This week began the first of my 12-week-training-plan test with the Brummies newbies.
I created the training outline for the Central City Rollergirls ref crew, but I’m testing it out with the Brummies because they have a huge influx of newbies who are happy to help *pushes them all over and rolls around on top of them*.
I decided to put it together because I know a lot of refs start out with their leagues not really knowing what to do. Sometimes they’re the only ref there and it’s just a crazy situation to expect anyone to progress in.
When I started there were expectations on me to be good. I had been skating for a few years. I had been a captain for nearly three years and a vice captain for two. I had coached and taught people to skate and play roller derby for about four of those five years. Like I said at the start of this blog, I did all of that while only ever having read the rules through once.
It’s amazing to me that people expected me to be anything other than what I was… a complete novice. Albeit one that could actually skate. I felt the pressure of my team mates to put on stripes and JUST BE GOOD AT IT ALREADY. They would be angry if I got calls wrong, they were upset with me when I smiled at a call I made because I had remembered what the verbal cue and handsignal were so was chuffed… because they felt I was mocking them. I struggled. But I had support.
When it came to my first game day I was lucky. I had plucked up the balls to tell my team mates that I couldn’t do this if they were smiling at me and trying to distract me. They agreed. One bought me a balloon and a card, and then spent the rest of the day blanking me. Afterwards I got so many hugs I nearly cried.
I was lucky. I know that. Some people have the same issues I did and drop out. Some people don’t even have mates on the team they try to learn to ref with and find it all completely humiliating and impossible to get over.
That’s why I like to train newbies. I want to show them where they can go for help. Talk about their fears, give them solutions and remind them that this is THEIR journey and they should god damn take their time with it.
One of the first things I say is that you need to go at your pace. Turning up and being the only pack ref and a jam ref for a team of shouting skaters when you’re not entirely sure what a multi-player block is is just BARKING MAD. Take every penalty one at a time and tell your team mates you’re doing it. Talk to the coaches. Say this session you’re doing OOPs. If you need longer, take a week. Take a month. Take your time. It’s your time. You get to decide when you’re ready, no one else. Then move to the next penalty, and the next one, and keep adding to your repertoire. Eventually, you’ll have tried them all. Some will be in your brain, some will have fallen out. But it’s important that you allowed yourself the time to get to know all of those verbal cues, handsignals and penalties. To do it any other way is to do yourself and your team a disservice. You are learning, allow yourself to learn.
So that’s why I created a 12 week plan. The aim is to create a structured environment to empower new refs. I look at things like how to blow whistles (trust me, it’s scary to attract all the attention to yourself by doing it… you need to practice that stuff), positioning, finding your voice, REF FACE, what we do, why we do it, penalties and all the joys they bring… and how to create your own development plan. Twelve weeks isn’t a comprehensive newbie to pro. Not in any arena. But it’s a bloody good starting point.
This week we did some team bonding. They don’t realise it yet, but we did. They were taken through the basics and told me why they want to learn to ref. They got to see the game from the inside of the track, and the lucky bastards got to listen to me talk at them for at least two hours.
When they’re done the training I’ll share the plan here. I don’t believe that leagues should keep things like this to themselves. I think refs deserve more than they currently get. I want to do everything I can to make that happen.
I want to point out I haven’t done this on my own. I have had help from stubble entendre and Skew (who is assisting me in administering the training) and Rev Riot who has been reading my plans and giving feedback along the way. You never stop needing support. And you’re never above asking for help and taking your time. My 12 week plan took about three weeks to write. It will take about 16 weeks to actually test, and a further two weeks to re-jig and finalise. And that’s fine, because it’s my time. And I’m taking it.