Archive | officiating RSS feed for this section

Postcard from the Future

3 Mar

wp-1488502607327.jpg

“Shit! What day is it?” I’m panicked, thinking that it’s Friday and that I haven’t posted my weekly blog.

My buddy Seer informs me that it is Friday–at least here in Australia. I check my phone, and it tells me that back home, it’s still Thursday, so I’m safe. For what it’s worth, I’ve really been trying to stay on schedule with this blog, so keeping this Friday deadline is really important to me.

But it’s also kind of a relief to know that my deadline is safe. So hello from the future, dear Readers! I’m here to teach a couple of officiating clinics, and my Friday is consisting of finishing up lesson plans. Sure, I’m happy to be out of Boston’s weird winter weather and lounging next to a solar-heated pool at the end of an Australian summer while I’m doing it, but all the same, there’s a lot of PowerPoint in my day today.

And that makes me wish it was tomorrow, because I’d be finished with my lesson plans by then.

 

Let’s Get Season 9 Started!

24 Feb

wp-1487948945916.jpg

Back in 2009, this Windy City Rollers fan got an e-mail saying that the league needed volunteer officials, offering free admission in exchange for helping out. At the time I was a very, very poor freelancer who couldn’t afford the ticket prices, but I was in love with roller derby and wanted a way to go to the games.

I’ve never really seen a game since then.

Just like many random choices one makes during one’s lifetime, the choice to become a roller derby official has been life-changing. To say that I’ve made a lot of interesting friends and been to places I never dreamed of going would be an understatement. I could joke and say Marion, IL, but my weekend in Marion was actually really fun–great officiating clinic, great hospitality, a pressed penny machine, and the opportunity to ride in the cockpit of a small plane.

Over the last season, I’ve had conversations with some officials about how to keep going and avoid burnout. It’s really easy to get sucked into a big derby vortex where your life is all derby, all the time. It can be a lot of travel and a lot of weekends in a warehouse/hangar/skating rink/arena/convention center. The time and money spent on that comes from your own personal account.

For years I’d thought about being involved with derby for the long haul. Decades. This past year was the first time I thought about quitting. I’d been spending way too many hours doing committee work to the detriment of my job. I’d had to deal with a lot of family things, which meant dropping out of tournaments and missing game opportunities. I was trying to balance being a high-level Non-Skating Official with trying to be more than a beginning Referee (I recently realized I’ve been skating for four years and have reffed a mere 17 games, compared to over 150 or so off-skates).

In short, I was tired. After Champs last year, I really wondered how I would come back for another season. A lot of great fellow officials retired from officiating. Maybe that would be the best option for me too.

Instead, I took time off.

A lot of time off.

Sure, I handled a couple of small obligations, but otherwise, I didn’t do any roller derby. I didn’t write the 13 evaluations I owed from Champs (to the extent that I missed a deadline and won’t be allowed to Crew Head or Tournament Head at Playoffs/Champs this year); didn’t read the new rules and casebook; didn’t go to any off-season scrimmages; didn’t go to any neighboring league events; didn’t apply to officiate at events/tournaments–even ones that have been on my list to do for a few years.

It went on like this for about three months.

When Boston’s season started up again, I reluctantly packed my bag and went to scrimmage. I wasn’t thrilled about going, but I wanted to see if I still enjoyed the activity itself…and guess what? I had a blast! Roller derby officiating is so much fun! Every week, I’ve enjoyed strapping on skates to work on my positioning and impact assessment. I’ve liked remembering the rituals I have for NSO positions. New rules? Bring ’em! It’s been really excited to see the league’s new skaters improve and learn strategy, and I’ve loved the challenges that officiating a highly-ranked travel team bring. It’s been really difficult for me to not blurt out, “This is so much fun!” in the middle of scrimmage (though I might have done that too). And I finally submitted those Champs evals.

This weekend is the home-opener, and I couldn’t be more excited about being an Inside Pack Ref for one game and managing the penalty box for another. I hope it’s a fun start to a season that’s likely going to be different than how I’ve managed my officiating in more recent years.

In a way, that might also be a good antidote to personal burnout. If there’s anything roller derby’s taught me, it’s that things don’t have to be status quo, so I’m looking forward to a ninth season that’s hopefully got some surprises in store and can help me set some new goals for this year and beyond.

 

Postcard from Portland

18 Nov

img_20161103_150405807_hdr.jpg

If you’re flying to Portland, get the window seat that faces the mountains because if you’ve got decent weather, you’ll spend your descent looking at mountain majesty. In terms of going to Champs, it’s a pretty good way to start a weekend that’s all about majestic performances.

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned I’d be leading a non-skating officiating crew at WFTDA Champs, my third time in this role at the top tournament in the roller derby calendar. One of the fun things about being a crew head is that each crew you lead is completely different, and in my experience, the tone of the crew has been completely perfect for that particular tournament.

In 2013 I had a “yes, and” crew, which was fantastic for the pre-tourney exercises I wanted my guinea pigs them to do. I’d been reading up on coaching and talent development and wanted to to prepare more than I ever had as a Champs official. They did me proud all month leading up to the tourney–mention a concept, and within two hours of group messages, you suddenly have a mascot and a t-shirt and a crew head who wonders what the hell is this awesomeness that is happening before her eyes.

Last year, my initial reaction to my crew list was “Champs! Champs! Awesome! Awesome!” which  played out all weekend. Getting to Champs takes work. Staying alive in Champs takes work. Being the Champ takes work. We experienced all of that over the weekend. After Day One, the crew needed focus, and it took one very long shower to figure out a potential fix: hot potato. Luckily, I had packed way more pairs of socks than I needed, and those became our hot potatoes for pre-game warmups. But when the crew found their focus, they insisted on continuing hot potato play before every game.

This year, with an all-female crew, our crew circle felt very nuturing, very welcoming and very caring. We wanted crew time together and were lucky enough to have assignments that gave us the opportunity to do that. Side note: Should you find yourself in Portland, have breakfast at Cheryl’s on 12th. Two words: complimentary beignets.

This crew was amazingly talented and came together nicely, which is impressive, considering we came from Europe and all points of the US. The teamwork we had was inspiring. We brought their best every game and then performed even better, which made me proud and a little bit wistful. This was a last tournament of sorts because change is coming: New rules and standard practices are around the corner, so this may have been the last weekend I officiated this way. There’s always a little sadness on closing the door on a rule set–another chapter in the history of roller derby is closing, and even though the coming changes are exciting, this moment of change as they all are, needs its moment of acknowledgement.

Rules may not be the only change. I recently started reffing, which is a whole different skill set that’s put me at the bottom of the reffing mountain in the range of officiating. Depending on the path I choose to take–and there are many officiating paths, so I need to map them out and find my optimal route–this could have been my last Champs for a while. Hopefully not forever though. The top of the mountain does have a nice view.

Champion of the Other Side

4 Nov

Today I’m in Portland, Oregon, to officiate at the 2016 WFTDA International Roller Derby Championships. It’s my seventh go-around at Champs in eight years, which is a pretty nice streak. This year I’m leading a crew of non-skating officials (NSOs)–the third time I’ve had that position, and the second year in a row.

With the Cubs winning the World Series, you think of how exciting it is for the players to achieve total victory–to make it to the World Series or whatever championship trophy you’re playing for–but it’s also exciting for the officials involved as well. They’ve gotten to the top of their game too, and it’s pretty special to be selected to work the biggest events in your sports’ season.

My crew this year is phenomenal (though I say that about all of the Champs crews I’ve been on, since every year it’s been true), and to top it off, we’re the first all-female crew at Championships. That’s also pretty special.

When I prepare for Champs, I like to think of officiating goals I want to have for the weekend. Sometimes they’re positional-based, sometimes they’re bigger picture. For this weekend, one of my big goals is to have fun. The pressure of Champs can really get to you, and sometimes it’s easy to be awestruck by the teams or the level of gameplay, and that can cause you to lose focus and make mistakes. I want to keep it fun–to have that fun mentality the entire weekend, even if my crew does make mistakes or needs some help in gelling together.

My other goal is to be in control of my part of the game–and to help my crew be in control of their parts of the game, to put all of those pieces together and create a beautiful officiating jigsaw puzzle.

Last year, my crew was selected to officiate the championship game. And in roller derby officiating, crew assignments aren’t really based on the NSOs, the referees are the ones looked at and scrutinized a lot more. But NSOs can make a ref crew look better–or they can really bring them down. This crew had some of both. Our first day was a little rough, but we all worked on improving and finding our focus and teaming with each other. By the end of day two, we’d found that championship groove. Getting the last game–which was historic in that the team who’d won the Hydra trophy more often than any other was defeated in an epic match.

During that game, I stepped back twice and had two observations about the game at hand–and I’d never really done that before, especially not during gameplay. One was that the crowd was crazy and loud and that I was a part of this historic moment. The second was that our crew of refs and NSOs was in control of the game. That was a magical moment for me–feeling the flow that came as a result of everyone being on top of their own game and working together seamlessly. Doing our jobs, not walking all over each other, but if needed, helping each other out. It was a beautiful thing to be in that much harmony, and it’s something I hope to experience this weekend as well.

If you happen to be in Portland, Oregon, this weekend, come on down to Veterans Memorial Coliseum to watch some of the best roller derby in the world. On Friday, I’ll be working the 4:00 and 8:00 games. They’re going to be excellent, and I can’t wait to be a part of them.

 

This Is Roller Derby Travel

18 Feb

“Where are you staying?” The Boy asks. It’s 11:00 at night, and in approximately twelve hours I’ll be heading to Alaska for the weekend to teach an officiating clinic.

“I don’t know. Someone’s house, I guess.”

Why would I know? I’m traveling for roller derby–it’ll be fine.

This pretty much sums up my attitude toward derby travel. I don’t act this way when I travel for any other reason–I’ll spend time figuring out airport transportation, my lodging situation, where I need to go, how I’ll get around. When I travel for derby, I generally will look to see how far the hotel is from the venue, and that’s just about it. For tournaments, I have gotten smart enough to get a hotel room and roommates as soon as possible–the scramble to fill a room with officials isn’t fun–but even then I’m sometimes a little slow to make plans.

While I wouldn’t completely recommend showing up at an airport and getting in a car full of strangers, with derby people there’s a certain level of comfort. The first rule of roller derby is, “Don’t be a douche,” and that rule extends past the track. Anywhere you go, you’re an ambassador for your league and the sport, so acquiring a reputation for being a jerk isn’t exactly the smartest thing to do.

This is all part of the adventure of derby. Traveling to New Zealand for the first time and don’t know where you’re going when you get off the plane? Eh, look: Someone you’re traveling with is on your flight, and you can bum a ride and afternoon entertainment with them. Heading to Richmond and don’t know how to get to your hotel? Eh, look: It’s a tournament, so there are a hoard of people going your way. Even better, there’s a random person in the airport who says she’s with the host league, so just hop in her car. It’ll be fine!

And thus is my approach to this weekend–though I did ask about housing once the Boy asked, “You’re not staying in a hotel?” For a league-funded clinic? Are you kidding? Derby housing, all the way. And I’ve learned that some of it will come with a dog, which will be awesome.

This, of course, would not please Ma Jaracz in the least. A couple of months ago, when I told her I was going to Alaska, her immediate response was–and I am not making this up–“Just be careful up there. They don’t solve their murders.”

And with that sage advice, I’m going to go hang out with strangers. Well, not strangers. Just derby buddies I haven’t yet met in the flesh.

Just in case though, I’ll be in Ketchikan. If you don’t hear from me next week, send a murder-solving crew to find me.

The Derby Season Begins at Home

16 Apr

This weekend marks the home opener for the Boston Derby Dames 2015 season. Charm City will be in from Baltimore for a double-header featuring the Boston B Party against Charm’s Female Trouble, then the Boston Massacre facing Charm’s All-Stars.

I could talk about rankings, rivalries and gameplay. All of that is bound to factor into creating a couple of exciting match ups. As an official, the teams will just become colors to me, and I’ll be concerned about doing my part to make sure the game is played safely and fairly. I’m slated to track penalties for both games, as well as serving as Head Non-Skating Official (NSO) for the second game.

What makes this game exciting for me is that we’re going to test a game with fewer NSOs–the rules state that you need seven NSOs for a sanctioned game, but traditionally, having some extra positions helps with game flow. A couple of those positions came about when the game had both minor and major penalties, and they were necessary to make sure penalties were captured, tracked and displayed properly. Now that the game has only major penalties, do we need three people to track all of that?

I’ve done games with just a penalty tracker and inside white board (this NSO writes penalties on a white board that stands in the center of the track and serves as a display), and that seems to work. Now I would like to see if it’s possible to get the job done without the white board. If it’s possible, that’s just one test, one data point. We never know what gameplay will be

The first bout starts at 5:00, and the second starts at 7:00. Get your tickets today!

Postcard from BOS

20 Mar

Greetings from General Edward Lawrence Logan International Airport, where I’m about to hop on my first plane ride of the year. I love traveling–and even though the process of traveling is somewhat of a hassle, it’s worth it for whatever fun and exploration you have on the other end of the journey.

Although I’m no road warrior, I do fly enough to have gotten Gold Status on American for the last few years and get used to the perks that come with it. Free checked bag? Don’t mind if I do! I have to fly (insert non-American Airlines airline here), my TSA pre-check didn’t come through, and I have to go through the regular security line with all the plebeians AND take off my shoes? Nooooooo! You frequent fliers know what I’m talking about.

Today I’m flying to Buffalo and then heading up to Toronto for my first roller derby tournament of the year, Quad City Chaos. I’m so excited–a couple of weeks ago, I had a very frequent flyer problems thought: I need to get out of the country again. It’s been too long. [note: I’d been out of the country just seven months prior] Then I realized I was going to Canada soon, which made me happy. On top of that, I get to spend a tiny bit of time in Buffalo, which holds the potential of a visit to Wegmans and beef on weck. [I also realize there are now Wegmans not far from me, but somehow, when they’re closer to HQ, it’s more exciting.]

Adventures to come–even though I’ll be spending most of the weekend in an old bunker doing scorekeeping, there are adventures ahead. I can’t wait to share them with you.

Season 7: Let’s Get Started!

16 Mar

In March 2009, I naively became a roller derby official. I had been a fan of the Windy City Rollers, but my league had moved to a more expensive venue and my freelancing lifestyle couldn’t necessarily keep up with the higher ticket prices. Then one of Windy City’s e-mail blasts mentioned they were looking for volunteer officials–no skating necessary, and you could get into the bouts for free.

That e-mail changed my life. While I’ve never been able to watch a roller derby bout the same way, I have found my niche in officiating. I love the sport, and I love ensuring that a game will be fair. Officiating roller derby has taken me around the world, introduced me to so many interesting people and given me so many opportunities. I’ve gotten the chance to make an impact by doing committee work with the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association. Officiating has also helped me grow a few layers of skin, which is essential to have when you’re in the business of dealing with a lot of rejection.

At any rate, my seventh season kicked off this past weekend when I went up to Maine to keep score for a game between Maine vs. Worcester. I’m pretty sure Maine won–though I tend not to remember details like that. I more remember the fact that I need to work on increasing my ability to remain focused throughout an entire half and review some of the finer details in scorekeeping paperwork before I do this role again next weekend. I also need to have a little better awareness of where my score reporting arm is in relation to something like the scoreboard projector. A lot of little things, but I haven’t done a lot of scorekeeping and am really hoping to become much better in that role this year.

I tend not to write or talk much about officiating unless I’m with my people. If you look at pictures of sports, officials tend to be the blurs in the background, and I kind of like it that way. I’m not really sure how fascinating it is to share the fact that I wrap a stopwatch cord around my pinkie finger when there is no Lead Jammer and I have to call off the jam. I can see you yawning already. However, at some point I’ll probably geek out about some of the sports psychology and leadership books I’m currently reading, and I will send postcards from my adventures. I’m excited to see where it takes me this year.

On the Loose!

10 Mar

[Part 1 in a collector’s series]

My day out yesterday was so incredibly exciting that I can’t quite contain it to just one post. I know it sounds crazy, but doing errands was fun. That’s very telling, since driving around Boston can suck the life out of you the second you pull out of the driveway, but yesterday wasn’t so bad.

The first order of business–and my reason for having the car–was to visit the doctor. My left shoulder’s been hurting me since our massive kitchen cleaning earlier this year. Ibuprofen and keeping it in motion wasn’t helping, so to the doctor I went. Further prove I am not Cinderella: Spending hours scrubbing the kitchen floor does not get me a fairy godmother and a trip to the ball; it gets me a doctor who diagnoses a shoulder sprain and a trip to physical therapy.

The doctor’s office means two things:

1.

wpid-img_20150309_102919193.jpg I get a blood pressure reading. Not to toot my own horn, but I have amazing blood pressure. It’s the one thing I’ve got on the Boy. I know it’s a weird thing to get hung up on, but he’s a foot taller than me and so he’s inherently better than me in many different ways. He’s faster, his stride is longer, he can reach the top shelf, etc. It can be frustrating, particularly if he has to walk quickly to get anywhere because that always means I end up jogging. I know I look like a doofus having to trot just to keep up. Lucky for me, one plus side of being short is that my heart does not have to work as hard to pump blood throughout my long body. This happens to be something the Boy worries about, so when I can get an accurate reading, I make sure to tell him. It’s just reminder that hey, you might claim that you’re helping me with my vertical leap when you’re holding something just a little too high over my head to reach, but I’m cool about it. Cool as a low-blood-pressure cucumber.

At any rate, I clocked in at 90/70, which might be one of my best readings ever. Usually my systolic pressure is around 100. Today that’s got me thinking about unusually low blood pressure, but the nurse told me I was fine.

2.

no1officialExtra reading time. I know the doctor makes every attempt to stay on schedule, but Monday mornings have to be pretty crazy since there are likely patients who need to sneak in due to something that happened to them over the weekend. If I have a book with me (and I do have a stack of them at home), I’m cool. I’m currently reading an interesting book on the psychology of officiating. Even though the copyright date on it is 1990, the information is still useful because the basic concepts don’t change. Officials have always needed good communication, focus and confidence, so while yes, we learn new things about the brain all of the time, the older information is still helpful (not to mention the fact that aren’t all that many books specifically dedicated to sports officiating psychology, so to not have to extrapolate information and apply it to my personal needs is nice).

The other great thing about an older copyright date is that you tend to get illustrations like this one. Hey, photos can be expensive, and you need to spice up a non-fiction book somehow. I look at this and think, “I do feel good about staying in shape!” Granted, you probably wouldn’t see me running down the street wearing a “#1 Official” tank top, but this official and I are pretty simpatico.


And thus ends the first hour or so of my day out–there’s more excitement to come, as I wonder while I wander through Target, have an amazing sandwich and have a high school moment! Tune in tomorrow for more!

Derby Officials: Become a Better You

24 Feb

“Never try to be better than someone else. Never cease trying to be the best you can be. That is under your control. The other isn’t.”

–John Wooden, famed UCLA basketball coach

bootcamp

Roller derby officials, how can you become a better you? More training, focused training. The Boston Derby Dames are hosting a bootcamp this coming Sunday, and it includes Referee and NSO tracks. Classes aren’t just going to be the basics of how to do positions; they’re designed to help you get to another level. The instructors are top-notch: We’ve got some WFTDA Certified Level 5 Refs, yours truly teaching NSO classes, and we’ll have representatives from MRDA and JRDA. The whole experience ends with a scrimmage where you’ll be able to immediately put your skills into practice.

Tickets are only $25, which is a steal (and it’s half the price of a skater ticket). Get ’em here, while they still last!

%d bloggers like this: