I am a dedicated referee. That means that my primary commitment when participating in Roller Derby is to be an official. It’s my job to work with my team – often referred to as Zebras* (or “Zeebs”) – to make sure the game is safe and fair for the players and coaches, and to keep the game moving for the fans.
Refereeing is a great place for people who want to be part of Roller Derby, but who don’t want to be involved in contact. It is also a great opportunity for men to be involved. The game is complex, fast and action packed. There is a lot of nuanced play by strong and skilled athletes. Zeebs have a unique and exciting perspective. On-skate officials are much needed and appreciated, and a huge part of a small-but-growing, close-knit community.
As you might imagine, a major part of being a referee is a thorough knowledge of the rules. People have many different learning styles. I know for me, reading the rules as posted on wftda.com/rules was very intimidating at first. I picked up the game by watching and then referring to the rules, and vice versa. I know other referees who developed their understanding of the game almost exclusively from reading the rules. There are many ways to learn how to correctly apply the rules, there isn’t one way that works for everyone. The referee community is very supportive and will accommodate all learning styles.
Refereeing is very physically demanding; a common expression among officials is, “Zeebs skate every jam.” Which is true. For each lap the pack takes, there are five officials with their eyes glued to the skaters. For each lap a jammer takes, there is a Jam Ref in toe. We go for the whole game, often skating backwards while keeping our attention focused on the pack. Sound scary? Don’t worry, we have lots of training opportunities for skating as well. Sound thrilling? You’re right – come and meet us.
Sometimes refereeing can be difficult because, unlike other sports where there are many teams and many players, derby is still a relatively small community. Part of your job will be to police the actions of some of your good friends. It’s hard to call a penalty on your buddy, or to not call a penalty when a skater thinks one is warranted. You really have to be able to turn off your personal attachments and only see bodies and numbers. This is a skill that needs to be learned, and with the refs that serve the Anchor City Rollers you will be training with most of the heartless and stone-faced killers in the business. Not really. We are crunchy on the outside and squishy on the inside – we’ll teach you how to hide the squish.
Now, I have made refereeing sound difficult, which it absolutely is. But, just like there are different levels of skaters, there are different levels of referees. You grow into your position, and there is a team and a safety net to help you learn. If you want to be a part of Roller Derby, but you have concerns about contact, or are male, or are just into officiating, refereeing could be for you. And we want you! Come and be a part of the Dazzle**! We have the best view of the game, and a real strong sense of team. Plus, we are undefeated. How can you pass that up?
*zebras because we wear the traditional black and white striped jerseys of officials
**dazzle is the name of a grouping of zebras