It’s just a game, you realise that right?

I’m a terrible roller derby fan.

I never know who the higher seed is. I don’t know the derby famous players and rankings bore me senseless.

When I used to play I could never remember which games we won or lost, or even if we had played a team before. But I would always remember games at which I had made friends or managed to pull off something I had been practising for months.


I see roller derby for what it is. A sport. A game. It really doesn’t mean more to me than that. Granted I work hard, I train and I study. But I participate because I enjoy it and I want to be the best I can be.

When I was a skater I used to write “Only I can do this” on my arm as an affirmation. I would look at it before I jammed – not because I thought had super powers… but because only I can play the game I play. Only I can win this for me. I feel exactly the same as a ref… it’s just I’m playing a different game.

I’m no longer trying to race through a pack, now I’m doing a hardcore hazard perception test on wheels. I’m trying to call all the penalties (extra points for the super technical ones), get all the scores right, communicate fast and effectively AND look awesome. Obviously that last bit is easy. *snorts*

My aim is to be better than I was in my last game. Always striving for perfection.

I don’t tend to compare myself to other people; this is my journey and I’m kicking my own ass every day.

I would prefer to spend my time and money visiting somewhere I’d never been before or to ref with or for friends – rather than officiate a game because of how good it would look on my CV.


I love to see people enjoying themselves on track (I love people doing spins and awesome toe stop work simply because I can’t and think it looks awesome), and I like games where weird stuff happens and I have to test my knowledge.

But, and this may sound weird to you, during the game the people on track don’t mean much more to me than pawns in my game of Hazard-Perception-Ref. They’re potential points and penalties. That’s genuinely about it. You’re something for me to test my knowledge and skills on.

Can I dodge you when you fly off and hit me? Yes? Extra points for style.

Did I call that super technical cut when everyone changed direction, someone fell over and the jammer did a star pass? Probably not. Who the hell am I kidding.

But YOUR game isn’t MY game. And YOUR game doesn’t impact on MINE in a way that you may think it does. If I’m having a bad game it impacts on you – which is why I don’t let your game rub off on mine. No offence but sometimes you guys on track can be batshit cray. I need to be zen. I need to be in the zone. I do not think about you guys and how this is going for you.

If there is a lead change it doesn’t affect me. If there is one point in it it doesn’t affect me. I will still be beasting myself in the same way I always do. Still trying to be the best ref from the first whistle to the last, correcting myself as I go and learning with every jam.

My game is just that. Mine. And I love it.

I mention this because at the weekend I was told that someone had said I shouldn’t be allowed to referee South Wales Silures because Mat plays for them. He’s my fiance. Yes. But unless he trips me over and my leggings split up the back (genuine fear), his actions are just the actions of a skater to me. (Actually, even then he would just be a skater… but I do worry about the leggings thing.)

I thankfully get to ref people I like and love in varying percentages. Similarly I spend a proportion of my time refereeing people who don’t like me. That doesn’t change my goal.


My life is made easier by well mannered players, a ref crew that works well together and a happy atmosphere. But if that’s not the situation I’m facing… I still give my all. I work differently and I put on a different face. I change my techniques and I once again try and win reffing for me.

That’s why everyone who told me about the above suggestion of bias said that I was “too professional” for that kinda thing. But that’s weird too… because this isn’t my profession. I don’t get paid for this. I actually do all of the above because I want to win my game – I want to come away knowing I was cool, calm, collected and correct.

I still never bother looking to see who wins. I check my scores. I correct any of my mistakes. Then I go home and watch games back to see how I could improve my game.

If you needed evidence that Mat’s just a skater on track to me, he threw up during a game I was reffing and I didn’t notice. It wasn’t a penalty and I was JR for his team so he wasn’t a point for me. He wasn’t important in that moment (sorry babe).

So… now I have cleared up that I don’t spend every waking second on skates fretting that Matthew has a good game and DEAR LORD I HOPE HIS TEAM WINS, allow me to share my MEC 2015 highlights:

  • Reffed four games. All as JR. Didn’t get subbed out for a single one.
  • My leggings didn’t split and my new hairdye didn’t run.
  • Got to ref again with my favourite JR, Metal Ed. Having not refereed a game together for months we slipped back into it perfectly. Called lead from under his arm twice.
  • Got a compliment from Miss Trial. Huge kudos. Tried to play it cool.
  • Witnessed some perfectly communicated and timed ORs, three times they were questioning things I was about to ask for official input on. All were won by the teams.
  • Ate a bite of macoroni cheese pie. Regretted it. Haggard.
  • Saw Cat, Sniper and Alice. Hugged them all for ages and enjoyed it massively.
  • Met my fiance out the back of the building for a little snog after our final games, reminded me of MEC 2014 when we got back together. Made me so unbelievably happy… and still not biased.
  • Caught several AMAZING star passes. Missed one. Laughed out loud and had to rescind a jammer lap point. Barrow are brilliant at star passes.
  • Gave one lead that shouldn’t have been lead. Had a total mind-blank on how to undo it. This was picked up by almost EVERYONE. Thankfully after about the tenth mention it started to become funny. I’ll never do this again.
  • Saw a brilliant Low Block call by Rocky. Extra points to Rocky.
  • Watched Steven Thomas rocking IPR, impressing me again with how much he has come on in a year.
  • Worked with the best score keeper ever, Nick Goodrick. He rescued me from three potential scoring issues. So great to work with.
  • Got told that I’m “annoying” by the CHR when I was doing warm ups during our ref meeting.
  • Got sworn at and shouted at by several skaters, got tripped up by one (Didn’t lose sight of my jammer though, so extra points). Got apologies from three of them.
  • Hid behind my hoodie so no one could see my expression as Pablo Diablo scored a 30 point jam against SDRD in the final. PABLO. Really. Awesome.
  • MAJOR SADNESS as I didn’t get to ref a French team *weeps*. Dem accents tho *swoon*.
  • Drank a beer during the awards standing next to one of my favourite skaters, Samdroid. He had fouled out of his game and I hadn’t noticed. Bad friend.
  • Had a huge Peroneal Tendonitis and Plantar Faciitis flare up meaning that the moment I removed my skates I couldn’t walk.
  • Danced with Gif and Kalamity at the after party and enjoyed touching all the medals of all the people that wore them. Even Shrooms who kept hiding his inside his t-shirt.


I watched two games back the next day and am proud to say I look well chilled. Me and Ed work so well together it’s sickening. I don’t mind the bad lead call and that missed star pass because I’m so proud of the rest of it. My game was bloody brilliant.

The crew I was on did a fantastic job overall. The skaters seemed to enjoy it. A team won. Some other teams didn’t. Some were nice, some weren’t. I think I had four of the best games of my reffing career. But I’m still not content. My next game will be better.

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: