The Refereeing Issue: Increase the Zebra Stripes

The following is a very common complaint heard on roller derby leagues: “We do not have officials and don’t know how to teach them”, so it’s time to recruit a new ref crew. Let’s focus on the very important activities for those who are starting this journey and are learning the basic refereeing skills of the derby life.

Why the Lack of Referees?

As a fact, most derby leagues worldwide are short on skater and non-skater officers to keep the game safe, clean and on a steady flow. This probably means that the leagues are not that committed to forming and training these officers to become part of the scene.

The lack of a favorable environment in which referees can train and improve their skills and the little chances to receive proper mentoring is the main challenge leagues face when trying to recruit and maintain them. As the officials are a very small group, it’s important for players to encourage people to join it, leagues could stress how important they are in the case of an injury or as an alternative when someone wants to participate without actually playing.

Is There a Light at the End of the Tunnel?

This problem may be caused due to the fact that, for many leagues, the officer recruitments is perceived as a secondary issue. Also, not everyone feels the passion to dedicate a part of their time and effort to officiate, but the challenge is to catch the attention of those who do, there’s no such thing as a ”type” of person for refereeing, it just needs to be someone who loves the game and likes to play by the rules.

But many of the new referees don’t have a clear idea of where to start, because it’s too much information to digest and many of them didn’t have a mentor or even someone more experienced on the matter to guide them. Most don’t even have solid relationships with the leagues, making the task to find good referees almost impossible . Regardless, in many leagues enthusiast players are decided to learn this important job.

How to Start Refereeing?

Glad you asked. The best starting point is to ask an experienced officer known and trusted by the community. Maybe someone who has officiated a bout -or ten- in the past. There are tons of online resources and nearby officials who are willing to point out, advise and answer questions from new and enthusiastic people, they usually are very active on social media and this is a good starting point for the hunt.

There are different established teams that have found approaches that work in all league sizes and game levels, usually, a league knows or could get in touch with an officer who can point them in the right direction to start. And if not, online is an easy way to find resources for “self”-training, nonetheless, is always good to find a mentor.

Remember something, the principles of roller derby recruitment between skaters and officials can be quite similar. Don’t rush to refereeing open games straight away, go to a lot of matches, study the rules, build a really solid foundation of the essentials before blowing the whistle. What does your league do to recruit officers? Want to share recruiting pages, posters, official social media and more? Tell us!

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