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National Officiating Scholarship – Part 2

In Part 2 of her officiating scholarship blog, Numb3r Crunch3r takes us through last weekends WFTDA Officiating Clinic in Brisbane. It was a sold out event, so those who missed out can relive what sounds like a very informative weekend.

National Officiating Scholarship for Roller Derby - Part 2

Less than a week after coming home from the NOS Induction Workshop, my head full of new ideas and plans for improvement, I found myself in a conference room, bright and early on a Saturday morning, for the Brisbane WFTDA Officiating Clinic, hosted by Sun State Roller Girls. As the main contact person and organiser for this clinic, I had already been out and about the day before, buying morning tea and supplies, collecting instructors from the airport and generally trying to juggle all the things that went into running a smooth and successful weekend. But as of this moment, I was a student.

WFTDA Officiating Clinics are run centrally through the Women's Flat Track Derby Association itself, with the curriculum designed and approved by WFTDA workers, and delivered by WFTDA selected and trained instructors. Our clinic was lucky enough to have two instructors from America (Level 5 referee Judge Knot, and Level 4 non-skating official Intejill) as well as our local instructor, Level 4 referee Harry Spot'er.

The clinic sold out a month early, and was attended by more than 50 referees and 30 non-skating officials (NSOs) from around the country, including an enormous representation of eighteen attendees from my own league, Sun State Roller Girls.

Day One consisted of classroom sessions, with the morning dedicated to combined sessions for all attendees. A 90 minute rules primer and Q&A session helped everyone in the room align their understanding of the new rules, and bring up absurd scenarios they had witnessed or imagined up which needed answers. This was followed by a session on certification, which clearly excited many in the room. Certification never looks closer than when you're well informed about exactly how it is achieved, and aware that others in your country have achieved it before you!

The certification session included not just information on how to attain certification, but also information about how to fill out an effective and informative evaluation without having to write an essay on the performance of each official. As the number of full member and apprentice WFTDA leagues in Australia continues to grow, the opportunity to obtain evaluations becomes more and more common, and this detailed examination of the certification process was one of the highlights of the weekend for many officials.

The final combined sessions centred around official reviews and standard practices - teaching the officials some all-important skills to build rapport and put across the right body language, and reminding the officials of their standard verbal cues and hand signals.

Lunch was a casual affair where officials were free to engage in conversation, and networks and friendships were built around the lunch table.

Following lunch, the officials split up into skating and non-skating classrooms. The NSOs went through various in depth sessions on the different officiating families (penalty tracking, scoring and penalty management) before finishing the day with 'Fun With Whistles' - quite entertaining to listen to from inside the skating classroom, and I'm sure even more entertaining to participate in.

The skating officials' classroom went into in depth sessions on initiation and impact; the fundamental pillars which a referee must be certain of before any penalty can be called. Initiation relates to 'who started it' while impact relates to 'what happened', and without both pieces of information, you cannot guarantee that a penalty has occurred. Following these discussions, the officials split into groups to discuss various scenarios (some bordering on the absolutely absurd, including a mid-air star pass).

The final class of the day was perhaps the most important class of the weekend for skating officials - a class on positional theory. The emphasis during the class was not just on discussing the positioning of each individual referee, but on discussing the way that the referees truly work together to ensure a focus on ALL events of a game, rather than duplicating focus on any one thing. For most referees in the room, who have worked with officials of significantly different skill to them, the idea of doing your specific job to the best of your ability, even if others may not be doing theirs to the same level, was a revelation. I believe the concept that you service the game better by doing one job well, rather than everyone's job partially, will lead to the development of Australian officials in leaps and bounds as trust and true division of duties becomes the norm.

The first half of the second day continued classroom sessions for the NSOs (including sessions on being a head NSO, and 'moving to the next level'), while the referees converged on Eagles Sports Complex in Mansfield for a morning of intense skate training. Emphasis was placed on raw skating skills, yes, but also on exactly how those skills assist you in your refereeing - the first drill was to skate around the track backwards, both on the inside and the outside, without looking at the boundaries to check your position. It's all well and good, and most referees are quite good at it - until you get instructed to close your eyes! Suddenly officials were going off in all sorts of directions - onto the track, further away from the track, and on occasion, into each other! The exercise certainly taught you a lesson in making your knowledge of the track completely unconscious.

After that humbling drill, we moved to skating skills - transitions, 'fancy feet' (like grape-vines on skates), and a particularly difficult (read: impossible) drill where you had to stand still, lift up one foot, and attempt to get across the room. Finally, after some drills on efficient crossovers, we moved into a drill on OPR positioning - exactly where to pick up the pack and drop it off, and teaching yourself when to start taking off to ensure the pack didn't lose you on the first corner.

Lunch, catered by a business named Pacos Paella run by a Sun State Roller Girls skater, came none too soon for the skating officials. The paella was wolfed down by everyone with compliments flying left and right, and even the occasional plate of seconds taken.

Finally, after lunch, it was time for scrimmage! The Sun State Roller Girls skaters from the Riots, Furies, Defiants and Vandals arrived and warmed up while the instructors took all officials through a discussion on safety and pre-bout protocol (including track checking and skater equipment checks). The officials divided into crews, chose their positions, and began rotations of 5 jams per crew.

As the scrimmage went on, more and more bizarre events began to come up - skaters removing their equipment in the penalty box, teams fielding two jammers, and eventually a jammer picking up her opponent and carring her around the infield of the track. As it turns out, the instructors had been feeding the teams actions to do to 'test' the referees, and the teams had apparently responded with gusto!

Finally, three hours later, the scrimmage was over - but the clinic not quite finished yet. All the officials gathered for a final debrief, where each official named something they had learned over the weekend and collected their clinic sticker memento. The learnings ranged from the tiny change to the enormous revelation, but the overall mood of the group was accomplished and excited to take their new learnings and dedication back to their leagues to improve roller derby around the country.

As the officials went their separate ways and the track was pulled up, thank yous and compliments were thrown from every direction, thanking the instructors, WFTDA and Sun State Roller Girls for hosting a brilliant clinic!

Next time - Skate of the ANZAC tournament in Canberra!

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