Last heavy post and then I gotta switch it up for a bit.

There’s an article circling in the officating community. Written by, I assume, a skater. The claim is made that reffing and being a skater go hand in hand and doing one makes you better at the other. I don’t disagree. Not completey. It’s true that all skaters should take a turn on the other side, if only to gain a respect for what’s happening at any given moment in those roles. It takes a different skating skill set too, which crosses over nicely to the track.

The idea, however, that one can do it all and master any of it? I disagree. It’s only the opinion of me. One person. But i stand behind it. 

I’ve mentioned the choices I have made. There’s a reason for them. Here they are in no particular order. Why I didn’t do it all and why I think, that with the exception of an occasional scrimmage or practice, skaters and officials should train in the respective roles and not overlap.


I had the privilege of attending a Wftda officating clinic this year. It really drove home how important neutrality in the officating community is. In a sport that is so incestual; where skaters are sometimes refs, refs are sometimes former skaters, everyone works hard to build a strong league and better the sport, officials are closer to those they officiate than they might be tasked with in other sports. So the idea of neutrality is easily challenged if you haven’t clearly defined your role. How can I skate with my teammates jn one game then turn around and fairly judge them in another. In my case I would worry more about overpenalizing those I have skated with or coached because I am familiar with their style and strategy. It isn’t fair to them. And it isn’t fair to the team they play if that team has to question where I stand. So I gave up the team this year. No more coaching. No more skating. It’s the right thing to do. I went to a scrimmage this last weekend and sure enough, I didn’t even notice when my former teammates were on the track. Because I hadn’t played with them all month in preparation. 

Time Managment

Call me crazy but I think balance is important. Going into this season i planned to skate on a home team, coach the travel team and ref. I was convinced I could do it all. I was dispelled of that notion rather quickly. It was a short road to burnout and I had to make some choices. Which also leads to one of the other things.

Respect for Coaching staff 

I have a wonderful group of coaches around me. When I was skating, I was trained safely, pushed to my limits and always listened to. That didn’t change when I began reffing. I am very fortunate to have two WFTDA certified officials teaching me the ways of the zeeb. They’ve put in a lot of hard work, effort, done the learning and have good experiences to draw from. When I was flip flopping back and forth at any given practice, it was a waste of their time. I would be listening to them explain a scenario then I would need to jump in and explain a skill to a skater. It was frustrating and our HR called me out I it. Why should he waste his time if I wasn’t going to commit? The answer was clear: he shouldn’t. So I made another tally in the make up you’re mind sheet.

It’s confusing to teammates 

Too easily when I was reffing at practice would skaters still turn to me and ask strategy or other questions. Questions I shouldn’t be answering as a ref. And when I would refuse to answer, I could see their faces fill with confusion.  And when they’d ask how to skirt this rule or that rule? How inappropriate for me to use my role and knowledge to teach them those things? Very. I have seen teams where their coach officiates and then teaches them strategy based on things they’ve seen or learned about other leagues. It makes me uncomfortable. I don’t want to be that person. That comes back around to neutrality too.

Fences Are Uncomfortable Seats

This is just me, personally, but I like being the best at whatever I do. And I couldn’t do that while sitting with one foot on either side of the fence. I wasn’t committed to anything so I wasn’t improving either. Since making the commitment I can feel the difference. I can fully pay attention at practices to the advice of my HR. When i get to ref games I am not watching strategy and trying to file it away for later, I am simply doing what I am there to do: officiate. 

So that’s it. I guess. I do agree wth the refs should skate and skaters should ref idea. To a degree. But the idea that you can be an impartial, dedicated member, of both groups is off to me. I think dabbling is one thing, but reaching for success as a skater and simultaneously attempting to officiate at certification levels if derby is a mistake. Maybe I am dead sexy, I mean, wrong. I wouldn’t mind hearing from those who think they’re doing both at successful levels and how they balance the neutrality and focus. For now, look for me in stripes. It’s where you’ll find me for a while (hopefully a very very long while).

2 thoughts on “4-27

  1. Raptor says:

    I’ve been doing both for a good while. I had NSOed for a year by the time I played my first game, and it’s what kept me sane through two injuries. I was good at NSOing long before I was any good on skates, and I continue to take it very seriously.

    I solve the issue of neutrality by not officiating for the team I practice with. There are a couple of roles I *could* do as an NSO without running into issues (e.g. as a line-up tracker, you can’t influence the game, so neutrality doesn’t matter as much as for other roles). However, if I can’t play for some reason, I’d rather support my team by taking on a different off-skate role, like bench coach/lineup manager or so. Not because I can’t be neutral, but because it doesn’t *seem* neutral (which is almost as important).

    When I wear pink (or stripes), my brain switches to colors and numbers. My mind zooms in on whatever needs my attention (points, penalties, skater locations, other officials, …), and beyond that, there’s really not much room for anything else. Any leftover brain capacity goes into buffering as much visual into instant mental replay as possible (5 seconds at a time, I’m working on it but it’s hard).

    I’d reffed a whole bunch of scrimmages over the course of my first two years of derby but I didn’t seriously consider it until last summer, when I was frustrated with officiating, and I was talked into trying reffing. It gave me my love for officiating back and for that I’m extremely grateful. I’m not nearly as good at it as I’d like to be, but for now I’ll keep practicing it when I can. It will get my full focus at some point, but before that happens, I want to play at least one full season, because I haven’t played nearly enough in my derby career. Maybe more than one, who knows. But it’s comforting to know that reffing will be there, waiting for me, and I won’t just fall into the abyss of no derby when I stop playing. Because, let’s face it, that’s a terrifying thought.

    1. brandil79 says:

      It’s great than you can do both. I don’t have the luxury of not officiating at home, so a decision had to be made. I stand by my opinions. I don’t think it’s fair to anyone involved to divide your attention. The sport needs more people willing to take the stand and decide what their role will be. It’s not a fallback. I could have kept skating the team but decided officiating matters more to me this year. And it’s where I’ll put my energy, time, very limited money, and family resources.

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