Nine years is a good amount of time

It’s finally getting to that time. I’m ready to wind-down and say goodbye to roller derby.

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TO BE FAIR, I’ve been doing it for like forever. I started skating in September 2007, I took up refereeing in July 2012. That’s nine years.

The start of the end was in July 2015 when I stopped skating for about 6 weeks to let my ankle heal… and it didn’t. So after putting on skates for a single England training session in September 2015, I took my Antiks off for the last time; cleaned them, put them in my North Face bag, and put them to the back of the wardrobe.

It’s been a weird nine months being off skates. People asking when I’m reffing next, saying they haven’t seen my name pop up for a while… am I ok? But I’ve really enjoyed having the time to take stock, and really look at what this sport means to me, and what I still have to give.

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I’ve continued being involved in the ways I can be. I am still England’s Head Referee, I told them I was off skates and they said they still wanted me. They have continued to test my knowledge, and have wound me up and made me laugh in equal measure.

I have only recently handed over Head Referee status at Crash Test Brummies (to two of my Ref School graduates no less *beams with pride*).

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I have being off-skates Tournament Head Referee at 4Nations, BEARDi and England Sevens, which I loved. I’ve learnt how to sensitively expel skaters. I’ve learnt that I can opt for informal conversations when needed. I’ve given feedback to referees that have years of experience over me and I have been amazed at how few people actually ask for feedback on their refereeing.

I have taught some amazing up-and-coming new refs with the Blitz Dames, I’ve talked about Increasing Cohesion at UKROC, and I have benched a team at the Louisey Rider Cup.

I have tried to stay engaged with the sport, but I have felt my love for it slipping away and being replaced by a desire to do something else with my time.

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So with that in mind I have agreed to work with the Welsh Women’s Aid. Spending my spare hours writing for them rather than writing references for officials. Planning social media strategy for their campaigns instead of writing Captains’ meeting notes.

Women’s charities are very close to my heart. Being a survivor of domestic abuse and violence, I am proud of myself for what I have achieved, and particularly now that I feel confident enough to use my professional skills to help others in that shitty position.

I know my time in derby has contributed massively to this self assurance. Not just because my skater buddies housed me during the bad times (Thanks Kalamity, Fritha, Sniper) and helped me get my life back in order (Thanks Boxall, Brie, Gin, Marie and all the Newcastle Roller Girls), but because I learnt that skaters never leave a girl behind. I learnt how to be myself again, and I have learnt to pay-it-forward ever since.

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I told the WWA about my blog post about sexual harassment (and the positive messages I received after writing it) as an example of my passion for making things better in the communities that I live in.

That passion is why I pushed so hard for the Diversity and Inclusion panel within OffCom. I’m sorry to see that it hasn’t done the work I had hoped it would have achieved already, but sometimes things don’t work out the way you planned. However the ball has started to roll, and I know there are some great minds sitting on that panel, all ready and willing to give it some momentum – with or without me. And that’s a good situation to be in.

So. What next?

I’ll be finishing off the year with a few more tournaments:

  • Men’s European Cup. I’ll be co-THR with Miss Trial; someone I have looked up to for a long time. MEC takes place in Newcastle, the place where I took up refereeing. It is my derby-home and the event will always be an important one for me and Mat.
  • The Gauntlet. I managed to get this far in my career without doing a Sur5al, so of course I get dragged into doing one the moment I say I’m quitting. I’ll be co-THR with my ref pal Bryn – Tre Cruel. We were roomies in Dallas and he has supported me a lot during my time on skates, so doing something with him seems appropriate before I finish.
  • BEARDi. Of Course. I’ll be handing over the reigns to Roisin and Minx, the new co-HRs at the Crash Test Brummies as I teach them their final Sleaze-lesson: How to deal with the crazy shit a tournament throws at you. And this gives me a chance to say a fond farewell to the league that let me HR them for a huge chunk of my reffing career.

I’m also getting chance to say goodbye to my teaching side – I’ve been booked to travel to Ljubljana, Slovenia, to teach some new referees in September, and in the run up to that I am going to update Ref School to include the new verbal cues, so I can leave it ready and relevant for anyone who wants to use it going forward.

I’m hopeful that during these next few months I will get the chance to say goodbye to the officials I have loved working with and the skaters I used to share a track with.

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If I don’t get chance to say goodbye to you, please know that I have loved *almost* every second of my time in derby. (Big shout out to all the pricks that made me stop loving this sport – you know who you are!)

I have met a lot of wonderful people over the last nine years and I have fallen in love with more than my fair share of them. And I’m thankful for that.

I’m stepping down, I’m not dying, so, you know, don’t be a stranger. x

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