Reasons to love Ref School

  • It gives me the chance to successfully talk a group of adults into leaving a room and hiding when two people go for a toilet break.
  • I get to throw sweets at people for knowing a hand signal.
  • People give the teacher apples. This really happened. It was mint.
  • The students can sometimes amaze you.

So I did the whole “tell me when I’m 10 foot away from you” drill with the trainee refs.

First one up stared intently at me and then shouted STOP. This is how far away I was:

tapemeasure

Argh. SO PROUD.

We have reached Week Five. We have looked at the difference between contact and non-contact penalties. How to blow a whistle. The hierarchy of calls. Blocking and counter-blocking. Initiation – established/temporary position/trajectory. Hand signals and verbal cues. Multiple-player blocking. Track cuts. Blocking with the head. High blocking. OPR rotation. That’s a fair amount in only five sessions. 

The next session is 5th December. I won’t be around as I’m THR at BEARDi, so Kickard is taking it for me (it’s his birthday too!). So I got to end our session, on 14th November, with Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

The next session will be Week Six. Half-way through the 12 week course. Crazy talk. THEY’RE GROWING UP SO FAST!

Real. Strong. Athletic. Revolutionary.

I have sold out. I can’t believe I’m about to say this… but I have taken a role within WFTDA OffCom.

glasses

Before you hiss and back away, let me tell you about the new ad hoc panel they have started, and why I am mother flipping chairing it.

  1. It’s about Diversity and Inclusion. WHICH I LOVE.
  2. It will look to give a voice to under-represented groups. WHICH IS A GOOD THING.
  3. It will work directly to OffCom, looking at suggestions and ideas, testing them for durability and then putting the best ones forward. WHICH IS USEFUL.

Ok ok ok. Yes it’s WORTHY, but can I just point out how much we bloody need something like this.

I shared my “action plan” (see below… I laboured over this for far far too long), and had someone compare it to “men telling women how to not be assaulted”.

Such a strong reaction to someone trying to make positive changes really makes you think doesn’t it?

Add in to that that this was in a female officiating group – and nearly as many people liked that comment as liked my post – and you know there is an issue.

At first I was like *sigh* THIS IS DRAINING THE LIFE OUT OF MEEEEEEEEEE.

Then I spoke to Mat who said “well that just proves how much it’s needed”.

ron_swanson

He’s a good lad isn’t he?

Thing is, he’s right.

If the people you’re trying to help (I’m part of that group too remember) assume your hard work is tokenistic and well-meaning-but-ultimately-doomed, then you know you need to do the thing and try and help, because things are not rainbows and kittens at the moment.

So I was like YES I NEED TO DO THIS.

I ended up doing this because… and this may shock you to read… I complained about things so much that they were like OK GO AND FIX IT THEN. And I was like:

taylor-swift-dancing-1

Thing is. I have many reasons for wanting to do this:

  • I have a lot of feels about a lot of situations and I finally have people that will listen to me.
  • I’m also off skates now so I have time to take things like this on.
  • I am annoyed that I couldn’t see myself going any further than I did when I had the chance.

I came to refereeing as “a fun thing” originally. Naturally I ended up wanting to make it to the top, like I always do. I decided to go for referee certification. I put in a lot of work, time and money. I reached Level 2 – something I’m very proud of.

But in my time in certification, I realised that it’s unlikely that I would be able to progress any further – regardless as to my skills, holiday allowance and money.

This is because the systems in place – created with good intentions – are no longer fit for the job.

Our sport has grown. Interest in refereeing has grown. We have people wanting to reach the top of officiating that were never even considered when the structures were put in place to rank referees. That’s no one’s fault. However it’s everyone’s shame that those structures are now silos, stopping us from moving forward. Stopping us from opening doors to everyone that is willing to put in the effort to stand up and be counted.

In my opinion some people have being skipped-over when others have been progressed far beyond their abilities. I see patterns in these groups. I know others see these patterns.

I see people willing to admit things aren’t right, but I don’t see anyone able to dedicate time to making changes.

So… I offered my time to do it.

I’m coming from the angle of a European female. I have experienced being held back. I have seen others like me being held back. And because of those experiences, I can’t not do this.

I can’t leave roller derby having trained so many amazing women to referee… knowing that they won’t progress higher than I did.

They have so much potential, far more than I have, and I can’t knowingly leave them to battle harder than anyone else and only make it halfway up the road. The feminist in me would rather remove them from derby and teach them badminton than let that happen. BADMINTON. See how serious I am here?

I feel like their mother – I want them to have the opportunity to go as far as they want. But the evidence says those opportunities are not there for them at the moment:

At Level 5 we have… 13 males. 0 females.
Level 4 we have 18 refs. 1 female.
Level 3 there are 56 refs, 12 of them are females.

Which… isn’t… great. Is it Beyonce?

tooooo-happy

Out of all of those, there is one European female: Cherry Fury.

Now, have you seen Cherry Fury referee? HAVE YOU? THEN YOU HAVE EXPERIENCED TRUE BEAUTY AND YOU ARE LUCKY.

*cough* Do you think she is anything less than a Level 5? No? Good, we’re agreed.

*deletes rant about this whole sorry situation* *takes deep breath* *gets angry again*

I used to laugh when people answered my question of: “What do you need to do to be a Level 5 referee?” with “Be a white American male with a beard”. But similar to this article in the Guardian which shows that there are more men named John leading FTSE firms than the are women (not women named John, just women at all), it’s not a laughing matter.

And it’s not just about women.

I have my experiences. You have yours. I can’t talk about yours without talking to you. But I want to talk to you. I want to know what this is like for you. And I want to work to help fix that situation. I want to make sure we get together as diverse as possible a panel to speak for everyone in officiating.

I want to pull together a panel of people that know more than I do, that are as fierce about fixing things as I am.

I want to see more balance.

I want people to look at all levels of refereeing and see themselves reflected back. All genders, nationalities, ages, sexualities… I want the people you see to be an accurate representation of the community they come from.

I know we’re not all white American males with beards. I know some of you are. We need those beardy-blokes too. They’re part of our community. But they’re a part of it. They’re not all of it.

WFTDA has a brilliant slogan, it aims to be: Real. Strong. Athletic. Revolutionary.

I think we should take that last bit seriously. I think we need a revolution.

My call to action (please share!):


I am in the process of working with WFTDA OffCom to create a Diversity and Inclusion panel – with the bold aim of increasing the opportunities and visibility of the under-represented members of our community.

We are seeking to broaden representation in terms of race, national origin/geography, gender identity, class and other groups and communities, recognising that OffCom leadership has not always represented the breadth of diversity in WFTDA officiating.

It’s my belief that diversity is important in order to appreciate and value the difference in people, and the remarkable contribution we can make when we work together.

I also believe that issues can’t just be fixed by wishful thinking and hoping… I hope that others share this belief and will work with me to make positive changes.

My aims are:
· To create a panel that better represents the diversity of our community, and gives more of a voice to the groups that are currently under-represented.
· To provide a destination for WFTDA officials and team representatives to send their ideas and suggestions surrounding D&I.
· To encourage and support changes at grass roots levels, providing a healthier start for people within officiating.
· To encourage and support changes throughout officiating to enable those under-represented groups to move up in areas where they have not had equal opportunity to do so.

Yes. It is a big task. And that’s why I need help.

The panel will sit within OffCom, and as such is only open to certified officials and WFTDA official reps.

The panel will be appointed and volunteer based at the start, will sit under OffCom elect leadership and serve as advisor to OffCom leadership.
Structure will be based on successful models already in action within WFTDA panels, but suggestions and feedback on this will be listened to.

So! I need your help to put me in touch with the people you think most fit the bill for this. Whether as potential panel members or simply as people willing to contribute at the start in order to make this the best it can be.

I’m open to all your contacts, so please send them my way. Or if this sounds like something you would like to do, please get in touch. I can be contacted on: vonsleaze@gmail.com

I really appreciate your support in this, and hope to make some positive changes with your help.


Finally I just want to say thank you to those at the top that messaged me to tell me to keep fighting. The ones who listened to my suggestions about changes and rather than saying they didn’t want to rock the boat, they said “Yes please!”

The ones that even went so far as to offer me a place to work on Diversity and Inclusion.

Thank you for telling me to ignore the haters and instead stun them into silence them with the job I do.

If you didn’t live so far away I would totally paw your faces off. Thank you.

haters_gonna_hate

 

This is a thing that is happening now

I’m off skates.

People keep saying “oh you’ll just be off for six months and then everything will be fine and you can come back”, but that’s like telling me I WILL want babies one day… It doesn’t make me feel all happy inside like you think it does. And since shouting “SHUT UP YOU DON’T KNOW ME” isn’t seen as polite, I thought I would put my thoughts down in my blog so I can just shout “READ MY BLOG” and run away instead.

Over a year ago I injured myself in the gym. I overdid it on the ol’ ankle raise and this happened:

massive_ankle

Sexy innit? I didn’t even notice it at the time.

I carried on at the gym. I drove my car to Wales. I reffed a tournament. When I took my skate off I couldn’t put my foot down. I then had to drive home. THAT HURT.

I went to the physio who laughed at the fact I hadn’t realised my ankle was quite obviously injured. I had a few weeks of sick-inducing physio and he advised me to tape it up and leave it til it got better.

I went easy on it, but it kept swelling up. When it was hurting it would give me stabbing pains in my outer ankle and in my knee.

The physio said it was something that had been coming for a long time; and other pains I’d had around my ankle and knee are all tied in. These are pains I had been having for about five years – pains that impacted on my skating back when I was with Newcastle Roller Girls. He said I couldn’t have done anything to prevent it and to try to not get upset.

But then three months ago this happened:

foot_bandaged_up

I skated at MEC 2015 for a full weekend, took my skate off and couldn’t put my foot down again. I had stabbing pains in the bottom of my foot, at the side, and up my leg.

Physio said once again: “This has been a long time coming.” Said it’s to do with how my foot pronates when I walk. Said the weird pains I used to complain about as a teenager were actually the onset of it and it’s been waiting to happen since then really. Once again not a lot I could have done bar foot-strengthening exercises… but no one told me they were a thing.

I have always tried to be good with footwear. I don’t wear heels often. I do however cram my feet into shoes that are too small. Something Blockerbye Baby and Dr Knock know all too well – being just one size smaller than me in shoes they get a lot of my purchases handed to them after two wears and me going DAMMIT I’VE DONE IT AGAIN. I am avoiding acknowledging that this may have had an impact.

The problem is the stabbing pain I got after MEC is something I have had on and off for years. It might be plantar fasciitis, or it might be because my foot roles in and the muscles underneath have started to torque. The physio isn’t too sure. What they are sure about is that suffering from it for three months is a bit bloody excessive.

I have been to a podiatrist. I have spent nearly £300 on checks, custom orthotics and guidance. I’m not convinced it’s helped. The pain is now pretty much constant – but hurts less than it did.

I have seen two physios and an osteopath. They have prodded, bandaged, given me stretches and exercises. They have pushed, pulled, iced and strapped me. At times it helps, at times I think it’s making things worse.

I have daily exercises, stretches and an icing regime. The icing makes it feel worse. The stretching feels like something is going to snap. The exercises are frustrating because I can’t do them.

But I do it all. Regardless. I do “everything” I am told to do to make it better.

The one piece of advice all of them gave me that I refused to listen to? STOP. SKATING.

I refused to listen because I didn’t want to give in. I feel I am finally in a position where I can DO SOMETHING.

I felt… frustrated. Now was not the time to leave roller derby. Not when I could make a difference.

I had lots of conversations with lots of people. I wrote lists of pros and cons of staying in derby, injury aside. The biggest pro? I get to see people I like. The biggest con? I have to see the people I don’t.

I thought about the derby drama. The teams I have been with, the people who I loved, and those who made the lives of those around them a misery. The affairs, the break ups, the way humans act when they’re near each other for too long. I thought about it all and I was secretly glad for an opportunity to take a step back from it.

I talked to people who have left derby and people who returned after injury.. and I realised that actually, while I was doing all of this, I had already made my mind up: I was definitely stopping skating.

My time participating on skates in this sport is up.

But, and this is something I am now able to realise, my time making positive changes is not.

I am going to use my new found time really dealing with the issues I have faced in roller derby and trying to fix those problems for those that follow in my footsteps. I have agreed to do some work within OffCom with WFTDA, helping to bring diversity and inclusion to the ranks of officiating. I hope it will make a difference. I am still going to continue teaching Ref School to all the up and coming talent; mentoring, teaching, passing on my experiences and knowledge.

All of this is what these years in roller derby were building up to.

This will be the part of my roller derby career to have the most positive impact, the part I’m most proud of. And given everything that has come before, this is a fucking exciting time.