Thursday, January 27, 2011

Zebra Love

Hello again! We're glad you came back, because we've got a little secret to share with you, and that's this: The men and women at derby bouts who wear the striped shirts and blow the whistles are volunteers. Crazy, huh? Some might be lucky enough to get a little stipend – enough to cover a tank of gas and a sub sandwich (6 inches, not 12) – but, generally, they put up with all kinds of nonsense for no reward whatsoever.

If you're a member of a league that has dedicated referees who come to practice and call penalties, be thankful. And treat your referees well. Because if you drive them away, you can count on playing a sloppier game – and losing.

Despite all they do to uphold the integrity of the sport, some refs never feel the love. They spend hours and hours thinking about the intricacies of the rules, and debating with each other online about the best interpretation of this rule or that rule. And then, some poor ref skips dinner so he can make it to practice on time, only to have an irritable skater scream in his face, questioning whether his eyes work, or if his brain is firing on all cylinders.

We believe that all skaters should be required to take a turn at reffing for a mere 15 minutes, to help them understand that reffing is hard work. What looks like a foul from the referee's point of view may look legal to a coach, a skater on the bench, or someone in the stands. But if you are not a referee, then you are not looking at the game with the same discerning eye. Trust the referees to know what they know and call what they see.

Like the skaters playing the game, refs make a lot of split-second decisions. And sometimes they make mistakes. When skaters make mistakes, their teammates generally forgive them. So forgive your referees for mistakes. Treat them with respect. And appreciate that they love roller derby, just like you do.

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