always good - I get to see how other people work, pick up some new ideas, and get a different perspective on things.
Yesterday was no different. It was a great experience, and I confidently called several penalties. I was on the outside track in a very noisy sports all, so I made sure my verbal cues were loud enough to be heard on the in-field. I had no complaints, so I assume I was heard. The skaters certainly heard me clearly, as they left the track promptly.
There were some pack definition issues by the skaters of both teams, so the head referee had us watch closely for various “no pack penalties”. This is a relatively untouched area for me, in that I’m more usually calling various contact-related penalties as opposed to technical gameplay-related penalties. If that makes sense.
Having just two OPRs, it was a little tricky to figure out where best to be positioned. The narrow outside referee lane didn’t really help matters! A corner of my eye was always on that wall, especially during fast pack situations.
However, I’m really pleased with how it went and I’ve come away with a few things to think of.
- Pack definition penalties. Identify what penalty is being committed during a no-pack, and respond with the correct verbal cue and hand signal.
- Less-than-three OPR positioning. Work on getting that angled coverage, rather than being close to the pack. Especially when the OPR lane is very narrow.
Last weekend was British Champs T4 West game day three, which was my leagues home bout. We hosted in Nottingham and saw two great games of roller derby.
I was Penalty Box Manager for both bouts, supported by a new NSO from my league and a more experienced NSO from Nottingham.
This was my first public outing as PBM, having done it three times previously at closed door scrims. I felt as prepared as one can be, and read as much information about penalty box managers being empowered as possible.
A week before I was PBM at a scrim hosted by Nottingham, which was really useful. There was a jammer switcharoo that I was unprepared for and I got it a little wrong. However, I learned from this mistake and felt much better suited to deal with it next time. Which is exactly what scrims are for!
But I’m glad to say the day went mostly without a hitch from my perspective. There were lots of jammer switches, each one handled properly I’m happy to say!
There was an expulsion which was interesting to watch, and a foul out which was really unfortunate. A skater was on her sixth penalty and mistook my “stand” cue for “done”, and left the penalty box. I issued a penalty box violation and she sat for her seventh time.
I did feel bad for the skater as it is just one of those things that can happen in the heat of the moment, but my cue was loud and clear as verified by the two PBTs.
A skater also stepped outside of the box during a time out to get water. However I never saw her fully exit the box, as I turned my head to see her moving backwards to take her seat. A referee saw the skater fully exit the box and issued a penalty accordingly. I was a little disappointed with myself for not seeing that happen, as technically it should be my job, but all officials are on the same team and we all have each others back. I’m just glad someone caught it and issued the appropriate penalty.
Aside from officiating, the entire day went really well. Being from the host league I saw all the effort and planning that went in to the day, months before the date, and it really paid off. The day unfolded really smoothly and on schedule (as much as it can be). No technical issues, no last minute panics, and everything went to plan.
Also, Mansfield won their game - by a huge margin! While I couldn’t show it at the time, I’m incredibly happy for them. Well deserved win. The league spirits are very high at the moment, and hopefully that will carry them through the next fixture.
Today I was back at the Harlots to referee a scrim between their B team and CCR. I was again an OPR but we did skate & wait much more this time around.
For my second outing as a referee in “public” I gave myself the same goals as last time - to keep in position, join in with call-off whistles where sensible, and to anticipate, watch, and follow action to completion.
A few times I fell out of position, but this was picked up by the other OPRs when needed. This was mostly due to the pack speed suddenly increasing and simple logistics of me not being fast enough. Positions were regained quickly and smoothly though, and hopefully not much action was missed by the OPRs as a team.
I called four penalties, one at the same time as a JR for cutting. The other for a low block, and two more for failure to reform. Both times on these I totally blanked on what the verbal cue was, as it’s not something I’ve actually called in practice before. Something to work on. Thankfully though, any issues arising from my mis-calls were sorted out without delaying the game.
My skating skills have certainly improved since last time, I felt more in control of my positioning and, for the most part, was able to maintain correct position. It would be nice to perform cross-overs in the anti-derby direction though, as I felt a little slow picking up corner 3 when in the rear OPR position doing skate & wait. Something to work on in free-skate practice.
Overall though, I’m very pleased with how it went.
Letting my kit air a little while I have a well needed sit down and coffee, then it’s league practice tonight. Starting with the new beginners intake (no contact) and ending with some scrim practice with the mixed ability skaters.
My little team of NSOs are doing incredibly well during the scrim practice, and I’m incredibly pleased and impressed with how they’re learning and coping. My ambition to have a small team of professional and knowledgable NSOs is starting to come true.
Love this photo of some of the Mansfield Roller Derby crew on a day trip for Great British Burritos up and in Halifax. After we went to a local park to try and burn off some of those delicious calories! These are some lovely people. Proud and pleased to be a part of it. #mrd #rollerderby #teammates (Photo by @t_becs_)
Today I refereed my very first full scrim! The Hellfire Harlots were kind enough to take me into their zebra pack for their scrim against Manchester.
As it was my first full scrim, I set myself a few achievable goals (based on the SMART principle). Primarily I wanted to keep my Rear OPR position on the pack, and I’m happy to say I managed to do this. My other goal was to echo the jam call-off whistles and match the pace of the other referees. I joined in probably 90% of the time and matched the whistles pretty well. The times I missed it, I was either focused on other things or felt I couldn’t draw breath in time to perform the full four whistle blasts. Sometimes not blowing the whistle is the right thing to do!
As a bonus, I saw a number of penalties. Some of which were called by other referees, and one I called myself. I wasn’t expecting to call any penalties - I was going to be happy enough with keeping pace and position on the pack - but I’m pleased that I had the confidence and commitment to call a penalty that I saw, and call it correctly and clearly.
Best of all - the Harlots have invited me back! This may become a regular thing, and if so, I’m extremely happy!
Saturday 16th April saw Nottingham host the inaugural Louisey Rider Cup. A tournament in the memory of one of their skaters and a fundraiser for charity.
Skaters and officials came from far and wide to take part what was an awesome day, and I was lucky enough to be selected as Penalty Tracker for one of the officiating teams.
The tournament went incredibly smoothly, which is testament to the amount of effort that went in behind the scenes. Some all-star officials were involved in this from beginning to end and it was inspirational to be a part of it.
It was hard work, but absolutely enjoyable and lots of things learnt and people met.
Thank you everyone involved - skaters, officials and spectators! And of course my wife for letting me have basically and entire day of derby officiating.
A few skaters at my home league have been wanting some clarification on No Pass/No Penalty. When explaining NP/NP in person there’s usually some detail left out.
To fill in the gaps in knowledge for both myself and for skaters new to the concept of NP/NP, I’ve taken some time to write this blog post explaining the basics.
NP/NP is most relevant to jammers, so I’ll be using blocker/jammer language in this post. This is a simplified interpretation of the rules and only describes common scenarios that are most relevant from a skater’s perspective.
To start, let’s remind ourselves how a jammer scores points. Quoting the rules, a jammer scores points when they “pass the opponents’ hips while in bounds and upright, legally, while wearing the Jammer helmet cover with the stars visible, without committing penalties.” [18.104.22.168]
Below are a few very simplistic examples of how a jammer could pass a blocker:
Both skaters are in bounds and upright, and the jammer does not incur a penalty. The jammer scores the point.
The blocker is out of play or down, and the jammer passes legally. The jammer scores the point.
Both skaters are in bounds and upright, and the jammer commits a penalty. The jammer does not score the point and reports to the penalty box.
The jammer, while out of bounds, passes a blocker who is out of bounds, down, or out of play. No Pass/No Penalty.
Note: There are other ways NP/NP can be issued, but this is the most common.
There are a number of situations where passing out of bounds can occur. The most likely are:
A jammer, while out of bounds, returns to the track in front of a downed blocker.
A jammer, while out of bounds, returns to the track in front of an out of bounds blocker.
A jammer, who was knocked out of bounds by a blocker who also went out of bounds, returns to the track in front of that blocker before the blocker returns to the track.
A blocker blocks the jammer out of bounds at the front of the engagement zone and is then called out of play. The jammer returns to the track in front of the out of play blocker.
A blocker blocks the jammer out of bounds and recycles them to the back of the pack and is called out of play. The jammer returns to the track in front of the out of play blocker.
In all these situations, the pass occurred where the involved skaters have given up or lost their superior position, for example by being out of bounds, or out of play.
If the blocker were in bounds and in play in those examples, you might expect to hear a cutting penalty called on the jammer. As such, it might be useful to think of NP/NP being issued when you cut a skater but it doesn’t warrant a penalty.
There are other situations where NP/NP can be signalled, for example if the jammer is not wearing the helmet cover, the stars are not visible, or the helmet cover has been passed over skaters.
If the jammer is on their initial pass and they do not legally pass every blocker before leaving the engagement zone (including blockers they’ve previously passed but find themselves behind again), they will be issued ‘not lead jammer’ status, even if they are first out of the engagement zone.
Jammers are able to score a point on blockers they previously got NP/NP on if they recycle behind that blocker and pass them legally, satisfying rule 22.214.171.124.
Jammers may also get signalled NP/NP on blockers they have already passed and scored a point on if they find themselves behind that skater, but fail to satisfy 126.96.36.199 when passed again.
Below are some screenshots from the URDUMB application that outlines a common NP/NP situation - a jammer passing a blocker while they’re both out of bounds.
Purple blocker is in front of yellow jammer and has not yet lost her point.
Purple blocker initiates a legal block which causes both skaters to leave the track.
Yellow jammer returns to the track before and in front of purple blocker. Since the pass occurred out of bounds legally, NP/NP is signalled.
Beginners training went well! As the new people go to grips with skates and doing some sticky skating I worked on counter clockwise transitions. I’m much more comfortable with them now, so that’s good!
In this mixed ability session after we started with 27/5. I managed to get 25 and a quarter, my best yet. Really pleased with this, as the league have 25 as a milestone in the minimum skills. Plus it’s only two away from the full 27, which I feel I might be able to get in a few weeks. The main sticking point is other people on track, but that’s always going to be an issue. Besides, having other people on track helps me to keep some pace.
The rest of the season was blocking basics. They’re taking it back to basics for a few weeks for the newly promoted skaters to the mixed ability sessions. So not a lot of refereeing for me to do, but I did watch for penalties in their 1-on-1 drills. Watching any kind of contact drill will always bring some benefit to my referee training.
So all in all, great weekend of derby fun! I’m exhausted.
Success! I was IWB for two games, and everything went 99.99% smoothly. That 0.01% thing was me mishearing a penalty and marking something erroneously on the whiteboard that wasn’t spotted until the end of the game. However, it had zero impact on anything whatsoever, so that’s okay.
It was great to work with some of the best officials in the region again, and I throughly enjoyed my day.
Came away with a few things to work on - better echoing penalties back to the PW and PT, and communicating to the HR about skaters on track during lineup who are approaching seven penalties.
Now that I’ve taken my grey t-shirt off, I can say that I’m really proud of the Mansfield ladies, and they should be proud of themselves too. Even though the scoreboard said they lost, they really won. They held good walls, had great communication, and worked their very best.
The more I do roller derby things, the more I want to do roller derby things. I’m really excited and looking forward to tomorrow’s practice - new beginners first, followed by some mixed ability training that I’ll likely be refereeing.
Yesterdays training session went well. It was the teams last training session before their first British Champs game, so they were running jammer vs blocker drills.
Rather than focus on looking for penalties I decided to try and apply some learnings from the bootcamp last week and watch for established position, challenges to that position (legal or otherwise), initiation, and relative position.
I followed a jammer through the pack as I watched how position of skaters changed, and it was actually quite an eye-opener.
There’s more to penalties than just “you can’t target illegal zones”, and yesterday helped a few things fall in to place in my head a little bit.
Tomorrow is the British Champs game day 2, and my home league’s first game of the 2016 season. I’m excited for them and wish them all the best. They’ve trained hard and I’m sure they’ll do fantastic.
I’m NSOing both games in the double-header, both of which are on the inside whiteboard. My first inside track position in an open-door event, which is rather exciting.
Web Developer at Remarkable.net - Full Service Ecommerce Agency
Internet | Nottingham, United Kingdom, GB
*** RECRUITERS PLEASE READ *** I am not looking for work at this time. Please do not contact me regarding any opportunities you may have. Thank you for considering me. *** *** ***
I'm a website designer and developer with over ten years commercial experience and avid enthusiast ever since I can remember.
My main skills are website development, coding with leading-edge HTML5 and CSS3, powered by jQuery using unobtrusive ajax and progressive enhancement methodologies.
User Experience is another key skill I possess, helping me design or co-design amazing web apps or websites that do their intended function in the best possible way for human interaction, meeting user expectations.
I have experience coding the back-end and APIs in the following platforms and languages: - PHP - MySQL - ASP.net / C#
I've coded in .net MVC environment and I'm comfortable working with controllers and models that interact with a service layer maintained by back-end developers.
I enjoy working in an agile development environment, and have worked in a Scrum methodology within a feature team.
Web Developer / Remarkable.net - Full Service Ecommerce Agency
Web Developer / Linney Design
I'm responsible for the look and feel for all Linney Print applications, both internal and customer-facing, and assist in the creative studio on client projects where required.
One key project is updating the flagship application to a modern responsive design using the latest stable technologies. Migrating from a table-based layout coded in flat CSS to a mobile-first modern layout built with extensibility and the future in mind.
We code HTML5 and CSS3, utilising the very best of the technology to produce clean and readable code that is responsive on all devices.
As part of a feature team, we dedicate two weeks to a 'sprint', which is a period of time where we deliver a potentially shippable product. All members of the team work together to achieve this goal - business analysts, back-end developers, testers, and web developers. To assist with this, we sometimes draw on resources from other teams when required to speed development, using methods such as pair programming and code reviews.
Technical Director / Papersky Limited
Performing the "behind the scenes" magic that turns great designs in to fantastic websites.
Responsible for all aspects of website development, from obtaining a brief from the client, updating the design team on UI/UX requirements, technical planning and development, testing, and delivering the final product. Ongoing support and updates on almost all client websites, maintaining relationships and suggesting improvements both in design, development, updates, and SEO.
Delivering a complete solution for our clients online needs - websites, emails, server administration, upgrades, technical support, and think-tanking.
Applications Manager / Textlocal Ltd
Designing and maintaining the online presence of txtlocal.com, including the marketing website, online control panels, and bespoke mobile websites.
Developing OOPHP/MySQL powered solutions for the mobile messaging and Internet market.
Web Designer / Fasthosts Internet Ltd
Create, design and code webpages, emails, and control panels for the UK's leading web hosting company.
Server Administrator / Fasthosts Internet Ltd
Daily administration of a large number of Windows and Linux web servers, and advanced customer technical support.
Repair Technician / Dixons Retail
The diagnosis and repair of laptop hardware for customers of the Dixons Stores Group.
West Notts College