Sunday, April 27, 2014

SCRD's Officials Handbook: An editable, Creative Commons licensed handbook for roller derby referee crews

Roller derby leagues (should) have handbooks detailing how the league operates, and while these often have a few statements related to officials, they're necessarily going to be focused on skater-related issues and how the league runs as a whole.  They might say how the head ref is chosen, discuss whether officials pay dues or not, and what benefits volunteers get, but otherwise they're typically silent on many official-specific topics (how rosters are built for games, how often officials are expected to attend practice, what a person has to do to be a member of the crew, how officials are expected to behave during practice and game, etc.).

So, as an officials crew, it can be useful to have your own manual detailing how your crew operates (I call this document an "officials handbook", but others call it a "code of conduct" or "officials manual").   Having policies and procedures spelled out ahead of time is a tremendous aid when trouble or drama comes knocking, and it also makes sure all of your crew members know what is expected of them.

Here at South Coast Roller Derby, I discovered that while the league had an excellent league handbook, the officials crew had nothing.  So, over the first few months of this season, the crew, board of directors, and I created the South Coast Roller Derby Officials Handbook.

Many crews seem to keep their Officials Handbook confidential, or at the very least don't distribute it openly.  I want to do the opposite: my crew's Officials Handbook tells the world what kind of crew we are, and how we operate.  I want everyone to be able to read it, especially guest officials and potential new recruits (so they can know what they're getting into).

To save everyone else the trouble of having to start from scratch, I've Creative Commons licensed this document (under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License), so it's entirely editable and shareable.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A worksheet to help introduce the March 2014 new WFTDA rules

Screenshot of the new rules worksheet
To facilitate leading sessions introducing the new March 2014 WFTDA rules to my league's skaters and officials, I created a worksheet that introduces many of the rules changes via a few dozen scenario-based questions.  Yes, I'm a teacher at heart.

I e-mailed this worksheet to the entire league, asked everyone to download the new rules and do their best to answer the questions, and then we met a few days later to go over the scenarios.  I think it worked beautifully; everyone came prepared, had thoughtful questions, and within a few minutes we were going over complicated scenarios without anyone getting (too) lost or confused.  Skaters volunteered to get up and act out some of the scenarios, and I feel confident that everyone left understanding more than when they started.

Since it worked so well with my league, I wanted to share the worksheet publicly.  I've Creative Commons licensed this, so feel free to modify it to your heart's content (see the end of the post for full licensing details).

Worksheet download

The worksheet is available in three different formats:

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Referee and NSO training camp this Saturday: FREE!

Picture of gear check during SCRD's October 19 referee camp.
Gear check during SCRD's October 19, 2013 referee camp
This coming Saturday my league will be hosting a FREE training camp for flat-track roller derby referees and non-skating officials.

Who’s invited: Anyone interested in learning more about working as a roller derby official.  This event is aimed at all levels of officials, and everyone is welcome regardless of experience level.  Even if you’re completely new to derby officiating we’ll get you working the night’s bout as a non-skating official!  Come to the stripey side!

Hosts: South Coast Roller Derby’s skaters and officials

Location: Laguna Hills Sports Complex, 25555 Alicia Pkwy, Laguna Hills, CA 92653.  Meet in the bleachers besides the outdoor rink.

Ruleset: The camp will focus solely on the newly released, March 1 2014 WFTDA ruleset.

Camp lead: Marc "F-Stop" Perkins, head referee of South Coast Roller Derby

Camp trainers:
Ref: JustinBibe, Head Referee of Beach Cities
Ref: Override, head referee of OCRG, co-captain & head of training for Drive-By City Rollers
NSO: Atomic Mojo, Independent {WillWork4Food}
NSO: Siri L Kilher, Independent/Traveling NSO

Cost: Free!

Registration: To register for the camp, fill in our registration page.  Space is limited; first come first served!

Classes will include:
  • A full hour-long session for all campers on the changes introduced in the new March 1 ruleset.
  • Referee classes:
    • Jam Ref Communication
    • Common problems & procedural issues
    • Derby gone wrong scenarios
    • Positions and what you are looking for/at
    • Judging impact (no penalty vs major)
  • Non-skating official classes
    • NSO certification & evaluation process
    • Common problems & procedural issues
    • Penalty Box setup and procedures 
    • Jam Timing and One-Stopwatch Penalty Timing
    • Including an optional class on measuring out and setting up the track, run by yours truly.

What to bring: A copy of the new rules, notepad, comfortable closed toe shoes, water, sunscreen, and excitement for derby!

NSOs: Bring equipment to work any position in that night's game (we’ll have an inside whiteboard).  Wear, or have on hand to change into, a standard NSO uniform for the game (Top: Black.  Bottoms: Black; don’t show your privates.  All other clothes and accessories: Black and/or white only, closed toe shoes, no league affiliation (ref crew affiliation is fine, as long as there is no league affiliation present), no safety hazards. )

Refs: Bring full skating gear and game-ready uniform (Top: Black and white equally sized vertical ~1" stripes on the front and the back. Name and/or number on the back (per WFTDA guidelines).  No league affiliations.  Bottoms: Black; don’t show your privates.  All other clothes and accessories: Black and/or white only, no league affiliation, no safety hazards.)

Agenda (brief version; full agenda is here):

Noon - 2pm: off-track portion of training camp
2pm - 4:15pm: on-track training camp
4:15 - 5:30pm: Break for noms (we'll head to The Pizza Store, across the street from the rink)
5:30pm - 7pm: Prep for game
7pm - ~9pm: SCRD home-teams game
Facebook event page

Saturday, March 8, 2014

It's March 2014! That means new rules!

A few days ago the WFTDA released a new set of rules for flat track roller derby.  All sanctioned games on or after April 1, 2014 need to be played under these rules.

The full text of the new rules can be found on WFTDA's rules page in two formats:

There are a number of major changes; here's how to find them on WFTDA's site:
  • WFTDA's news release - summarizes the big changes, and also lists which officiating documents will be updated in the coming weeks.
  • WFTDA's summary of changes - discusses most of the changes in the rules, comparing the June 2013 release to the March 2014 release for all of the major changes.  Very useful, but note that it doesn't cover all the changes.  For that you need ...
  • WFTDA's line-by-line comparison of the 2013 and 2014 rules - precisely lists all the changes to the rules on a line-by-line, word-by-word basis.  
    • Note: If you're reading this version and enjoying it, you're a derby official; if you happen to not think you are a derby official, contact your local crew head ref to volunteer - we need you!

Other officiating documents that have changed include:

Other resources:
Note that, for the time being, Roller Derby Test O'Matic is still based on the 2013 rules (see this post for more). 

For those wondering about upcoming Southern California tournaments, the 2014 Dustbowl Invitational in Bakersfield, CA will be using the June 2013 rules, while the 2014 Battle for the Coast tournament in Ventura, CA will be using the March 2014 rules.  

Friday, February 28, 2014

Penalty code & verbal cue cheat sheet

[Updated May 19, 2015 to make the formatting more consistent and align with the January 2015 ruleset and its associated officiating documents.]

After a referee calls a penalty during a roller derby bout, the penalty is recorded by a penalty tracker, and then (typically) written on a publicly visible whiteboard (see my quick guide to all the roller derby officiating positions if you don't know what those terms mean).

Since writing down the full names of each penalty would be cumbersome, each penalty has a single-letter code associated with it.  Penalty trackers, penalty wranglers, whiteboard staff, all referees, and penalty-box NSOs should ideally be familiar with these codes, so they can quickly write down or interpret written penalty information.  The penalty codes can be found in the WFTDA Statistics package's penalty tracker paperwork.

In addition to a penalty code, each penalty in the WFTDA ruleset has a verbal cue associated with it; referees are required to use the appropriate verbal cue when calling the penalty.  To see the list of verbal cues, head to the WFTDA Officiating page (or just to the verbal cues document itself).  Complicating matters, many penalty classes (e.g., direction of game play) have multiple verbal cues but are recorded as a single penalty code ("C", in the case of all four direction of game play verbal cues).

So, it's helpful to have a cheat sheet that lists all of the verbal cues along with their penalty codes.  I made one for myself a while ago and taped it to all my clipboards; it's probably one of my most frequently requested documents.  So, here it is:

Monday, February 24, 2014

Basic equipment you'll need as a skating roller derby official

In my previous post I discussed the basic equipment needed by all roller derby officials, including both skating and non-skating officials.  Skating officials are their own special little bundle of joy; in this post I'll go over the basics of their equipment needs.

Tip: Unlike non-skating officials, who can get away with borrowing much of their equipment early on, skating officials ("referees") must have their own gear from day one; very few leagues have loaner gear.  Plan to buy quad roller skates, knee pads, elbow pads, wrist guards, a helmet, and a mouthguard for your very first day of skate practice.  You'll need a whistle as soon as you can skate safely on the track around skaters (i.e., when you can start practicing reffing itself).  You can almost certainly hold off on the striped jersey, though, as it'll likely be months of training before you're ready to put that on (unless you're already a derby skater).

Skating insurance? You may need to purchase skating insurance to participate in training with your league; contact your league's head referee or officials coordinator to find out more.

Skating gear

At a minimum, you'll need quad roller skates, knee pads, elbow pads, wrist guards, helmet, and a mouthguard.  Okay, technically you can ref while wearing inline skates, but virtually nobody does (and people will make fun of you).

Saturday, February 22, 2014

What day is today?

The Ninth Doctor, captioned with "It's Bout Day!  Fantastic!"
Made on

It's the first home bout of the 2014 season at SCRD!  And it's fully staffed with officials!

And no, you never forget your first doctor.  Eccleston for the win :)

Monday, February 17, 2014

Quick Guide to ALL the Roller Derby Officiating Positions

[Updated May 19, 2015 to reflect the January 2015 WFTDA ruleset and officiating standard practices, and the March 2015 track layout guide. Oh yeah, and to fix all some of my mistakes and add in a few new ones.]

A fully staffed WFTDA flat-track roller derby game requires at least 18 volunteer officials to run, and that’s not counting track crew and announcers.  Each one of these people plays a core part in ensuring that safe, fair gameplay occurs.  This document will summarize each of the officiating positions.  

Pro tip: Every league does things a little differently; treat this guide as just a rough start.  Unless something is actually violating the rules, plan to roll with whatever the host league / host ref crew prefers.  

Monday, February 10, 2014

Basic equipment all roller derby officials should have

Starting your journey as a roller derby official?  Wondering what gear you need to get started as a skating referee or non-skating official?  You've come to the right place!

While many officials crews (including my own) have loaner pieces of non-skating equipment at practice (so go, even if you don't have any gear!), it’s useful for every member of the crew to have as much of their own equipment as they can.  The “gear box” doesn’t always make it to practice, you can’t guarantee that other folks will be at any given practice (or will have their spare equipment to loan you), and if you start traveling to other leagues (and you will start traveling, 'cause it's awesome), you'll have no idea if those leagues will have loaner gear or not.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Obligatory first post

I'm the head referee of South Coast Roller Derby, and I'm also a professor of biology at Orange Coast College.  The two of these combine to cause me to addictively create training documents, share them, and run small ref clinics at my home league.  I'm nowhere near experienced enough to really be doing all this, but hey, I enjoy it :)

Take everything I say with a giant grain of salt.  I'm just a new head ref in a small league who wants to help out; that's all!

I also do photography, but it's taken a back seat to derby.  And I love to cook.  Yay me.

[Update: South Coast Roller Derby merged with SoCal Derby in May 2014, at which point I became a member of SoCal Derby's officiating crew.  In September 2014 I transferred to Angel City Derby Girls, joining their officiating crew (Parks and REFreation).]