Junior Derby Deserves Great Officials

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Far too often, many leagues have difficulty finding referees to officiate their games. Some leagues get around this problem by having skaters wear stripes or just dealing with a short crew. Some leagues in my area would stand on their head to get qualified refs and look for help months and months in advance.

This is especially true of junior roller derby.

Many times, junior games get staffed by “whomever is around.” You can fight me on this but I think junior roller derby should have the BEST referees in the area. Certainly, everyone needs a start but staffing a juniors game with all brand-new refs won’t likely end well.

Junior games need referees who are good at crowd control. Calling a young skater a “fat pig” SHOULD get you ejected from the building. Further, no referee should ever have to deal with verbal abuse poised to themselves either.

Junior games need referees who are good with youths. Yelling at a skater because she’s so new she forgot to exit the track to get to the penalty box is not cool. Apologizing or at least explaining in a calm manner when you saw you made her cry would also be a classy and mature move. Just saying.

Junior games need referees who know the rules of the sport well. They are there to keep the skaters safe and the sport fair. Many parents would say they get nervous when they see their child play for fear of injury. This makes a good head ref worth their weight in gold; a good ref crew as precious as rare gems.

What is your league doing to promote and honour officials (both skating and non-skating)? Are they getting sufficient practice time? Are you helping to recruit? Do you feed them – it sounds trite but I’ve seen officials brighten right up when they’ve travelled so far and are met with a plate of sandwiches and a crock pot of chili.

We’re fortunate to have many amazing officials nearby. They’ve come to our practices to help the skaters learn the rules a little better. We’ve had full crews both on and off skates to help officiate even the most informal intraleague scrimmages. They meet often and support each other.

One of our parent leagues has a bursary called the Jules and Regulations Award (http://tricityrd.com/jules-reg/) which honours a female-identifying official who has demonstrated excellence in officiating women’s flat track roller derby and in empowering other female-identifying officials. Jules herself has made countless contributions to officiating, mentoring, and increasing gender diversification within roller derby officiating.

One of those she has mentored? The boy in the photo above. Starting out at 9-years-old, he never wanted to play the game but, instead, something about officiating entranced him.

He was – and still is – lucky to have many show him the ropes. Starting with junior derby coaches who had developed his skating and taking the time to discuss the rules of the sport with him, it was other referees who got him game-worthy. He would shadow refs who would take the time between jams to explain what was going on. Refs would guide him to useful online resources and made themselves available for any of his questions with patience and respect. He’s also been trusted to officiate in non-sanctioned adult games, handled all referee positions including HR, and is confident enough to approach junior skaters to ask if they had any questions or concerns about his calls or the game in general (just as his mentors do). His next goal is to be a certified WFTDA referee as soon as he is eligible. When he turns 18 in 2021, he’ll have been in stripes for nine years.

The road wasn’t without hiccups. I’ve heard many stories of youth refs being discounted in one way or another, which does nothing to elevate not only junior derby but roller derby entirely. Put down a junior ref and that person might give up. Where’s the future now?

We need to make things easier for junior roller derby officials. It’s an issue in many children’s sports but there needs to be a greater culture of respect and appreciation for officials from players, parents and spectators. I’ve heard far too many refs say they will never work a juniors game because they don’t want to hear disparaging remarks from parents.

Other ways to be more encouraging? Our league doesn’t charge a registration fee for those youths who just want to ref. Other leagues actively recruit for youth officials, sometimes even within – looking to family and friends. We recently participated at the ECDX tournament in Philadelphia and every participating junior league had to have skaters or referees commit to a total of several officiating hours (per league, not per skater). It was a brilliant way to get skaters NSOing and refereeing, highlighting their capabilities and surely improved their knowledge of their sport.

We talk a lot about being inclusive in roller derby. Let’s not forget the junior (and adult) who wants to officiate.

Photo appears courtesy of junior derby dad, all-around great guy, and amazing photographer Jeff Ostrander (jeffostrander.smugmug.com).

 

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Getting to Know You

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Our little ones love to just skate. Some of them would be happy to just go around and around the track for hours if we allowed it. But how much would they learn from that?

Another things our little skaters love? To talk about themselves! They love to share with us stories about their day, their lives at home and school, their likes and dislikes.

So here’s a drill you could use as a warm-up or to reinforce good skating stride skills, speed and being able to stop well. You need to coaches and that’s it.

Coach A will be on one side of the room and Coach B will be on the other. The skaters will be along the wall on the end where Coach A is. She’ll say a statement (like, “I have red hair,” “I’ve been on an airplane” or “I can have a conversation in a language other than English”). If the statement is true about the skater, the kid will skate to the end of the room where Coach B is, stopping without ramming into the wall. Not all will be release and that’s okay. Coach B will have her own statements to say. So what you’ll get is a constant back-and-forth motion of skaters.

Shootin’ Dice Warm-Up Drill

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Is it possible to get youths excited about strength-training? It is when you can approach it as if it was a game, I think!

Our skaters typically can’t wait to put their skates on. After all, weekly, they only have the time during practice to be able to wear them. So we came up with this warm-up to incorporate a little bit of off-skates training in with their warm-up.

You need a set of dice (or more if you have a big group). We got our foamy sets from the dollar store. It’s a good size and of a good material. The skaters can easily toss it. It’s soft so if it rolls on someone, it won’t hurt. And it’s sturdy because, well, they’re kids.

On a separate piece of paper or bristol board, write out what exercise each roll will be. So, for example, if the skater rolls a one, she looks to the paper and reads she has to do squats. A two is push-ups. Three is a fast feet run on the spot. You get the idea. I recommend rolling just one die out of the two or more that you have. This way, others aren’t waiting too long for their turn to roll.

So while the skater who rolled is doing her exercise, her partner is skating a predetermined amount of laps (we ask for three laps). When the laps are done, they skate in the middle of the track where her partner is doing exercises and they trade positions.

We usually run this drill for 10 minutes.