Sunday, January 25, 2009

Picking a Name

We all know that first impressions are important. Unique to our sport is that often times people will know each other more from on-line interactions than from reffing together, and on-line the first impression you make is often based on your name. Of course this is roller derby, and you should be able to pick any name you want, but remember, your derby name is who you are, and will say a lot about you to other people. To skaters, to other refs and to fans. Consider for a long time before deciding on a name. Does it convey authority? Does it make you seem unapproachable? What will people think your primary motivation is in being at the bout? Is it to ogle girls, or is it to referee the bout? Also, the right name can help you to be a better referee. It can assist you in creating a persona that is more suited to reffing than you may be now. For instance, if you are often shy and unsure of yourself, a name that inherently demands respect or is inherently more outgoing can help you find that confidence you lack as you take on that role for the night.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

A Discussion on Thresholds

It is not uncommon at practices for a referee to see an action and make no call, only to have a captain, coach or other skater yell at the offending player for that action. It is important as a referee that you understand that that does not necessarily mean that you have missed a call. What it is likely an indication of is the different thresholds that referees and coaches employ, and it's important to understand also that this is entirely appropriate, and that it would be incorrect to tighten up your calling to the level that these coaches or captains are employing.

Referees have one standard, the standard they use to determine if an action is a penalty or not. It is important for the referee to constantly refine and re-enforce that standard in their reffing as often as possible. As such, it's clear that they should use the same standard during practices as they do during bouts, to grade things using the same standard or threshold all the time. Ideally coaches will understand and agree with this standard, but that does not mean that it is the standard that they will use.

It is in the coach's best interest that their skaters never get penalties, are never even in danger of getting penalties. So, for instance, a forearm to the back that has no effect on the other skater will not meet the standard of the referees, they will not call anything. However, the standard held by the coach of what is an objectionable action may well have just been met, because this action puts their skater in a position to possibly draw a penalty, depending on the offended skater's reaction and depending on how strict the given referee is calling the game or how they see the action (all things out of the coach's control). So the coach will look to control what they can, and what they can control is their skaters, and they will want them to avoid being in that vulnerable position by never putting their forearm on a player's back at all, to avoid the possibility of a penalty by avoiding the action altogether.

It should be clear then that there are these different standards, it should be clear how they sync up, and the ways in which they can be out of sync. The point of this discussion then is not that every disagreement between coaches and referees, at practices or at bouts, is going to be the result of differing thresholds. It is not to insulate the referees from criticism in these situations, for to insulate referees from criticism is to protect them from improving, something we cannot do. I discuss this though because I have seen referees in many situations, where in drills or scrimmages, convince themselves that they must be missing calls because the coaches continue to yell at their skaters about their forearms or hands, and it is this concern that referees must insulate themselves from through a better understanding of these different thresholds.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year's

It's new year's, which means new content. I'm finished with the back-log of old game journals, so we can move on from there. Of course they'll continue to appear, but they won't be published for two or three months after the bout in question, gotta give people space and stuff, right?

So today's going to see the start of some new stuff, mostly discussions and things I personally believe about roller derby refereeing. The first thing is: I believe there should be an allowance for discretion. I know, shocking that I might believe that. Your thoughts comments are welcome. And you are welcome. And you're welcome.

Also, anyone that's following this space or whatever, sorry if you've gotten like a dozen notifications lately, some things have been getting messed up when I publish, so I keep having to pull posts down and re-post them. It frustrates me too.

Why Discretion is Necessary in Derby

In broad, general terms, most other competitive sports, specifically those with contact, maintain a base-line equality at all times by calling for a stop to play immediately when a penalty occurs. As we know though, in roller derby, play continues until two minutes have expired or something else has caused the jam to end, but only in extreme cases is that something else a penalty. By stopping play, penalizing a team or player and then re-starting play, the referees and the rules of the game maintain that base-line equality, so that rarely is a penalty by one player caused by another player's prior penalty. Why this is is clear, because following the initial penalty play is called off, allowing the offended player to recover however they want, without concern about also maintaining their position, motion or advantage, all of those concerns are put on hold as play stops. In roller derby however this very scenario, of one penalty causing a second illegal action, happens plenty. 

Consider the following scenario:
Player A back-blocking Player B hard enough to cause B to fall forward should result in a major to Player A. It can also easily result in Player B back-blocking Player C. 
In most other contact sports, the original penalty would've stopped play. Play being stopped Player B can stop worrying about penalties, position or advantage and can safely take a knee or make a controlled fall, perhaps even use her hands to steady both herself and Player C together. In derby though, play continues. Now there are two possibilities. One, a referee without discretion must disregard any circumstances and call things exactly as the rules state, which means player B could get a back-blocking penalty, possibly a major. Option two is a referee who considers the circumstances, sees that it was C's teammate A who caused B to back-block her and makes the call on A, the initial penalty, only, since it was not B's intent or fault that she back-blocked C, it was A's fault. It is these sort of dynamic and shifting situations and circumstances that demand the presence of, and proper application of, discretion in roller derby refereeing. Any referee who argues that they need not ever apply discretion, any skater that shudders at the idea of discretion, anybody who thinks that a memorization of the rules is enough for a referee  should consider this point.