I plan to come back to a few things this coming week, including two tournaments, a family vacation and some realizations I’ve had about where I want my future to go. Right now, I know if I don’t get this post down, I never will. It’s fear that holds me back from this discussion, but with encouragement, I’ve decided it’s well past time.

I talk about derby a lot. I started writing about derby on this blog as I was transitioning out of skating as a team member for my local league and into officiating. When I started, my goals were pretty big. I wanted to ref playoffs, maybe even champs. I had excellent mentors locally. Two referees who had been certified through our national organization, traveled a lot and brought their knowledge home to me. Through a series of events in that first six months, those two officials became incredibly jaded against the certification process, rightfully so. This isn’t their story. This is about me. I suddenly found that my goals were something to be made fun of. That if I wanted certification, playoffs, recognition, that was laughable, because the system was (and possibly still is) corrupt. Unfortunately, I let that sink in pretty deep. I gave up on those goals. I would never be “that” official. The work needed, the travel required. It was so far beyond the reach of someone like me, out here in a state full of D3 leagues spread hours apart, that I was really an idiot to want those things.

Last year something changed towards the end of my season. Suddenly, during a few tournaments, I was getting feedback like “why aren’t you doing these tournaments?” “You’re a solid official with a lot of potential.” “I want you to apply for this tournament I’m in charge of.”

What? Me? But I’m a nobody. I mean, look at the way my friends had been treated, wouldn’t I be betraying them if I did the things that they did only to be shit on? Wouldn’t that be a slap in the face after what they went through? So I went into to December of last year ready to quit. Because I had no goals. And I had no local mentors. I hadn’t received positive feedback at home in over six months. I only got actionable feedback at tournaments. I was depressed. I had given up.

Derby did what it always does though and I found myself planning for this season, despite the depression. I reached out to a Tournament Head I had worked with to ask a simple question “If a newer official were to apply to one tournament next season, what would you recommend.” He asked if I was the official and when I said yes, the answer was definite and quick, “The Big O.” I laughed out loud, literally, because that was not a tournament I had on my radar at all for someone like me. It’s a BIG deal. It’s a known game changer for our sport, teams and the officials who attend. But I applied anyway. And I got in. And it was a game changer.

I walked away from The Big O with my goals suddenly screaming from the far back shelves of my brain where I’d carefully curated them along with several other failed dreams. They wanted out. They wanted room up front. They wanted attention. And I, reluctantly and fearfully, started listening. I followed up Big O with another tournament I had attended last season and the feedback from that was outstanding. The things they saw in my last year had come to fruition. I am well on my way to becoming a good official. I just need access to the level of play that will get me to there. That isn’t happening in New Mexico, sadly.

I realized that I was accepted into every tournament I applied for this season. Including Junior Roller Derby Association’s Championships and World Cup in Philadelphia. I was invited to two more tournaments I thought well outside my reach. I was supported when I made a decision to turn down a tournament I really wanted to do because it conflicted with family plans. I was encouraged to apply for certification. I was encouraged. I hadn’t been encouraged since those first couple of months of officiating. But here I am now, ready to reach out for those goals again.

Now comes the hard part. I have a plan in my head. It starts with applying to several of the tournaments I was unable to attend this year. It involves training with the closest D1 and D2 leagues, which, unfortunately, are six hours a way in Denver. It involves continuing to train and teach the officials at home that rely on me to bring my knowledge home, just like those friends did for me when I first started, before shit went south. It involves travel, balance, and, you guessed it, money.

When I was part of the team I skated with, I had no qualms about asking for sponsorship money, donations, fundraising and the like. I had no issue giving money to skaters for clinics and training. I had no problem asking for money for things our league needed, even though we were a sub-D3 farm league who rarely traveled, never outside of New Mexico when I was on the team. When I moved into officiating, the culture shifted. Suddenly I was doing things well above what I’d ever done as a team skater. I was officiating higher and higher levels of play. I was included in Junior playoffs and Champs last season. I did all of this on my own dime. It was laughable when I suggested I needed a sponsor. I was LITERALLY laughed at when I suggested I needed financial help to meet my goals, after all, all the skaters pay to play.

The difference is what I mentioned above. The leagues use the money the skaters pay in to help skaters get where they are going. They have sponsors to pay for uniforms and in some cases new gear. They ask for donations and do fundraisers to pay for travel for their travel team. Why do we, as officials, treat ourselves differently? Especially considering that most officials in other sports actually make a salary to do so. I get gas stipends to go to and from Albuquerque, but beyond that, I do not get paid to officiate Roller Derby. A sport that has gone mainstream enough to land itself on ESPN does not pay its officials. We are expected to grow, learn, become good enough to go to those playoff/champs games, all without the support of a league, union, organization, team. We do it alone, for the most part.

I can’t speak for everyone. I know some leagues will help cover the expenses of the officials who travel with them to games. Or will give officials who have been accepted into playoffs or higher money to get there, regardless of the league’s standing at those events. I can only speak for me. I’m out here on my own. I don’t have travel companions. I go alone to all of these events. The airfare, gas, hotels, food and gear expenses fall directly on my shoulders and mine alone. I sleep on beds offered by other officials when I can. I eat at the venue, and not much else besides that on most trips. I am debating whether the model to reach my goals is actually sustainable without help. I don’t think it is.

So I’m asking for help. It sucks. I HATE asking for help. But if I were still part of the team, I wouldn’t hesitate to ask. I would not, for one minute, be above knocking on every door to get the money my team needs to get where they need to go. So I have to ask myself, why is it bad to ask for help now? I don’t think it is. I could be wrong, and I expect to hear a lot of feedback supporting that.

What am I asking for? I’m asking for anything you might want to do to help. A kind word, a dollar or two, a share of this post. I’m asking you to consider that I’m not alone in this world of officiating without pay in roller derby. How are your officials doing at home? Are they getting the support they need financially? Is your league sitting on funds they could share with those officials when they go to tournaments that make them better officials? Are you a skater who has gotten help from a league when you needed to travel and couldn’t? Can you return the favor now? If not to me directly, somewhere in the officiating community?

I’m going to put a pay-pal link up on this blog. And It’s going to stay there. The money I get will go directly to cover travel expenses to the tournaments I have agreed to do this year and anything I get above and beyond those needs will help my plan out next season. I won’t use the money for gear, clothing or food. It will be used directly to cover Airfare, gas and lodging only.

In return, I promise that I will bring my knowledge to any new official who wants to learn. I will teach them what I know, treat them with dignity as they grow and make their own goals and do whatever is in my power to pay forward everything that’s been done for me and then some. I will do my part to end the officiating crisis regionally and beyond as much as I can.

That’s it. That’s the hard part out of the way.  I’ll be posting about my experience at The Big O and Mayday Mayhem in the coming days. I just got back from an amazing trip to see family too, that is going to be a fun one to write up.

Thank you for the ear.

Let’s talk about the space between the places you can see and the ones that are just out of reach. The places a human brain can’t process because we aren’t wired for it anymore. Maybe years ago we were. And some of us still are, but we lock those of us up who say they see the light spilling out in the shape of beings and people and voices from another place that no one can hear but them. So for now, we aren’t wired for it and we stick with that story.

But the spaces are there. They’re the crack in the sidewalk where a tree grows. The moss inexplicably clinging to the concrete buildings downtown. The spaces are the dark under the bed and at the back of the closet and the moments between the lights flickering on when we first walk into an empty room and when the shadows scuttle back into their recesses behind fluttering curtains we convince ourselves only move because we’ve entered the space and shuffled the air around them.

These spaces, they aren’t unoccupied and here’s the thing we all know we know, but no one really talks about. Sure, it’s funny around the campfire to tell a story of ghosts lurking beyond the firelight or to repeat Aunt Janice’s tale of the time she saw your cousin Jonathan across the parking lot of the Supermarket even though she’d come home to the message that he was dead on the sands with the rest of his convoy. But what we all know is that the spaces are full of voices that aren’t just echoes of our own.

The stories that we have to tell ourselves as we walk down dark alleys or hike alone along the shady paths in the silent woods, those stories are the comfort from the old times when we decided we would shut our ears and eyes to the truth. And yet, the spaces remain. So now it should come as no surprise that today, an ordinary day like yesterday, will separate the other days from the rest of our tomorrows as the day that the Others in the spaces came forward and the worlds hidden there, the small forests whose trees had but breached our concrete and whose whispers had before been dismissed as the wind, crashed into our world and changed the spaces we shared forever. A simple day and a simple place and a simple child who spoke words long forgotten from a book that they said had been hidden forever and in that reading became a queen of both the lost and hidden spaces and out bright and concrete jungles. Let’s talk about those spaces. And let’s talk about this girl, this Queen.

There are two at the bar. Empty glasses between them and one sits still half full in front of her. It’s hard to tell, from here, but his hands are painful from resisting hers. They sit just right; far enough apart to be friends and close enlightening together to close any gaps that they think are wide enough to fool a passer by.

She’s laughing at something he has said. Deep in her throat. It rolls out of her. A sound and a promise. A brand that hits his soul and he searches around for something to say to make it happen again. It’s all he has. This moment, ones like it. His smile fades and she notices and her laughter dies wondering if it was too loud, too big. They turn back to the drinks.

We turn away. It’s hard to look. So we don’t. I touch his hand instead. Glad for it’s warmth. Glad for his smile. Glad we aren’t there. With the spaces waiting to be filled. The spaces now are a promise, like her laugh. Undying, these spaces. She gets up to leave; takes her coat this time. I nod and grab my keys. We go. They stay and I see the two men talking. More bourbon in the glasses. Winter on my face.

It’s so easy to forget how to love.

The door is ajar. He can see her sitting from where he’s at, legs crossed in her chair, hands busy with a project that’s piled in her lap as the dogs curl around her feet. This isn’t his door. Here. This time and place; he should go. This door was a mistake created when he took a wrong turn and he glanced carelessly through to the scene on the other side. Always a warning they’d given him in the training. Once you look, it’s hard to look away. He hadn’t really understood until he’d seen her sitting in her chair.

Now he found he couldn’t stop coming back to this place, to the slightly open door with the warm light of a fire spilling through onto his feet as he carefully, not a breath could cross the threshold, watched her. She hadn’t seen him once. She was casually relentless in her task. Again and again he’d watched her hands fly, tangled in yarn, needles an extension of her clicking together as logs crackled and tumbled in the stove. He timed his exit to the shift if the older dog’s head in his direction. Always at the same moment; just as her hair tumbled from the loose bun and spilled around her shoulders breaking her concentration only briefly. The companion would look up at her, her agitation and in that moment, glance at the door and he knew he couldn’t stay a moment longer. He’d step back and through the gate and move on to the next stop. Again and again, however he found himself here; unable to shut the door. Wondering what it would be like to stride to her side and tuck the stray strands of hair behind her ear for her. What her hands would feel like on his. He was voyeur. A watcher. He was obsessed.

Beyond the gate the others would gather at the thresholds, various assignments whispered into their ears by the managers. They’d slide out of the space and complete whatever task was asked. He’d do the same. Over and over. Again and again. And then here he was: back at the door. It had to stop and he knew all he had to do was give it a gentle nudge. It would slip from the stream and from his line of sight and he could forget about the woman and the chair and the tumbling hair and the dog looking up.

And here he was again. At the door. Watching. Knowing that he was breaking every rule. That he was violating something sacred. Something his people had been taught since before his people could move the streams. To watch and to observe was once. It was to watch and record but once. To violate the privacy like this. It was obsecene. Was he becoming something else? What? They didn’t speak of it.

Always the door was ajar for him. Never he stepped through. He was close though. He knew a few more breaths like this and he’d be done for. All he had to do was let the dog sniff the air before he shimmered away; catch his scent.

He couldn’t close the door.

They say that some of us are given to a past that we cannot untangle. There are moments of it that wind around us as we go about our present and although we can’t see the threads, they bind us to the things we were and hold us from what is becoming as tightly as our mothers held us in our infancy.

Today, the thread is tangled around him as he pours his tea into a worn blue mug. It sits cooling on the desk next to him, untouched as he scratches out the message he’s written again and again, piles of discarded words at his side littering the floor and covering the wooden surface, otherwise the room is immaculate and he is alone but for the ink and what it cannot convey.

She’ll be here soon. Will these words be enough? Strong enough? He tries not to think about the way the light and shadows will play off her hair or the way the red of her lips can stain his from across a room without a touch. He’ll leave these words on the desk next to the blue mug and walk away. This time he’ll have the strength. But the words won’t come and the pile grows high as the tea grows cold. The thread is taut and threatens to strangle him.

Here it is now. A final draft. The words on the paper as good as any he’s ever given her. The things he’s meant to say a thousand times again and again but the threads have always yanked him back from the edge. Tying his hands to hers. His lips to hers. His arms tight around hers not his own, but the threads, keeping him in this place. A place he hasn’t belonged in so long he’s not even sure where the pictures on the walls of a smiling version of himself came from.

Here, at last are the words that cut the threads of the past. He places the sheets of paper on the counter and weigh them down with the blue mug and a wet ring stains one corner. He hesitates, but leaves it. She’ll be here soon and those hands and her voice and those words she’ll say will be new threads holding him here.

Each word is a razor. Each word snips and slices away the binding, tangled thread that loops around him tightly holding him in place as he walks this way down the hall. As he opens the door and goes through it. He feels the unraveling now. The lightness that seeps in. He is bound to this moment. Tightly now new threads wind around him.

I have a lot to catch up on. Big O was a HUGE success. I’m about to leave for another tournament this Friday, come home, then leave again Thursday to Tournament Head Assist Besterns in Denver. But, so many people have asked me about goal setting and how to tournament lately, I wanted to smash out a rough outline of what it has looked like for me and what it might look like to dive into the tournament circuit for a new official.

Some words: These are MY thoughts, opinions, experiences etc. This is not definitive and I’m hoping some people will, in fact, add their voices to this post and we can do a second round with quotes from them in a week or so. I work almost exclusively on the West Coast for financial reasons and what works on the West Coast, may not be what works if you’re on the East Coast. This is also a United States perspective and I have NO idea what it’s like if you are an international official. I’m sorry. I’m just giving some rough ideas here that might be a jumping off point for anyone who is looking to get into their first event.

Quickly: why tournaments? Because you will not get as much experience condensed into one event as an official as you will at a tournament. Tournaments are a place for officials of all skill level to come together and share their knowledge, ask questions, get feedback and work multiple games in one weekend (more or less). So, if you are looking to do something slightly outside your comfort zone with a lot of feedback and people who know a lot more than you, tournaments are where it’s at. Did I also mention there are usually patches and cool swag? I mean…

How do you know if you’re ready? Unfortunately this is what I cannot answer for you. So here are a few things you MIGHT ask yourself:

  • Are you feeling ready for a new challenge?
  • Are peers telling you you are ready for a new challenge?
  • Do you want to travel and meet some new officials and learn new perspectives?
  • Do you often do the same role at home because it is the one you are the best at (IE, HR, because you’re most experienced, meaning you never get to OPR or JR, if you’re a ref)?
  • Are you feeling “stuck”?
  • Do you have goals that your home level of play will not get you to (perhaps you’d like to work post season someday and your home league is low D3)
  • Do you have limited access to multiple events at home (derby “poor” areas geographically that don’t host many sanctioned events annually meet this criteria)

If you look at this list and say, yea, some of this is me, you may be ready to start looking for a tournament. That doesn’t mean you are ready for ANY tournament. There area lot of types of tournaments, this list is not exhaustive by any means:

  • One day
  • Two day
  • Three or more day
  • “Learnaments”
  • Divisional play, non-sanctioned
  • Divisional play, sanctioned or mixed
  • Invitational non-sanctioned or mixed sanctioned
  • Mixers/Mashups
  • Post-season
  • Single Track
  • Multi-Track

Tournaments can be one, two or three days long, but are typically two or three. They can be sanctioned or non-sanctioned, recognized by an organization or not (this just means they’ve met certain standards set forth by their parent org for that status), they can be Divisional (D1, D2, D3) or Invitational (multiple teams of a variety of levels or of just certain weights/divisions) which are similar in how they are run, it just means team applications happen a bit differently. There are mixers and mashups just like we see in single game events. They can happen on one track or multiple tracks. Post Season events are the highest ranks teams playing for the highest rankings in our sport and we aren’t going to talk about those here. If this is your first rodeo, you aren’t likely going for post-season, so I won’t cover that right now.

So, what’s right for your first event? Look at what you are doing currently and try to find an event that would be similar in that style of play. Something that really helped me when I was starting out was to look at the teams that were invited and to see if I had ever officiated them or a team at a similar level to them who was going to be playing at that tournament. It gave me a good idea as to what skill level would be required from the officials at the event. If the play was similar to what I was used to, I knew I could reasonably apply and perform to that level of play.

How far are you willing to travel? Maybe you don’t have any tournaments close to you. How far are you willing to go? I limit mine to either a 10 hour drive or, for ones I know will be very beneficial experiences, a reasonable flight. You may want to shrink your distance for your first tournament and look around in your region for things that will be a good chance to get your feet wet.

For your first event, I recommend something small, no more than two days and single track. Unless you are working locally with a high level, D1 league with a deep pool of experienced officials mentoring you (which is pretty much only a handful of folks), then you want something that is going to give you a positive experience and that will leave the leadership with a positive memory of you. Smaller tournaments allow you to be more visible, and therefore more memorable. This goes both ways though. If you are a huge dick, or don’t take feedback well, that’s gonna stick out too and word travels FAST between staffers. Nothing says “yuck” like someone who can’t take criticism their first day on the job, so to speak.

My first tournament was a single day event in Colorado with teams that I had reffed before. It was a good experience*, but more on that in a bit. The next tournament I did was a two day “home teams” Superbowl type event. It had attracted a high level official from California with family in the local town, also a great opportunity. From there I did a State Championship event (essentially home/b team level). Once I had those three events under my belt, I branched into some events with multiple tracks that were a bit longer but were still very matched to my skill level and the level of play I consistently saw at home, these events were ones that I knew I could do, but were also events that challenged me and put me in contact with a variety of skill and prepared me for the higher level events I went to in the coming years.

Picking a tournament with a good reputation is ALSO important. There are several nationwide “learnaments” known for staffing strong mentors for those who are up and coming in the derby officiating world. A learnament is a tournament at which it is decided and known that a portion of the staff will be there for “stretch” placement or goals. Mentoring can happen at these events and people can be put into challenging or first time roles in a safe environment.

It can be tempting to go to that tournament that’s in the neighboring town that is desperate for officials and that the SKATERS love attending. Get some feedback on why they are desperate for officials first. My experience with some of these has been hit or miss and I’ve seen new officials at their first tournament at some of these sorts of things never come back on the circuit because the experience is…well, it’s a shit show and it sets people up for failure. It is one thing to staff anyone and everyone to ‘give them a break’. But what can, and often does, end up happening is that leaves very inexperienced people in charge of something they’ve never done before with no guidance or leadership. Skaters are frustrated, officials are tired and frustrated and it’s not a good example of what tournaments can and should be. I am not saying don’t work a tournament like this. Perhaps your emotional and physical make up allows you to be in an environment like this and still thrive, mine does not.

Make sure there is a good foundation and leadership at whichever tournament you choose for your first. Ask around. We all talk. If you know someone went to the touranment you are looking at in previous years, ask what was good about it and what they didn’t like. Get multiple perspectives. If you are an on-skates officials, ask your NSO friends how they felt at the event and vice versa. How was safety and diversity at the event? Get the opinions of people you value to have objective takes as well as people you are closet to. Someone can have an off weekend and that can color there experience. Someone can have a great weekend and it may mean they don’t see the mistreatment of others around them. Make sure the tournament heads are people with good experience and leadership and that their reputations for mentoring and providing safe spaces for learning are well-known.

*That first tournament I went to? I worked 7 of the eight games that day; 5 on skates and two as an NSO. I have NEVER been so tired after a tournament and it made me question applying to any more thinking there was something wrong with me and I wasn’t cut out for it. The “jerkied” officials there were all about how “this is how it is on the tournament circuit” I assure you, it is not. A good, well-staffed, heavily mentored tournament will not exhaust it’s officials, will consider their needs and their health (and their emotional safety and well-being) and you should do as much research into the tournaments you consider officiating as the skaters would research the potential rankings outcomes of any they consider skating in. This tournament was staffed by people I know and respect and had they not been there to keep me going, it would have turned out very badly.

Okay, so you think you’re ready, you’ve researched a good starting point, you’ve talked to some people and you want to apply. Now what? Well, first you have to find the application. That’s always a blast! There’s also this handy dandy document that some amazing folks update on the reg. it lists all the known events of this type with great descriptions so you can get an idea if the event is for you. So find one, grab the app and get going. Oh wait, what’s this reference bit….

References are the trickiest bit in derby, especially if you are just starting out, are really isolated geographically or YOU happen to be the most experienced person you regularly work with (this happens). Here’s my advice. Someone, somewhere wants to be your reference. Someone from a game you have worked thinks you were special in some way, you’d be surprised who will shout out for you if you JUST ASK.

Applications are going to ask for anywhere from one to three. If it is just one, I try to pick someone who can really attest to my skill and growth. When I was first starting out, this was one of the two Head Refs I regularly worked with at home. As I got more travel under my belt, I would ask (ALWAYS ASK YOUR REFERENCE IF THEY WILL BE YOUR REFERENCE AND I CANNOT EMPHASIZE THIS ENOUGH) if a CH from a similarly leveled event would be willing to give me a reference. If they asked for two references, I would try to include an NSO I had worked closely with if I was applying as an HR or JR especially. Those relationships are vital on game day and knowing you’ll work well with your NSO crew goes a long way. If they ask for three I’ll pick a combination of the above and then someone I feel may be able to expand on that even more and possibly speak to my character or special strengths they’ve seen. It can be hard to get references if you haven’t been to a tournament and if you don’t feel you have more than 1-2 strong ones, put a note in the notes section of the application explaining why (geographic isolation is a real bitch).

YOU NEED A GAMES HISTORY DOCUMENT. No, really, you do. I don’t care if you think you will never work a tournament and you’re just reading this long-winded post for fun. You are going to reach a point where you are going to change your mind and want to get into a tournament. You need the games history document. My first “break out” tournament was JRDA champs in 2017. My document was SHALLOW. I was an unknown, I had very few sanctioned games. I didn’t know anyone that could give me a solid reference for that level of play and was still using my local references. The Tournament Head Ref for that event looked at my document and saw that someone from that first tournament (that one with all the games that I nearly quit tournaments over?) was someone they knew well and trusted and had also been my tournament head at that event. I would NEVER have listed that person as a reference because we just didn’t interact that much. however, they really had been impressed by me at that event and gave me a good reference and THAT is what got me in to JRDA champs. That event opened the door to working with this TH again at Big O in 2018. YOU NEED A GAMES HISTORY DOCUMENT.

If you have any footage of a game you have worked, add that in to the notes section of your application. This helps if staffers don’t know you are your references. No room on the app? Use that email the staffers provide.

Here comes the hardest paragraph. You are going to get turned down from multiple events. DON’T STOP APPLYING. Every time you apply, you are showing the staffers you mean business. They see your name again and again and they go, huh, this person really wants this. We had to pass them up last year, but we have room this year. It is the hardest part, especially for those of us in isolation, to put ourselves out there like that. But if you reach for smaller things on your level first, build that network up and keep pushing for higher content, you will see results. Derby officiating is in a really great time. I believe that. We are seeing a lot of things change as staffers realize that not everyone can come in with 100 games on their resume, that isolation is limiting a lot of people in what they can do with their time and that the “grind”, while right for some and worthy of its own rewards, is not the only way to identify good officiating.

So, wrapping up:

  • Find a tournament with a good rep, at or near your skill level
  • Apply
  • Use references that can speak to your skill and character
  • Keep a games history doc
  • Apply and apply again.

This ended up being so much more winded than I intended, but it’s very personal and I’d love to hear from others as to THEIR tournament experiences and how they got into their first. It’s so individualized and I got VERY LUCKY, very early with the contacts I made as referenced above. But I’m also pretty isolated with no local mentors and tournaments are what I do, so it was a very important part of my derby journey. Let’s chat about them more and I’ll make a second post in a week or two with other people’s ideas and feedback that’s more diverse than mine. This is a jumping off point and I’ll take questions on Twitter and FB. Happy Tuesday!

It’s been about a week since Cactus Cup wrapped up and I’m just getting the time to sit down and have any sort of freedom to write, clean my house or do anything remotely related to self-care. It seems like I hit the ground after these tournaments without a second to breathe or catch up and I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong or how to improve on that, because honestly, it’s burning me to the ground.

This is what a derby migraine looks like

Regardless, let’s talk about Cactus Cup.

I chose this tournament, again, because I trusted the leadership. That’s the underlying theme for my tournament choices so far this year. I have selected tournaments that where I know the leadership and trust them to push me just enough to improve without setting me up for failure. So when I was asked to pencil the dates in for this and another Phoenix event in last fall, I did. In addition to leadership, the host league, AZRD, went out of their way to prove they wanted to host us in the best way possible. We were given a group housing stipend, food throughout the day, we were consistently checked on. The event was two days long with games starting late enough on Saturday and ending early enough Sunday to accommodate driving to and from the event with little time off work. They repeated and added to all of these efforts for Cactus Cup. It really goes further than leagues know when they do this for us. We put out significant portions of cash and time to get to derby, because we love it, and we love to be appreciated for the effort in return.

Look at all the goodies

I worked a lot of higher level games and was pushed outside my comfort zone by more than a little. I’m not often offered (nor do I take) roles on the inside of the track at tournaments. I was offered the Head Ref position for two games, Inside Pack Ref for another two and got to be all comfy cozy as an OPR for another. The THR staffed really great mentors in the opposite IPR positions with me and I felt like I learned more than a fair share. I need to get over this idea that I don’t know what I’m doing. I HR a lot at home, all last year, it’s what I did more consistently than not. I’m letting the words and actions of a former abusive co-worker undermine my confidence in what I know. I can hear the phrases run through my head every time a question arises and I end up letting someone else talk over me. I can work on that between now and my next opportunity. It’s time to put that past behind me.

We stayed in a huge, if odd, house with a good, if cold, pool. I love staying with people when there’s enough room to spread out. Each morning, insomnia knocked me out of bed earlier than just about everyone else, but there was another official who seemed to keep a similar schedule and being able to hang out and whisper about life over coffee in the kitchen made each day a little bit more relaxed and special. The bonds we share as crews are so important and the ability to spend time together outside our games is something I can’t stress enough when you’re starting out. Make connections with the humans of derby. Derby wont’ always be around; those people will.

Monday my flight didn’t leave until late afternoon and I had the pleasure of visiting the Phoenix Gardens with a new friend from Australia. I love desert plant life. It just seems so improbable that things can survive the 120 degree Phoenix heat and yet the abundance of plants and animals doing just that was everywhere. It was also one of the only times I’ve purposely done something touristy at a tournament. That was a huge goal for me this year and I didn’t get to do it at Clover Cup. I think I’ll get to do something before Big O though, fingers crossed.

Takeaway, before I get started today on some Big O thoughts; I spent way more time with friends, was pushed and allowed myself room to grow, and felt more included, relaxed and welcome (like I did at Clover Cup) than I did at things last year. I think the thing that’s changed is me. I think I’m finally moving past what the abusive humans in my life said and did to me for the first years of my reffing career and learning to embrace that if I trust these people around me, if I admire their skill and leadership and their praising me, I have to own it. I can’t believe they’re great officials and then question their judgment about me. It isn’t a good look.

Today I have a surprise day off because of some emergency dental stuff and I’m going to use the spare time to finish packing for Big O and to print out all my confirmations for hotels and flights. I’m just going to be me on this trip. I am going to be weird and anxious and relax into the strange and different and let changes happen when they need to. Let’s see how that goes. Again, if you like reading about what I do, feel free to drop a dollar in my Paypal, the link is in the menu. I appreciate the continued support. I’ll be doing a financial break down of my trips after I get back from my last tournament in June, per the request of some of you on Twitter, a little terrifying, but why not? Happy Monday, and for those traveling for Eugene already, safe travels.

I wanted to get all my thoughts out about Clover Cup much sooner but I came home and immediately turned around to do a family spring break trip to Denver. So here I am, prepping to leave town again for another tournament Today and trying to unwind all these thoughts I have about officiating, derby culture in general and the balance I’m trying to maintain this year in an attempt to avoid the burnout I see so many of my friends go through season after season.

We Made It

Clover Cup was exactly what I needed to start my season. I’ve talked at length about how I feel about this year; it’s exploratory. Can I still meet my goals as an official and balance family, work and going back to school? Can I do the things that crews and teams need without a local league to work with? I was very put off of derby mid-winter and decided to take the same advice for myself that my partner and I give our kid: don’t quit until it’s fun again. When we do our hobbies, it’s easy to want to quit when things get hard or have plateaued or we’ve hit a snag. So we always try to wait things out and if, when things are really fun and at their best, we still feel like it’s time to find something different and for a change, then we move on. Clover Cup proved to me I am not ready to move on from officiating derby just yet.

Friday Run

Friday was rough. The floor was mush. The temperature hot. I felt off. I sprained my ankle and had a lot of intense pain in the first games of that day. However, I had the absolute best crew I could have hoped for. I mentioned in my pre-Clover post that I had chosen Clover Cup because I had the chance to work with a female TH and CHR and wanted that mentoring. It was the right choice. Ninja is some sort of magician (It’s the glitter) when she puts her crews together and my Crew Head, was exactly who I needed to kick off the season. I got to work with one of my favorite people from my last tournament of the year in 2018 and met new people who I’d always wanted to work with. I had a great OPR mentor and learned things about positioning that I couldn’t have done from watching 100 hours of footage and by Sunday, our crew was so gelled we ended up working the Champs game. This is important to me, I was part of a strong crew that did well and we achieved an officiating goal as a group. I felt so supported by the entire crew, by the tournament heads and by the rest of the officials at the tournament in general. It was a really good experience on and off the track. And as for hosting, Dallas Derby Devils did an amazing job and I would recommend any official who gets the chance, support their games and events. They went out of their way to make sure that everyone was taken care of, safe, fed and happy during the event

Very Good Food. Too Good.
Biddy Buddy!
As close as I got to exploring was this hockey next door
Clover Cup Tenth anniversary: this dude has been at all ten, it was my first
Our cozy corner of the world, those chairs tho

I wish I would have gotten out a bit more, but honestly, I couldn’t find the mental energy to drag myself into downtown Dallas. I try to eat healthy on trips like this and I just didn’t this time. I ate birthday cake and Thai food and hotel breakfasts each day. I felt worn out by Monday. It was a great reminder that as good as big city food is, my body is 40 and can’t take it anymore. I also was a little disappointed that there’re still a few skaters who think that if they lose a game, officiating is the first go to place to look for blame. We really need to be better about this as a community. Officials, we can be better about not getting our hackles up if this happens and listen with open minds to concerns that are brought to us in a fair and kind manner. And skaters, can you find ways to communicate your concerns that don’t lay the entirety of your disappointment on seven, unpaid volunteers? I think that’s a fair place to start.

I over-packed, as usual. And felt flustered when all of my stuff would get scattered. This weekend’s trip is by plane and I’m not checking a bag, that should be a really interesting contrast and I’ll be posting my packing shenanigans soon.

Overall, I chose Clover to parse out my feelings towards derby this year and mission accomplished. I made new friends, achieved some personal goals, figured out where I want to be this year, and felt safe and supported. 10/10 would ref again.

I ain’t got a dime but what I got is mine
I ain’t rich but Lord I’m free
Amarillo by mornin’
Amarillo’s where I’ll be

-George Strait

Pulled in at 1 am and fell into the beds at the Best Western. I40 music lulled me to sleep. There’s a little girl eating a waffle too big for face across the lobby; she’s wearing the same jacket my daughter has on most days and it made my heart ache a little. As soon as we eat we pull out and head to Dallas. But for now, I’m going to enjoy the sun in Amarillo.

Today I turned 40. I thought I’d hate it. Isn’t 40 supposed to be big and scary? It wasn’t. It was beautiful and fun and filled with laughter and family. My husband and daughter surprised me with a Ukulele and some wonderful books and travel gifts and I spent my work day with children who do nothing but bring joy into my life on a daily basis. I had a lot of anxiety leading up to my birthday, wondering if I should have a huge party or if I should *do* something. In the end, spending it the way I did was perfect. My life is about continuity right now. I am alive; something that was a questionable prospect these last couple of years given the state of my mental health. Spending the day just being alive and loving that fact was a pretty big victory celebration in itself.

I’m leaving today to head to Dallas for Clover Cup. We decided a jump start was for the best so we weren’t pulling all 11-12 hours on the day before the tournament. Cutting 4ish hours off tonight puts tomorrow in a normal driving range for us and that felt smart. Don’t know where we will end up tonight! That’s a little scary for me as someone who loves to over-plan, but I am willing to wing it this time since I have a traveling companion, something I don’t always have the luxury of.

Packing was a little nightmarish. I finally had to start over. Usually, I have a great list and I stick to it and follow it. For some reason, with this trip, I was punishing myself and trying to pack as though I was going to be gone for three days when I reality it is five and a half. Don’t do that if you don’t have to. We will be driving and I realized I could take a larger bag than my usual “must fit in smallest compartment” gear. I don’t like a bunch of bags to haul up to a room, but I also hate not having clean clothing and options for comfortable quick changes in weather, so I finally unpacked and started over. A quick rundown of what my bare minimum for a tournament weekend list looks like:

2 jerseys
2 pairs athletic capris
2 pairs of socks per day
2 changes of underwear per day 
compression Shirt
compression stockings 
2 finger whistles/1 lanyard whistle
skates/protective gear
first aid kit (with blister pads and ice pack)
Yoga socks for between games

Meds for 1 week (no matter how short the trip)
Sweatshirt/light jacket for inside venue (indoor winter is a thing)
Plain black shirt (it works for going out or emergency NSOing)
Jeans and 1-2 shirts for between games appropriate to location and weather
Comfortable walking shoes
Plain black shoes

It seems like a lot but I can get all of this into one nice Ikea backpack and an old carry on. Weekends that are less than 5 games (2 days) are pretty light. This weekend is 6+ games and a lot of time away from home so I am definitely packing heavier and taking more creature comforts. I brought along my DnD manuals, some embroidery projects, my therapy homework, and journals. It’s a lot. Which reminds me I need to go rearrange a bag.

I’m a huge fan of packing cubes and little bags and I utilize those a lot so it doesn’t feel like I’m taking too much because it’s tightly packed. My favorite purchase this year has been this bathroom organizer which hangs on the back of a door so when I am sharing a hotel room, my bathroom stuff isn’t monopolizing the counter. I can fit so much stuff in here. There are full sized bottles of facial cleanser and dry shampoo in there. It’s pretty leak proof so far too. Right now it is packed inside my suitcase, which speaks to it’s overall size/shape.img_0124

Other wee bags I had laying around to do other sorting:

I feel pretty good for the trip and plan to touch base each day of travel (that will be a first, let’s see how it goes!) Thanks to everyone who has purchased a fundraiser shirt so far! I have a tank of gas, and that goes a long way (pun intended).  How do you get ready for a long trip? Does it make a difference if  you know you are going to be driving or flying? I would love to hear new tips and tricks so drop a comment below!



It’s a beautiful day outside and I’m sitting next to a sunny window making checklists for my first tournament of the season. I really want to keep a better account of my journey this year, because it’s an important part of the process for me and I need something to look back on when I wind down at the end of each season. So here we go!

I applied to Clover Cup ,hosted by the Dallas Derby Devils, back in the winter, when I was still a little uncertain about reffing without a league to practice with locally. I had also applied to Dust Devil and, at the time, knew I would likely apply to two events in Phoenix as well. I was focusing on events I could drive to at that point in my season planning stage. Dust Devil was close, a ten hour drive, and the tournament head ref was someone I’d had a really good experience with at Monsoon Madness last year as a crew mate. However, when Clover Cup announced that the tournament head for their event was a female official I had also worked with and feel has offered me solid mentoring in the past, I decided I would apply to it as well.

The two tournaments butt either end of my local school district’s spring break and I knew I would have to pick one. Within a few days (it felt really short, maybe a week?) I had an acceptance from Clover Cup and I immediately withdrew my application from Dust Devil knowing I couldn’t afford to go to both and not wanting to eat my family’s entire break with derby.  This is really important if you are a new official this season: it is okay to apply to more tournaments than you think you can attend, in my opinion, but please, communicate clearly to the tournament heads as quickly as possible that you won’t be able to make something as soon as you know. I caught the DD officials before staffing assignments had started to go out.  I may choose to do DD next year if the opportunity arises, I haven’t been yet and I’ve heard good things about it.

Not only was Clover Cup being led by a female TH, my crew head assignment was going to be a strong, female HR. This year, this is important to my decision making. I love working with male refs, but after my experiences at home last year, I have decided I need the mentoring of confident women to help me find a voice on the track as I overcome some of the issues that developed under poor leadership in my local area. I know several of my other crew mates as well, this is going to make me feel much more confident on the track.

Having a tournament head that recognizes the needs of their staff and placing them with the appropriate crew heads is always a factor when I look at which tournaments to apply to and return to the following season. I have been lucky enough that this has been the case for me at most of my tournaments, but I have seen companions partnered with crew heads who did not communicate in ways that worked for them and it led to a lot of disappointing interactions throughout their weekend. It is okay to wait for a TH to be announced, if possible, before applying to an event if you think that it may influence how you are staffed at the event. In fact, I would encourage a further discussion about this and it may warrant it’s own post mid-season *puts mental tag in topic*.

I’m in the goal and travel planning stage for next weekend. I leave midweek and will be gone through the weekend so I’ve re-written my packing lists a few times already. Traveling by car means I can stow a few more luxuries than I typically do, and I’ll follow up with a packing post on my personal tournament essentials in the next day or so.

My goals are pretty basic for this tournament. I went through a hard off season with a lot of changes and it left me without a clear path until really recently. Because I would like to work towards reaching Post-Season eligibility this year, I will work this tournament with the goal of recognizing my strengths and weaknesses and asking for feedback on streamlining my endeavors for the season. I’ll do this by taking notes after each game and listening carefully to critiques from my Crew Head and experienced peers.

I also want to enjoy the experience and be in the moment more than I usually am. I had a lot of anxiety and worry hovering over me last year; wondering what would happen upon my return from each event because of local leadership issues.  This year I am independent of any league and working on being the best official I can be for each event and for the leagues present. So being mindful of my own experience is part of that.

Who else is gearing up for their first tournament experience of the season? What are you doing to get ready and plan? Will I see anyone else at Clover Cup? Leave a comment on the post below and don’t forget, if you like these posts and want to help me cover more content and travel this year, you can leave a donation via the PayPal link in the menu or you can hop over to Bonfire and snag one of these cool shirts.

PS: I got a new phone and the cat wanted in on this post.