Thursday, 28 June 2012

The Rules: For Derby, Not Dating

Naturally, transitioning into a trainee ref has offered me some new perspective on the game. What's come to my attention recently is how we, as lovers of the sport, relate to its actual rules. This will naturally vary from league to league - depending on the league's relationship to WFTDA and/or its level of competition, for example - but there seems to be a widening gap as the game spreads. In our rush to don the fishnets and learn transitions, sometimes we forget the particulars of the rules that shape the sport. Roller derby has a complicated rule-set and media coverage often confuses the issue further, but we owe it to our skaters to have them know the sport they're playing. I don't mean this to suggest skaters don't know the game as a living experience. Skaters know the tension at the jam line, the chasm where we failed to block correctly, the sweat and accidental cross-team boob-grabs (which, er, are illegal) that make up the sport.

But the living experience of derby is based on the foundation of the rules. Rules that every skater should be familiar with, beyond the basics. Knowing the rules allows us to play smarter and have a potentially valid reason when calling a ref an incompetent jack-ass (as occasionally does happen). A standard rule-set and equal familiarity with it is what can let a bout occur between any two teams willing to go toe-stop to toe-stop. And let's not forget that the rules do change and that players should be part of that continuing conversation.

So, how do we address this gap? We educate our players. We explain how the handbook affects their life on the track.We increase dialogue between referees, coaches, NSOs and players. On an official level, we require a rules test alongside a skills test if a player is going to be certified as ready to play. More broadly, we start and support efforts to translate the rule-set into other languages.

We owe it to our players and our sport to know the game we love.  And if you can access this post, you can read the rules.

Monday, 25 June 2012

The Meme Team: Otters and Zebras, Oh My

Today, consider the otter and the zebra, both noble animals. Then you add some derby and you get two of my favourite roller derby memes.

Exhbit the First: Roller Derby Otter

One of the earlier derby memes I ever saw, the roller derby otter's gaze seems to embody the stark horrors, joys and rueful self-awareness associated with derby. Its cousin, the Fresh Meat Otter, specializes in the embarassments of being a new otter on the track.

Exhibit the Second: Roller Derby Zebra

This one's for the referees. This zebra's soulful eyes and clear understanding of the importance of proper safety gear tells the often exhilarating, sometimes soul-crushing story of the derby referee. Let it do an equipment check on you to see if you have a heart. 

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Featured League: Peterborough Roller Derby

Copyright Peterborough Roller Derby

Today's featured league hails not far from the town I did most of my growing up in. A relatively new full-contact league, PRD was founded in January 2011 in Peterborough, Ontario by Lucid Lou of TORD's Death Track Dolls and Falldown Firlotte. Currently sporting two teams, the Electric City Rollers and the Damage Dollz, this league is proof that derby is pretty much taking over the province of Ontario.

Still looking for a permanent home, this young league has marketed itself smartly and is open to all potential players. Players featured on local media so far include Ruby Red Scare, Beady Eye, Charleigh Smashlin, Jane Sleyre, Amelia Diehard, and ConAir. Their smart approach to promotions includes a fantastic logo strongly reminiscent of the logo for Peterborough's local Trent University (attended by my brother and LOCO NSO, Matt Adams). Peterborough is a beautiful city and as luck would have it, PRD's posters are pretty gorgeous too - see some samples in this post. All copyright remains with the creators.

Getting interested in Peterborough Roller Derby at this stage is something of an adventure. They're a relatively young league, but an ambitious and busy one, already having bouted against the West End Waywards Rollerskating Association's Rollergettes, Durham Region Roller Derby's Atom Smashers and LOCO's own Violet Femmes. Upcoming bouts include a meet-up with the Capital City Roller Dolls' Dolly Rogers on July 7th and a bout against the Kingston Derby Girls on August 11th. Get your foot in PRD's door now to see an adolescent league grow up fast.

You can catch Peterborough Roller Derby on their website or their Facebook account. If you're in the Peterborough area, contact them to get involved!

Monday, 18 June 2012

Both Sides Now: Coming Back to Derby as a Referee

Dundee Roller Girls Ref Poster
In the long radio silence of this blog, rather a lot has gone on, including a trip to England and my decision to try derby as a referee rather than a player. My anxiety is quite particular regarding what does and does not freak me out - strangely, making quick decisions and dealing with angry derby girls is not a source of anxiety for me. I know - it's weird. But I've received wonderful support from my league and I have to tip special thanks in the direction of our refs, Tank and Om Nom Chomsky. They have been remarkably supportive and honest about the fact that reffing is hard work.

Perhaps it's bad planning, but I'm restarting a lot of things today. I'm getting back on the studying wagon for my comps exams. I'm restarting this blog. I'm actually trying to get to practice on a Monday. I'm starting my rules studying, which will contrast nicely with all the Plato and Hegel. I'm again trying to unpack my room, which looks rather like an art installation on procrastination and the cardboard box.

But if you're taking one plunge, you may as well really make it count. Reffing is not without its attendant anxieties, of course - I've already had one well-meaning player remind me that female referees sometimes get looked down on for not being players instead, which is a post in its own right. And frankly refs get yelled at by virtue of being refs, pretty much regardless of the sport involved. Derby refs in particular have to know the rules of a very complex game and players, spectators and other officials depend on them to be observant, efficient, judicious, and fair. Reffing is hard work and it's real work. And I will have to discover if I can hack it or not, but I'm excited to give it a try.
TCRG 2010 Ref Poster

And in the mean time, I'll be practicing my ref dance.