Teeth: The final chapter

Sniper informs me it’s three years since she fell off an inflatable boat in Greece and took my two front teeth with her. 

This was them like… That night? Maybe the next day. 

She had pushed them back over (they went back into my mouth so I had to reach in with my fingers and pull them forward). My mouth filled with blood a few times over. The dentist later told me I had done the right thing, but would always have issues because I had cut some sort of important blood supply when I forced my teeth into place.

He said for the next three years I had to monitor them in case THEY TURNED GREY AND FELL OUT. Like you would miss that happening. 

ANYWAY. It’s been three years. My teeth still ache if I sleep on my front. They hurt when it’s cold. And they are slightly wonky now. But they’re still there. 

This incident is what turned me to refereeing. One month after I got home I had my first roller derby session as a newbie official. 

I don’t know what I’d be doing if that hadn’t happened, but right now I am doing pretty good. I’m the HR of a league I love, I’m training some fantastic referees and I’m the Head Ref of the God damn national team.

Honestly Snipes, even though I couldn’t eat solid food for three months, je ne regrette rien xx

In June I did…

So. I left CCR officially in May. In one month I have:

Refereed Team England tryouts: Northern Stage 1. Around 60 skaters from the UK tried out. We had a crew of eight. I was surprised by a few people. Two for very good reasons. One less so. Had a blast. Was pleased to see how good Ref Al Ghul has gotten since I last saw him.

Photo by John Hesse

Photo by John Hesse

Been asked to co-THR 4Nations with Becks. Awesome partnership there. So much fudge.

Been to two Gay Pride events with some skater buddies. Enjoyed drinking cider and talking about life after CCR.

Agreed to referee with one of my mentees down south. Looking forward to it.

Trained the CTB refs. Slowly getting through the plan. Seeing them coming on in leaps and bounds. Lots of feelings towards this. Mainly pride.

Been asked to co-THR BEARDi 2015 with Fu. Natch.

Reffed SWS practice. I love me that Welsh accent.

Went up north and refereed the men’s Brit Champs final. No big deal (it was bloody brilliant). THERE WAS ALMOST A FIGHT.

Agreed to present Ref School to another local league. Stoked. They seem super eager.

Had a ref buddy ask if I wanna go ref abroad again with him this year. This made me feel happy. Looking for opportunities now.

Refereed Team England tryouts: Central Stage 2. Saw the best skaters in the UK trying their hardest. Humbling experience really. We got a lot of praise for the officiating. John Hesse made us look like fucking superheroes in his photos:

Photo by John Hesse

Photo by John Hesse

FINISHED WRITING REF SCHOOL. WOOT WOOT. <3 This is possibly my greatest achievement in my refereeing career. Possibly. We’ll see if everyone laughs at it… So far I have had messaged from Belgium, America and “Europe” (WordPress being super helpful with details as per) saying they’re implementing the plan. Also a few leagues in the UK who have said they like it and will be using it.

One person tried to insult me by calling Ref School “swanky”. One of the nicest insults ever.

So, I didn’t think I had done much to blog about this month. Maybe I was wrong.

I am loving derby at the moment. I really am. This has been a good month.

Allow me to introduce you to… Ref School

This plan came to be when I was made aware that a lot of leagues want to help their baby refs but don’t know where to start. In the name of sharing best practices, furthering the wealth of roller derby refereeing and generally being a good egg… I wrote this plan.

All info has been taken from WFTDA, MRDA and other reliable sources and compiled by Von Sleaze with help, input and contributions from Orla Skew, Duncan Disorderly, stubble entendre and Rev Riot.

Special thanks to Orla Skew and Duncan Disorderly who have copy-edited and fact-checked all my work, and donated their time to this project so generously.

This is not meant as an exhaustive plan, but a guide to make sure newer referees are taught everything they need to know to start out in roller derby.


Ref School

Who, what, when, where and how?
Ref school is for newer refs. It goes through everything in the rules and includes some guidance on whistle-blowing, confidence and personal development plans.

It is a 12-week programme and will require someone to teach sessions. It is best run with one or two head coaches and support from others. If your league has a HR, ask them to be involved.

I suggest a mentor system and further training plans – these are an ideal but certainly not a necessity if your league can’t support this.

The sessions are best run in tandem with your league’s training, with “classroom” style training for an hour and then the chance to watch/officiate scrimmage afterward. The sessions are written with this time frame in mind unless stated in the weekly plans.

The weekly sessions are broken down into a step-by-step guide and links to help. I would suggest sharing the links and others you find with the newbie refs and encouraging conversation and learning throughout.

Skating skills:
It is advisable that referees complete the WFTDA min skills with a roller derby league. This gives a referee the chance to learn a variety of skating skills, stops, starts and how to withstand the occasional tap (and of course time to bond with a team).

However not all of the skills are necessary for refereeing, here is a breakdown of the skills a ref should learn in min skills: http://bit.ly/ref_min_skills

Ref school is a structured 12 week plan: http://bit.ly/12week_plan

This should be completed in full. Each week is important so if a session is to be missed, this should be raised before the induction of the training and should be caught up at the earliest opportunity.

The sessions are not all the same length – some are longer because they’re full of facts that won’t need much explanation, others will open up a fair amount of discussion. Pre-read the session before teaching it so you know what session you have ahead of you.

The broken-down plans can be found here:


Some of the sessions refer to these bloody useful sheets written by Orla Skew (aka Zebra Skew: zebraskew.tumblr.com/). They break down reffing positions and explain where to be, what to look for and how to prep:


All sessions can be paired with drills, I haven’t stipulated what drills on all sessions, only the ones where a certain drill is really needed. To help you compose your lessons I have compiled some good drills I have used in the past to help give you some inspiration: http://bit.ly/ref_school_suggested_drills

Further sessions and keeping it fun:
If you have the manpower, include additional extra-curricular meet ups to discuss things in more detail or go over things that didn’t stick first time round.
Use this as a team-building exercise outside of normal training times. I’d highly recommend doing this a couple of times if you can.

I would also recommend doing something purely for fun i.e organise headshots of everyone in stripes or take a trip to watch a game together.

Levels of refereeing:
Completing this course will not necessarily make you a game-ready referee. Your HR and coaches will be in a better position to address your suitability for games.

To help with this grading of referees, here is a guide you may wish to use/adapt at your league: http://bit.ly/ref_levels

There is also advice in there for leagues looking at when to progress their referees and when to look into certification.

Continued support:
Refereeing can be a lonely venture – please offer additional support to keep your zebras interested.

I recommend offering a mentor to newer refs from within your ref crew, someone else for them to talk to aside from the course tutor. If this isn’t possible, consider speaking to other local ref crews, or skaters within your league. This will help the new refs to network.

Advise the newer refs to log their learning somehow (googledoc, diary etc) so they can see their progression and pinpoint any sticking points in their learning.

Once your refs have completed their 12-week plan, ask them to think about their future and work on a development plan with them – see here for more details on this doc: http://bit.ly/ref_school_development_plan

Consider looking at training yourself in giving feedback and constructive criticism too – you will be asked to give it, so best to prepare yourself so it’s a positive experience for everyone.

So… that’s it. All I can say now is GOOD LUCK!

If you have any questions about the plan, contact me here or on: vonsleaze@gmail.com

Any questions about the rules, ref training, ref certification or other should be sent to WFTDA directly: wftda.com/contact


Six months and counting: Ref School is nearly ready

A while ago I said it would take me 21 weeks to create a 12 week plan. It took three weeks to write the initial plan. I estimated 16 weeks to deliver it (due to the league bouting four times during the period). Then additional time for re-writes and tightening up.


Six months later and it’s almost finished.

I started out thinking I’ll just write these notes and people can use them to create sessions and that will be FINE and everyone will be HAPPY, and I can just hand it over NO WORRIES.

But then I had leagues with no HR get in touch asking about it. Leagues that dont already have the knowledge in place so a nudge in the right direction wouldn’t suffice. So I started re-writing the notes I had written. I added in links. I explained everything. I gave advice on drills to do, things to watch on YouTube and tried to remove as much of my Sleazeness from the pages as possible. (Difficult)

They grew from one side of A4 per week to around five pages. With additional supporting docs.

I had to pester people to read and give me advice. I roped in Duncan Disorderly and Skew on a semi regular basis to check what I was saying wasn’t made up (sometimes it was… I’m not even surprised by this). They have been so bloody insightful and helpful.

I got my lovely newbies at CTB to read the sessions to check they make sense to someone who is fresh to the info. It does. I’m amazed.

I am up to Week Ten with the CTB trainees. Don’t ask why it’s taken nearly five months to complete nine weeks of training… it’s been… interesting. Shall we say. Turns out I can’t always make Sundays, and finding someone else to fill in has been a task. But the newbies have been spectacular. They’re really testing my knowledge and I adore it.


I’ll be starting Ref School with another local league within the next few weeks. I’m stoked people want to use my hard work to better their officiating crew. It’s a lovely feeling.

I’m going to share all of it here when it’s all shiny and ready. I’d love to get feedback from people when they use it. If you take it up please drop me a note to make my day: vonsleaze@gmail.com

*rolls up sleeves and carries on making final tweaks*