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:

Ref school is a structured 12 week 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: 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:

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:

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:

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:

Any questions about the rules, ref training, ref certification or other should be sent to WFTDA directly:


Ref Cert: Staying within the lines

So this just happened: 

So bloody pleased. Even more so that I did it in tandem with my ref buddy stubble entendre. Well done champ. Well done.

It’s been a year since I applied for certification for the first time. When I did it, I wrote this blog:

I wanted to document the process because it wasn’t clear to me and there were things I was just expected to know. I have been told by others going through the process that they found that blog post really useful – so I’m writing one to show the things I have learnt in a year of being certified… about the process of certification.

Number 1: You have to wait a full year to apply to level up
I thought getting Level 1 was ace and within the year I would be able to gather the evidence needed to prove that I was at Level 2, go for it, and get it. I was wrong. Your certification lasts two years, but you need to hold your cert for one whole year before you can apply to level up.

You can also apply to level down… if after a year of being certified you decide the lower level is better for you, you can apply for this in the same way you would apply to level up.

Number 2: Letters of recommendation v Feedback
I didn’t know about feedback when I applied for Level 1.

Think of it like this: When you apply to be married the council have to display your intentions on a roster/board that people can view and raise any objections they have with it… e.g you’re not legally allowed to get married.

It’s similar to application for certification. You apply, they put a list including your name and what level you’re applying for on the WFTDA forum and all certified officials and WFTDA reps can access this and contact ref cert to say YEY or NAY (with evidence) to help with the decision on whether to give you what you’re asking for. This feedback is taken in email form and is only seen by the people who give out certification. It is not made public.

I didn’t know about this because I wasn’t on that forum (because I wasn’t certified), and no one else told me. You may not have known about it either, but now you do.

The thing with feedback is that it relies on people spotting your name and being driven to message in. I’m not confident enough to leave this kind of thing to chance so I opt for letters of recommendation.

As mentioned in my previous blog this isn’t just a free-for-all where you ask everyone to write in about how ace you are. It’s best if you pick say three people you have worked with recently who are already seen highly in the eyes of ref cert (made friends with a Level 5? You best be asking them to vouch for you!). This letter will hold the same weight as feedback from the WFTDA forum.

Ref cert accept letters of recommendation from anyone for any level. They do not add them to the certification checklist unless they are required for a person to apply at that level. I have been assured by ref cert that all feedback and letters sent in are read.

Number 3: Everything has an expiry date
But trying to pin down what bits and when is difficult.

However, these bits I do know: If you have passed a written test and a new one comes out, you have a grace period of a month before your old pass is null and void. That means you need to get your application in to ref cert to be considered asap. They only check them once a month remember, so don’t hang around.

If you do your skating skills and don’t apply to cert for ages, you should re do it within two years. It’s generally understood that you will do this skating skills assessment annually, but that’s more for your benefit to track your progress (to make sure you’re not slipping and to prove to yourself and others that you’re physically up to the task). But if you have it on file, ref cert will drop it off after two years.

Evals will purge after two years. Unless they are needed for any grievance procedures or similar. That’s actually pretty useful – you don’t want to be judged now on your ability to ref two years ago, right?

Number 4: Sometimes things change
So completely by accident I found out that the cut off date for applications changed. It’s now the 10th and not the 15th of each month.
The day you find out your results has changed too, it used to be the first day of the next month and now it’s from the 26th of that month onwards, with public announcements being made on 1st. More info on that and the FAQs here!

So if you’re one of those leave-it-til-the-last-minuters… DON’T. Because if you wait til the 14th to hand in your application, you’ve missed that month’s intake and you’ll be assessed in the next month.

Also there is no review in December… Everyone needs time off.

And last but not least… ref cert no longer use regional email addresses, just for everything now.

So that’s it from me – GOOD LUCK!

About referee certification:
Ref cert FAQs:
Previous blog post on ref certification:

As a last minute addition I was asked to join the Heartlands SE division and JR their double header in Hertfordshire. Ed drove. Top of the Pops 1998 CD in the car. YES.


Ok so it’s no secret that I don’t like JR. I find the counting stressful, I hate all the little intricate rules on things, I hate that people get pissy with you for not seeing other stuff when you’re just focussing on your jammer. But most recently, I have hated that it HURTS MY ANKLE SO BLOODY MUCH. I’ve sussed out where the tendinitis comes from – it’s from the plough position that I put my right foot in so often. I push out on it on corners when I JR, I stomp it down when I want to stop quickly, and I use it to slow me down when I’m going too fast. I use it a lot. That does however mean that I get horrible pains up the outside of my leg and at my ankle and skating stops being fun. Suggestion from stubble: Bend your legs more. ACTUALLY working. Damn him for being so clever.

I JR’d with Danger. Ed was the HR and the rest of the crew swapped around during the two games.

Things that didn’t work so well: The hall was crazily orange so I had to squint at times to focus. Also at one point I skated out to go to the loo, didn’t realise there was a dip on the otherside of the door and went arse-over-tit. That knacked. 

Things that did go well: The reffing. Seriously. It was the first time that I really enjoyed being the JR. There were some odd things and some textbook things… and I called all of them. I got the nod from Ed a few times when it was a confusing ending and I held up the same amount of points he counted too, and he said at the end he was happy with how I reffed. It felt good actually. It was just what I needed to boost my confidence before the Euros. 

Sent a message to Cherry afterward as part of the mentoring she does, explaining how I finally enjoyed a double header as the JR. She replied about how it can be a really comfortable position to be in so she will keep pushing me. I laughed and said I was a way off being comfortable so not to worry… she replied: “You’ll be comfortable long before you know you are”.

Touché Fury. 


This weekend saw the Skate Odyssey 2014 taking place in Gent, Belgium. I applied, was accepted, and skated on a crew with Riff Reff, Watze, Cherry Fury, Rollin Rat, Dirty Harry, Hoarse Whistler and Crew Head Ref Shref. BOOM. How sexual is that crew right there?


Drove over with Faze and Erin and played the truly inspired game of “Guess which penalties you don’t know” which has a theme song and everything. It’s the perfect way to make your friends hate you on a roadtrip.

I felt on the ball for most of the tournament, but there were moments when my idea of the OPR rotation was different to my fellow OPRs and we caught up to eachother… I just hate it when that happens.

This was my first tournament whilst trying to stick to a vegan diet. MIND BLOWN. Usually I would have protein snacks as well as veg and fruit, but without meat and dairy I’m struggling to balance the lower amount of calories with my active lifestyle. I’ve been compensating with bread and that’s making me have massive sugar crashes. So I got together the day before with Faze and made: Chia seed endurance crackers (boring on their own… might have been better with dip), crispy kale, salt and vinegar chickpeas (these stink your house out when you’re cooking them), pasta with a garlic, onion and tomato sauce with capers and olives (froze this so it travelled well and stayed cool in a cool box), and for the journey, a huge thing of middle eastern salad with a homemade dressing. Then we brought nuts, fruit, muesli and choc alpro milk. Crazy snacks. I bloody loved it. Then the venue sold vegan chilli. ERMAGERD. It was ace. 

I got chance to catch up with Shref, he tried to kill me in his car. And hung out with Nomi from MMR who was basically brought there against her will by M Dawg/Newton/Matthew and spent the weekend reading a book.


Rainy City Roller Girls Nidaros Roller Derby
Oslo Roller Derby Copenhagen Roller Derby
Nidaros Roller Derby London Rockin’ Rollers
Paris Rollergirls Kallio Rolling Rainbow
Kallio Rolling Rainbow Leeds Roller Dolls
Paris Rollergirls Nidaros Roller Derby

So… I got to give my favourite penalty of blocking a downed skater, found it weirdly liberating that the ref crew spoke to eachother and smiled during the games and got some compliments from folk when they were drunk as hell at the after party.

Oh and I had a mad dance-off with Twist. That man has the MOVES.


Imma go France next week and then Belgium a few weeks after because I LIKE DOING TOURNAMENTS.
It’s out there and now I can never take it back.

Tournaments test me in a way that I like. I miss out on the competitive side of skating. I make up for that by pushing myself to be the best that I can in refereeing. But turning up, meeting six people and being expected to gel with them instantly for an hour, to then skate away and maybe see them again at a bout in the future… it leaves me dissatisfied.

Tournament refereeing makes you form a bond. (hilarious typo there of “bong”.)
You’re stuck with these six (sometimes more) people and you have to work through your differences because you’re with them for at least two days. It’s like all the derby drama of being in a league condensed. But with about 90% less bull shit.

You over-share because it’s not a real environment for making friends. You bond over daft stuff, you help eachother out, you invariably see eachother in states of undress. It’s a really compressed version of normal events, and that’s why you find so many diamonds.

I wont lie. I also love the tired-beyond-wanting-to-cry feeling that you get with it. The “Oh jesus, what is that smell?”. The “Is Shref on your crew? DO. NOT. FALL. ASLEEP”. I love it all. I love pushing myself. I get to train hard in the run up to it, preparing my body like I used to as a skater.


Ok. I’m in love with tournament refereeing.

But Jesus, have you seen how hot the crews are these days. Can you blame me?

Derby Does Dallas

Two years, two months and two weeks after I took part in my first ever roller derby bout as a referee, I will be part of the officials crew at the Women’s Roller Derby World Cup in Texas.

Words cannot do justice to the feels this is making me have. Two world cups in one year. I fear I may have peaked.

Thank you to everyone who has helped me. You know who you are and you know I love you.

To anyone who would like to help me get to Dallas, I’ll be doing a series of ridiculous fundraising events in the run up to it… donations would be most welcome and will be split between me, Metal Ed and Rollin Rat – my CCR ref buddies who got a place too:

Two weeks to go

It’s only two weeks til the World Cup and I’m starting to brick it.

I am not running at 100% at the moment.

I got ill on holiday and spent three days in bed with a fever. After that I had an illness hangover of feeling shaky and having what was basically a bad head cold. I had a solid week off any exercise and then tried to go back to the gym… Managed about two days and was wiped out by a water infection.

Cue me eating jam on toast none stop as the only food I can handle… I’ve put on weight and feel like even walking upstairs is a chore.

Training Baby has been harder work than normal – I’ve had to have my iPad with me all the time to check her rules questions because my brain is failing to give me the information.

So. Two weeks to go and my brain and fitness is failing me. NOT THRILLED.

Training Baby

At the moment I’m heading up the training of a new ref at the CCR. Blockerbye Baby is one of the skaters there who is taking some time out to try refereeing. I like her, she is a girl and that’s all I need to offer all my time to help someone progress.

She’s been training with me for a few weeks now, but last night’s session was so good I wanted to write about it here.
We usually train at the CCR Thursday sessions but Baby has been making use of the Crash Test Brummies Sundays to get extra practice in and do more of the shadowing work we’ve had her doing at CCR. I was going to Bristol after work so decided since it was on the way, I’d drop in for an hour and join her.

We worked on finding her voice – something I struggled with when I started. Yes, I’m aware I’m a gobby cow, but something about seeing a call and then having to vocalise it LOUDLY without seeming angry and in a certain order (colour, number, penalty, major) was really tough for me.

Firstly we skated round and warmed up by me giving a verbal cue and her doing the hand signal, then I skated OPR with her IPR and I gave hand signals from the other side of the skaters doing drills and she shouted the verbal cue back to me. Then during ten minutes of hell (the skaters do laps for one minute and then core strengthening exercises for one minute… Running for ten minutes total) we told the lads what we were doing and agreed that I would say a random skater and random penalty then Baby would skate to that person (obviously I picked the ones close by, they were SPRINTING past) and give the correct call including colour, number and the finger point at the end… If they heard the call they had to turn and nod at Baby but carry on with their drill.

I know it sounds daft to say it, but the fact they all joined in politely (bar them all jokingly telling me to “suck it” when I gave examples for Baby) made me fall in love with them a little bit. They were so encouraging. Just like you would expect your teammates to be. But that’s not always the case in my experience. Sometimes skaters forget refs are learning too… But tonight my love of derby was given a boost.

I was really proud of Baby too. She showed balls. And when Ratty joined in by echoing her calls from the outside if he heard them, he got them all. She’s really finding her voice and I’m excited for her future in stripes.

I’ve also made her add notes to my googledoc training plan saying if things worked or didn’t and what else she’s doing – including homework (I’m asking her to read sections of the rules one week at a time and then we’re discussing the rules during our warm ups the next week. It’s actually really useful). So hopefully we can make a proper ref training plan from it when Baby has moved on to being a bouting ref. It’s all pretty cool right now. I hope she sticks with it.