2012: Advent Roller Derby: Officials

by on December 7, 2012

Earlier, we looked at rule 2.2.2 from the WFTDA ruleset. I mentioned how there’s a new set of rules that will be used from January 1 2013. What I didn’t mention is how these rules are actually used, or how the sport of roller derby is actually officiated.

Well, there are the people in black and white stripes, affectionately known as zebras. It’s a common misconception that all referees are male, in fact it’s only most of them. Not all women want to play roller derby after all. There’s also NSOs – Non-Skating Officials – they do stuff like keep the score, track penalties, and time skaters who are in the penalty box.

The way I’ve NSO’d and watched roller derby is about to change quite a bit. I’ve been part of 14-people strong NSO crews, which have included outside whiteboard, inside whiteboard, penalty wranglers… all roles that will become obsolete with the new ruleset. This makes it kind of tricky to explain how it works as I haven’t seen the new way of officiating in action, but at least the people remain the same.

Every zebra I know has the rules etched on their memory. Rules seep from every pore, they positively shine with knowledge. They must have the ability to see something happen, process the action, recall the correct rule that what they’ve just seen relates to, make a judgement on whether it was legal or illegal, and if the latter they blow a whistle and shout with the right words in the right order while using the right hand gestures. All this while competently moving on eight wheels, sometimes at quite high speeds! Honestly, it’s incredible that this happens in a split second. Elsewhere on this site you may be able to discover how the human brain does this.

NSOs are the kings and queens of being organised. Most of the Head NSOs work happens in the run up to the bout, getting rosters from teams, making sure all the paperwork is filled in correctly and printed, getting clipboards and pens and more pens and some pencils, etc etc… They do all this in the sure knowledge that if they or their team has filled in a box that shouldn’t have been filled, the paperwork could be rejected. What pressure! It’s worse than being at work!

Yet they all do it because they love the sport. Crazy people.

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