Hi. I’m Dee Tension, a Roller Derby Referee with the South West Angels of Terror.
I joined SWAT in April 2012 aged 42, my only aim was to learn to be safe on 8 wheels whilst skating with my son, but Roller Derby had an impact on me straight away. The skills to be a Roller Girl didn’t come easily but eventually, having passed the minimum skills, I made it onto the SWAT B Team. I was ecstatic! Sadly, being an older skater came with its problems. For me, it was my knees (which aren’t as supple as they used to be). With constant pain, enhanced when I fall then stand, I had to make a serious decision- do I stop skating or find an alternative? I’m sure others within SWAT will be able to tell you of the hard time I had making the decision to go to the other side.
Late in 2013 I made the journey to the world of Stripes, Zebras, Whistles and Haribo and haven’t looked back. Initially it seemed daunting; there’s a lot to learn; written rules, hand signals and various penalties too and I will always be learning them.
The role of Roller Derby Referee is very male dominated, there aren’t many female Refs, would I fit in? I needn’t have worried. The Ref crew I work with have become like a family to me and are more than willing to help with my progression and confidence as I continue with my journey.
Now, what makes a good Ref?
My Top Ten Tips.
- Read the Rules
This is your bread and butter. Study hard and learn them, don’t be afraid to ask when you don’t understand.
- Watch as many bouts as you can
If you can’t get to bouts there’s plenty on YouTube/the WFTDA website. You’ll soon find that instead of watching the game you’re focused on the Refs!
- Find yourself a good mentor
I’m lucky, not only do I have the wonderful TeeHee with SWAT but many others too. Check out Horse, Rolfer Damage and Morris Maniac. A good Ref will bend over backwards to help a baby zeeb into the world. Love them all.
- Talk to yourself constantly about what you see whilst officiating
You may feel stupid and it’s taken me a while to get used to it but believe me it does focus your mind and eyes.
- Be prepared to make mistakes
We’re not all perfect after all. Don’t allow the skaters to influence a decision, if you didn’t see a penalty how can you call it?
- Learn to skate!
It may sound daft but you need skate without looking where you’re going, your eyes are focused on the skaters and there can be obstacles in the way. Be prepared to jump over a skater that’s just been hit out!
- Read the Rules…
Have I said that already?
- Watch the experts
If you’re not confident officiating a game consider shadowing a Ref during a closed bout or even NSO for a while. This will help the rule reading fit into place.
- Use forums available
UK Refs, Female Refs on Facebook, YouTube, and Zebra Huddle. I find these incredibly useful.
- This is the most important tip and I will say just one word – Haribo.
No Roller Derby game is complete with out the obligatory pack of Haribo. This is a Zebra’s staple diet!!
I still get the odd pang of missing playing and hitting the other girls but in time I’ll make a better Ref than I did Roller Girl. I’ve now played 4 closed bouts and am looking forward to my SW:UK debut this April, a series of open bouts between South West Derby Teams.
Right now my life couldn’t be better!