Where is mid-thigh on an alligator?

Yesterday was the second session of Ref School with the Birmingham Blitz.

This is the session where everyone has to bring in a drawing (or print off for the artistically uncoordinated) of an animal, coloured in to show the legal target and blocking zones.

It is brilliant because it gives me the opportunity to ask a class full of adults if the “legal blocking zones shown on this bear” are correct.


They were.

Most of the drawings were bang on. We had a discussion about where the mid-thigh point is on an alligator. That’s the important stuff I put into Ref School. I can’t believe other leagues are using this across the globe. I almost feel like I should issue an apology.

Thing is, doing this may seem daft, but it’s useful because it gets new refs thinking about different body shapes, not just looking at that androgynous outline in the WFTDA rulebook and thinking in a black and white *THIS IS WHERE YOU CAN HIT, THIS IS WHERE YOU CAN BE HIT* way. It makes you consider torso lengths, long limbs and whether you can give a whip with a tail (jokes).

We spent more time than the plan suggested talking about the pack. Acted it out in the room, discussed engagement zones and the varying P penalties that you can get for nonesense within the pack. Bar one person who is pretty fresh to roller derby, this group seems really ON IT. They ask really good questions, answer things for eachother and some of them even read ahead on the syllabus.

Even that one newer person was like AH YEAH, I GET IT NOW. This shit took me MONTHS to understand.

I’m taking it as a compliment that I can teach it to people faster than I picked it up myself. Next week we’re talking blocking and counter-blocking. I might let them hit me.


Week One, take two

This is my third year of refereeing. This is the year I said I would give back and spend more time teaching. My first year was for fun. My second year was to take it seriously. My third year to pass on all the info I know and do positive things.

This weekend I started the second round of Ref School. I am amazed by how well it has been recieved across the world. I put it out there for people to maybe pick bits from, hopefully a league on the outskirts would take it up as a helpful guide. But I’ve had messages from leagues across the UK, Europe and even America – where I thought they would have LOADS of resources like this – saying how they’re part-way through and loving it. It’s so far been the best thing I have done within roller derby. I’m very proud of it.

The Birmingham Blitz Dames were interested in it, and as a league that I am pally with (they’re close to where I live and are the league that most people who leave Central City (my old league) end up joining, so I have a lot of friends there). They asked if I would help teach the course and I said yes. They offered to do the advertising and any other stuff I needed. They really are a nice bunch of lasses.

I turned up to the first session to a handful of refs looking shy, sat on bleachers watching the skaters practicing and thought *ahhhh* how cute are refs?

I got some help setting up the room they booked for the first session and watched as my eager helper set out over 20 chairs. I thought he was being really optimistic but didn’t want to interrupt him. I got the paperwork out, told people where we were and went to get myself in the zone.

In walked five people. Then another five, then another. This kept happening. The room filled and we had to bring in more chairs.


I’m not kidding – more people turned up after I took this photo.

My heart was racing and I was staring at my paperwork thinking THIS IS AMAZING, when I looked at my watch, realised we were two minutes past start time, and I said: “Shall we begin?”

The next hour and a half is a bit of a blur. Finding out why all of these lovely rookie refs were wanting to take up officiating. Sharing stories about being the only ref in sessions and hearing what it was like for them. Making everyone blow whistles out loud (I was the only person wearing ear plugs… I don’t even feel guilty about that). And then watching the scrim and talking about what penalties we saw, why things happened, and the importance of taking your time and taking a breath.

And then it was over. Week One. Done in two hours. I’ve done this before and I’ll do it again, but damn, I’ll always be surprised by how quickly that first session flies by.

Had some lovely compliments afterwards, spoke to a guy who has professionally played ice hockey and has wanted to be involved in roller derby for a few years. Really excited to work with this bunch. Can already see some shining stars in the rough.