Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Situational Impact?

Something I've been considering lately is impact. After an exchange a couple of months ago with another referee I've wondered about how we judge impact. Is it just on the skater, or is it more contextual. Can the same action, with the same impact on the individual, have a variable impact on the game. Because it's the impact on the game we're supposed to assess penalties based on, not just the individual.

For example:
Jammer A exits the pack and gets positionally blocked by Opposing Blocker C, 23 feet out from the pack. This continues for about three seconds, but no contact is made, and the Jammer eventually scoots out to the outside and gets past her, reasonably unopposed.

Second Example:
Jammer A exits the pack three feet behind the Lead Jammer B and gets positionally blocked by Opposing Blocker C, 23 feet out from the pack. This continues for about three seconds, and while no contact is made, it extends the difference between Jammer A and Jammer B from 3 feet to 30'. As a result, Jammer B has considerably more time after she "hits it" before she has to "quit it". In a very close game, this could decide the result

So what say you? Did this same action, with the same duration, have differing impact because of the situation?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Recommended Reading: Better

What profession demands perfection every time? In what profession are they not only finding ways to do what they do better, but finding better ways to do what they do? Where is one mistake a potentially huge deal?

Well, turns out I'm very intentionally being vague enough to describe both surgery and refereeing.

Atul Gawande's book Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance was a great read, full of conversations about how one deals with stress, how one deals with failure, and how one pushes oneself to be better when others won't. He's talking about as a surgeon, I think there's a lot to learn about refereeing or, as is probably his point, about life in general. But focus on being a better ref, I don't care if you're a better person.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Referee Discount and Referee Bias

Wow, it's amazing how time gets away from you, isn't it? Luckily I now have a whole lot more of it.

On to the topic: The Ref Discount and Ref Bias

A couple of weeks ago I participated in an intense discussion regarding Code of Conducts, specifically the WFTDA Code of Conduct for Referees, required for certification. Let me be clear, no part of this post is intended as a criticism of this document, nor should it be construed as such. This is a publicly available document we should all be reading and signing, I want to discuss thoughts on how we follow it. Specifically one part, "[All WFTDA Referees Shall] Resist every temptation and outside pressure to use one’s position as an official to benefit oneself".

One topic that came up related to this was the common "Referee Discount". Gear is expensive. Travel and Lodging is expensiver. Any chance to reduce any of that, by even a sliver, is probably going to be lunged at and dog-piled on. Is that a problem? Is it a problem when it's specifically offered to you because you're a referee? Is this a violation of the Code of Conduct? We went back and forth, ultimately deciding that no, it wasn't. Gear and things like that were being offered to us not because of our position as Referees, but due to our more general involvement. If Rink Rats wore skates, they'd probably be offered wheel discounts also, it's one more person buying, it's one more person wearing and being seen wearing. So that's not such a concern.

Or is it? Something I've been considering since then is that, as always, we in Roller Derby find ourselves in a unique situation compared to other sports. We require some reasonably niche items AND we're highly invested in the DIY ethos that started this sport. As such, we probably patronize skater-owned companies more often than not. Skater owned companies make derby specific gear or won't look at you funny when you tell them what name you want on the back. Skater owned companies put money back into the sport. Skater owned companies are DIY. But Skater owned companies are owned by skaters. Sometimes operated solely by them. This issue, of the top suppliers also being current participants is unique to roller derby, and while it's fantastic for the sport, we should maybe consider how it could affect the perception of our job as referees.

If I'm offered a discount because I'm a referee by a skater operating their store, and the next day I referee that skater's team? And a fan who saw me get that discount sees me make what is a right no-call, but in their eyes is a wrong no-call on that skater. Was I biased? No, the call was right. Did I risk the integrity of the game by potentially appearing biased? Yeah, potentially.

So what's the solution? Discount gear is money saved, for a hobby that can cost us a lot and repay us little (monetarily speaking) that's important. But what's the point of doing it if we undermine the sport, what have we really saved then? Paying full price and/or third party dealers might be the options open to us. Or maybe there can't be a hard and fast rule. As the Code of Conduct is only a guide, and something we need to find ways to implement ourselves, we once again might be left to our best discretion.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I Didn't Come to Play (I Came to Ref)

I hate fun. It's true. Don't try to have it around me, and do not try and get me to have any.

Not when I'm reffing that is. Well, even that's not true. I actually enjoy reffing, it is fun for me. But I want to make a very important point: You can have fun without making fun. You can have fun, without being funny.

Here's my point: This isn't high school and we're not in the drama club (despite all evidence to the contrary). We're referees of a sport trying to drag itself into legitimacy, and a huge part of that hinges on referees being referees. There's so much history of this sport being illegitimate, of being a joke. I know, it's still Roller Derby, and that means you get to do whatever you want, freedom and power and blah blah blah. But so do fans, they can think whatever they want about the legitimacy of our sport, and they'll base it on what we do.

There's a lot of leeway we can exert on what makes a sport a sport and what makes it legitimate. A surprising amount. But one thing isn't arguable, it needs to be a competition. It needs to be a fair competition, judged on the merits laid out in the rules. Judged consistently and constantly and fairly. We'll shorthand that to "professionally".

And you are right, you can do all that and still act like a jack-ass, but who's going to know? There is an element to being professional that is outside how consistent, constant and fair you are, and it's how consistent, constant and fair you appear. If you are constantly adjusting your monocle, how can I reasonably believe you're watching the action all the time? How can I believe you've poured over the rules time and again when it looks like you spent more time on how you look than on how your hand signals look?

Now, that's not to say "Eliminate All Flair". Truth is there's some very bedazzled people out there that show up to do a job and clearly do it. People who, despite being very fancy, still exude the traits one wants to see in a referee in charge of a bout their team is participating in. I have to think though that this is because of the priorities they've placed, and the attention they focus on the game once it's at hand. That reffing came before the show. That reffing will always come before the show. That the sport, if it demanded they be less noticeable, would get it's way. These people are referees.

I mean yes, you are hilarious, of this there is ample evidence, but you could use that in so many, more appropriate, ways. Join an improv troupe, make some internet videos, make a robot out of soda cans, whatever.

Or maybe I'm just an old man.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Recommended Reading: Successful Sports Officiating

Start this next year of refereeing off right, read this book as soon as possible. It's been possibly the most important book I've read as a referee. From the approach you bring to reffing, to your attitude, to your style, to how you call things in different situations this book covers it all. I imagine it would also be valuable as a skater.

It's surprising, at first, how a book written about refereeing so many sports that are so different from derby relate so directly to our experiences. But the fact is, this stuff has all been figured out before, by so many others before us, and it's folly to think we need to do it all ourselves, or to eschew this advice because it's how other sports do something. When every sport, ever, has come to the same conclusions about how to handle something, signs point to that, possibly, just maybe, being a reasonably good approach.

Do yourself a real favor, check out this book.