Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Voice Training

One of the worst things that can happen to a ref is to lose their voice. Of course it is important to have the skaters be able to hear you, and in a bout filled with screaming fans, screaming skaters, blaring music and other various distractions, a referee often has to resort to yelling. However, there are some tricks to this that can immensely help you not only be heard, but avoid permanently injuring yourself or your voice. These things are only basics, and it is advised that you seek out more informative or in-depth sources, which can be found in resources for professional singers or stage performers.

  • Speak from your diaphragm. This will create a lower pitched voice that not only travels better, but also can be louder without hurting your vocal chords. It should feel like you're speaking out of your chest or stomach, instead of your throat, mouth or head.

  • Warm up! The first thing you say during a bout night shouldn't be a penalty, practice getting louder as you warm up skating, slowly getting louder and louder so that your vocal chords aren't suddenly stressed.

  • Avoid caffeine, drink water. Obviously some caffeine is fine, but caffeine can dehydrate your vocal chords and as with any muscle, dehydration leads to strain. Drink water before the bout as you warm up and during the bout. Even if you don't think you need it, this will keep your vocal chords hydrated and less likely to be hurt.

  • Whistle. Remember that for a fourth minor or a major you should be whistling. Don't just whistle once and then resort to yelling, always alternate: whistle, yell, whistle, yell. A skater should be attuned to listen for a whistle, and this means you shouldn't have to scream at the top of your lungs, since she's already paying attention and making eye contact with you, seeing your hand signals.

Also, I posted them separate, so I'll mention it so no one misses it, we've got a new feature, and the first post was posted like five minutes ago. It's Recommended Reading. Check it out below!

Recommended Reading: The Birth of a Uniform

Hey Everyone, sorry it's been a while, but I'm introducing a new feature to make up for it, Recommended Reading! Some will be short articles, some will be books. All will be relevant, not all will be directly about reffing. Most will be. I own books written by referees, so there's where I'm at.

Anyway, this time around I want to forward on an article Madison Referee Maxx Chaos pointed me to. You think Roller Derby is so punk rock, huh? Way cooler and more bad-ass than, say, football. Football is uptight, yeah? And roller derby is underground and irreverent! Football is for the squares and wheels are anything but square, right? Well answer me this, you rebel, when was the last time you planned to steal from a restaurant just so you could referee correctly?

The Write Referee discusses the history of putting together a referee's outfit and equipment in the days before the internet. It's a good little read. An easy start.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Flock Theory

A High Level Approach to Anticipating Behavior

Flock Theory started as an attempt to re-describe the legally defined pack, it has become a tool for referees to use to anticipate certain calls, calls that are often the hardest to make and need to be made the quickest. Before I go further though I need to restate that it is imperative that you never make a call before something happens, this is only to help you see something when it does happen.

As in a flock of birds, skaters within a pack should exhibit some basic tendencies. There are certain spots that they are largely always trying to gain or maintain. Likewise there are positions that they are trying to get away from or out of. You should already be familiar with these positions, if you are not, I would suggest you learn more about the different positions, because it is necessary that you understand the basics of pack behavior before moving on. Once you understand these positions and their value to the skaters, then it is easy to advance to the point of anticipation. Yes, I said anticipation.

For instance, we know that the inside line, especially the inside line in the front of the pack, is a valuable position to pack skaters. So, if we see a skater or a group of skaters abandon this position, we should anticipate that something is about to happen, they are abandoning pack behavior, it is likely that the basic pack should be affected by this move. Say that we have one skater abandon this position, she is likely chasing the jammer. We can then immediately begin watching both the position of the front of the pack and start judging where 20 feet is from that front. Again, we're not going to penalize the blocker unless she commits a penalty, but as we're all aware of how fast the front of the pack can change, being on top of it can improve your calling immensely.

Similarly, let's imagine that a group of blockers abandon the front of the pack and start to skate out in front of the pack, there are two things we should be watching for here. First, are they moving together? Are they creating, in their way, a smaller pack all with the same goal? If so, look back and decide if this group is going to leave the pack, or in fact cause a split pack, be ready to make that call when it happens! Maybe though they are not all acting the same, not splitting the pack, but in fact stretching the pack out, this too you should be prepared to see in this instance, because it is something that often looks like there is no pack, or that they are 30 feet from the pack, when in fact they are still within the pack. An educated ref who is prepared for this situation will anticipate the move and apply penalties (or not) as appropriate.

This leap, from reaction to anticipation, is an easy one to make conceptually but a difficult one to make in practice. Make sure that you are constantly watching the behavior of skaters during practices or scrimmages, and never forget to keep watching for all the other penalties. As is always the case with reffing, it will take a long time, but with constant work, it will eventually come naturally.