I reffed my first scrimmage ever!
I’ve been playing roller derby for a little over a year and a half now, but I hadn’t considered reffing until I sprained my rotator cuff a few weeks ago. The good news was, I could still skate. The bad news was, I couldn’t play.
So reffing has been my plan for the past month and a half. I’m hoping to be back in and playing soon, but until then, I’m learning to ref. And it’s fun! I’d never really considered reffing before because I love playing so much, but I’m glad that I’ve got an injury that still allows me to skate because it gives me the opportunity to do something a little different.
Obviously, you have to know the rules to be able to play. You’re going to foul out pretty early if you keep getting called on penalties because you don’t know the game. But as a player, I just focus on the big ones: don’t cut the track. Don’t back block. Don’t multiplayer block. And whatever you do, don’t let the opposing jammer score.
(I don’t usually spend a lot of time in the box. I’d like to think it’s because I know the rules pretty well.)
Reffing has forced me to get to know the rules better. One of the other refs pointed out to me that knowing the rules as a ref makes you a better player because you can take more controlled risks, knowing exactly where the limits are. Once I’m back on the track, I hope that hold true for me. One example of a technicality that I’ve learned is around back blocks. In derby, blocking to the back is when you hit someone on the back and it knocks them over or improves your relative position. That’s an illegal move, which is why you generally don’t see derby girls shoving each other in the back around the track. I’ve seen it mostly when jammers are coming up on the pack for a scoring pass if they don’t speed check enough. But if a jammer is coming up and a blocker ahead of her on the track moves over to stop her while still showing her back to the jammer, and if the jammer hits that blocker in the back, that’s not a back block because the blocker initiated the hit instead of the jammer. It’s a small technicality and I’m sure it’s hard to catch in game play, but that’s something I had no idea of before I started reffing.
Reffing the Valkyries was also great because I got to see some of our skaters in their first bout ever. I love the Valks scrimmage; it’s always so much fun and it’s great seeing the team grow throughout the season. (I was a Valk last year and it was great the way we went from just a handful at the start of the season to a full-fledged roster at the end. They’re doing great this year, too, and I’m glad I still get to be involved!)
On Juy 25th, I reffed for the Vicious Valkyries bout. We had pretty much a full ref crew for the Pixies bout, and I was needed more as an NSO. That was also new--I’ve never NSO’d at home before, because my NSO duties have always been working the admissions booth. I timed penalties with a couple of freshmeat skaters. The only other time I’d NSO’d was at an away bout last year, and I also timed penalties at that one.
There was a huge difference between then and now. At that bout, I knew the game play well enough to know what was going on, but I felt like I really started to get it this time around. I was able to see what penalty was being called based on the hand signals the refs were using, so even if I didn’t actually see the penalty, I knew what had been called. (In addition to learning the rules, I’ve been learning the hand signals officials use to communicate on the track.)
I also had fun explaining the game to the other girls timing penalties with me. I liked being able to answer some of their questions and give some explanations as to what was going on. We encourage our freshmeat skaters to NSO at every bout so that they get to know the game. Short of actually playing, NSOing is the best way to get to know the game. With penalty timing, you have to pay attention to skaters getting called on penalties, and you have to (obviously) keep time on any players in the box, but you get to watch the gameplay as well.
Both games went fantastically, and it was so much fun to NSO for the Pixies and ref for the Valks. I’m hoping to be back in the game for our last home bout of the season (Heroes vs Villains--if you’re going to come to any bout this season, this is the one to come to), but if I still have to sit it out, I’m totally down to ref some more.