Why I Ref
March 12, 2012 | TALLAHASSEE
Written By: Wheels Bohr
When was the last time you noticed a referee at a sporting event? If you did notice them, it probably wasn’t because you admired their proficient and solid interpretation of the rules, was it? With any sport you attend, it’s an obvious fact that referees get the brunt of fan and player fury.
You might find yourself asking, why would anyone subject themselves to a job where your best work goes unnoticed, and anything less than — and sometimes including — perfection is harangued?” In roller derby, at least, we know it’s not for the money. Officials volunteer their time like everyone else. So really, what’s in it for the “zebras?”
We Want to Give Back
Everyone who gets interested in derby recognizes how valuable the sport is to the players and the fans. In addition to being an amazing sport, it fosters a unique sense of community in its athletes. Some people support this growing movement by attending games, some by sponsoring leagues, and some volunteer in other ways. We just found the best way to help was by volunteering our time as officials!
It’s a Lot of Fun
I know from the image I painted above it’s hard to believe… but it’s true. We enjoy what we do. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be here. Sure there are times when people grumble and yell about a call you made, but those are not as frequent as you might expect. Roller derby has evolved to the point of having very standardized officiating, and a healthy respect for referees, which has made our jobs a lot easier.
We Are Nerds
Doesn’t everyone have a bit of nerd in them? Whether it’s memorizing song lyrics, speaking Klingon, or generating actuary tables: we all have our quirks. Roller derby officials just have the guilty pleasure of learning 43 pages of derby rules (plus supplementary publications)and seeing how they apply in various scenarios.
We Like Awesome People
Roller derby is filled with fun, awesome, confident people. The members of a league have to work together on and off the track in order to succeed as a team and as an organization. So the health of a league is related to the awesomeness of the people and the social selection at work. Getting to be involved with the awesome is a definite perk of being an official.
The excitement surrounding a game is not lost on the officials. We get just as nervous as players about not messing up and we always aim to ref the perfect game. This requires a lot of mental preparation to clear your mind and focus on the task at hand. Trying to take in an entire action, judge the legality, verbalize and then signal any appropriate cues within seconds takes all the mental ability you can muster. This is part of what keeps officiating interesting week after week.
Part of the job of referees is keeping up with the players. Being in the correct position to see the beginning, middle, and end of an action is crucial. Good positioning requires good skating skills (like endurance, agility and speed). That is why roller derby referees are often affiliated with a league and attend practice so they can become better skaters. A good referee never has to think about their skating, they train so that it becomes second nature to be in position and avoid obstacles like flying skaters.
Officials Love Our Sport
Most people don’t think of referees as fans, but you don’t become an official and dedicate this much time and effort without having a deep admiration for the sport first. When we work a game, referees strive to ensure the game is played fairly and safely. We do that because we believe the sport is most enjoyable to fans and players alike when it is played as intended. A win for the officials has nothing to do with the score at the end, but how effective we were at preserving the integrity of the game. And zebras always win.
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