Calm, collected and clear – GuARRDians of the Galaxy

Boot camp experience by Stellar Fearformance

One of the most wonderful things about the roller derby is the spirit of community and communal learning that is is based on. We all learn together, grow together and teach each other. The small but enthusiastic group of Auld Reekie officials have been helping each other on the never-ending journey to the absolute rules knowledge, and in our thirst we realised – we need to call in an expert. There are some questions that only a person with experience can answer.  With more and more games happening, the demand for officials is only going to continue to grow, and we are not the only people looking to learn in the area.

The ever-supportive Crazylegs, who always is on the lookout for development opportunities, invited Jens Hotger to lead a ref-specific bootcamp in Edinburgh.

Keen new and more experienced refs from all over UK gathered in a cool, bright studio in Holyrood to learn, to refresh their knowledge and also feel part of the indispensable community of officials.

The theory sessions covered scoring (even without the infamous jammer lap point, there’s still plenty to learn!), impact assessment, in game communication and good communication flow in the crew, roles and responsibilities, priorities for each position, penalties and the new rules (e.g. new star pass rules). We also had an interesting discussion about the nature and extent of officials’ discretion. There’s a number of rules that are left at ref’s discretion, and for a new ref it’s both difficult to find the confidence and to understand the limits of discretion. Jens’ theory sessions are very well constructed, with good flow and excellent supportive materials (electronic derby whiteboard, folk, what a time to be alive!). He’s extremely knowledgeable and confident, provides clear and in-depth answers to any questions.

In-between the theory learning, we also had a great presentation and workshop from Auld Reekie’s DeeDee on confidence and efficacy – refficacy. We looked at elements that affect a referee’s efficacy positively and negatively and shared some of our own experiences. Definitely an area many of us would like to learn more about, and research further! Confidence is an elusive beast, and an essential part of officiating. One not only has to be confident in their own abilities and calls, but also project that confidence so everyone around them feel safe and in good hands. It’s great that the attendees now have a bit more guidance on how to work on that.

After the theory sessions, we had a chance to practice or observe some on-skates skills. Skate skills for referees are slightly different from those required of a competitive skater, because they (we!) have to able to move around quickly and very efficiently, be fluid and responsive to the change of speed in the pack/jammer, but more importantly, also economise on the number of moves and minimise the space you take up (it can get crowded!). Honestly, some of the on-skates skills felt like dancing, real ref magic! We also had a chance to practice our newly learned knowledge in a short scrim session, where on skates attendees were divided in full ref crews with each having a position to try out. Many thanks to Auld Reekie skaters who assisted with that (with no breaks, what extraordinary endurance!). The day finish too soon, and we all exited Holyrood into the damp Scottish evening inspired and buzzing from excitement.

This was both the first referee bootcamp I attended, and the first one I helped organise. I felt really happy to be part of this learning event, to welcome Jens and facilitate this experience. I hope everyone who attended enjoyed it as much as I did, at that we all will meet again, on track or in a makeshift classroom. That we will all promote safety, be fair, consistent, unbiased, approachable and open to feedback in our budding (or blossoming) reffing careers.