Recently I decided to make a switch from being a roller derby player to a coach. And by decided I mean I was kind of forced to because I broke my foot a little bit. Since my former league, the Roller Girls of the Apocalypse, was not in need of a coach I switched to the Maniac Monsters Mainz. Long story short, it’s working out well and I fucking love it. Also I’m getting paid for it, so that’s pretty cool. I am, by definition, a professional trainer now, and the bragging rights are pretty awesome.
One of the issues that I’ve encountered as a coach is dealing with a little saltiness with the players in regards to the referees. We had a bout wherein we disagreed with the calls the refs were making, some of us more than others. Some of those players decided to get salty with the refs.
In case the title didn’t give it away, that is not ok. Most of us, as derby players, don’t try out reffing, so most of us don’t know how hard it is. In the first month of me having broken my foot, and a little before then, I was reffing scrimmages (I was on crutches while trying to whistle at people and it was like if Mr. Bean tried reffing a derby game).
You guys, I need you to pay attention to this. Like really, guys. Being a referee is hard as fuck. As a roller derby player it doesn’t seem that hard. I mean Jesus Christ there’s like eight referees watching the pack, amirite? No, you’re not right, it’s still hard as fuck. Referees have to watch our entire bodies for penalties in addition to whatever their referee assignment is. If they’re watching our hips to try and see who was in front of who when going out they might miss a low block. If they’re watching our hands for elbow or forearm penalties they might miss a cut. If they’re watching our feet for cuts they might miss a low-block. When I was the front pack ref I called so many out of plays wrong, because in the time I looked to see how far they were from the pack and then watched their feet, someone made a bridge and fucked up how much distance I thought they had. As players we get frustrated by wrong or missed calls and focus on that, instead of being conscientious of how hard it is for refs to accurately call all penalties. I strongly encourage everyone to referee as least a few scrimmages so you can understand more fully just how hard it is.
You guys, we cannot sass our officials. They are doing the best they can. Even if you have a ref or NSO who is a legitimate asshole and is actually calling penalties wrong there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. Think about that. As a team we can call official reviews and maybe talk to the head ref at halftime, but if they don’t agree then we have no recourse. All we can do is our damndest to not get penalties. I realize that’s frustrating, and I realize that refs sometimes do shit that makes you want to choke them out. I’ve been there. But don’t take it out on the refs. Complain amongst yourselves, and talk to your captain or bench coach if you feel the need to. They will handle it if they see fit. It is their job, not yours, to address the refs.
If we get salty with refs and volunteers then what ends up happening is that we alienate the officials we have. I don’t know what the referee situation is like in Stateside, but here in Europe we have a shortage of officials. When leagues host bouts they sometimes have to skate with fewer referees than usual because there’s just not enough referees to go around. If we get attitude with our referees then exacerbate that problem because referees will avoid our leagues. My official friends tend to be my news outlets for the roller derby world, because they talk a lot amongst themselves, so you better believe that if you’re an asshole then word will get around in the officials world.
So, with all that being said, the takeaway for players is to not address the referees of officials unless it’s to say thank you. Do not argue with them about anything. Take your penalty and then talk to your captain, and trust your captain to do what is best for the team.
Captains and coaches, I have some advice for you as well. I realize that for some players, you can tell them all of this until you’re blue in the face and they still lose their temper and sass the referees. To help remedy this I’ve come up with a drill that acts as both a learning opportunity and a punishment for those sassy players. Here it is:
Drill: Your bitch ass is not the Dead Sea so stop being salty
What it is: Before the drill starts, bring some of the players to the side and tell them to get sloppy with their penalties. Encourage them to safely throw some elbows, forearms, ect, with some of them being no impact/no penalty and some of them being hella impact/penalty. Also encourage them to do some of those to the outside of the pack. Have all of the players except the salty one form a pack. While the pack skates around call out players within the pack to be the jammer and fight through that giant pack, not taking the edges. The salty player, who is on the inside of the track, calls penalties. You shadow the salty player and watch over her shoulder. For every penalty she calls wrong she has to go into the middle and banana for 15 seconds. For every penalty she misses she has to go into the middle and banana for 15 seconds.
The takeaway: It is really hard to catch all penalties correctly, especially when there are other players blocking your field of vision. Have sympathy for the referees and stop being an asshole.
Sidenote: The banana, for those of you who don’t know, is a core exercise wherein skaters sit on the floor and raise their arms and legs off of the floor for as long as they can. Only their butt can touch the floor, and their body ends up making roughly the shape of a banana, hence the name. I make my players do it when they’re late to practice, and they hate it. No one is late to practice anymore.