Monday, 3 June 2013

April - June: Don't let 'stuff' get in the way.

Been a while as ever with writing the break has come from LOTS going on, we'll just stick with calling 'it' "Stuff". This post is more of a perspective share and exploration so bear with me, forgive any poor analogies.

- Moving, work, deadlines, relationships, friends, enemies, confidence, doubt, gossip, bills, fatigue, overload, family problems, applications, finances, tiredness, 'I really should wash my smelly pads', new wheel envy,  etc; etc....

I'm not saying the above are bad, but they most certainly can or will contribute 'load' to the limited supply of 'computing power'* you have while refereeing. Certain situations in life WILL arise and will have to take priority in your brain-space. (*By 'computing power' I mean your capacity, your mental availability to perform a specific task, affecting your ability to perform it well.)

Sport and reffing isn't easy

Doing things well require, to name a just a few key elements: attention, energy, awareness, focus, sensitivity (and much more).

There's always a supply of 'stuff' floating around, we all have lives, but as a referee, as someone who's 'job' it is to not be wrong, to be the line, to be calm, to be facilitating and patient.... Stuff can obscure your view of these qualities, making some unreachable for the time being.

This could also easily be true of playing. Your 'job' as a skating player is to stop opposing points, facilitating team points, supporting your team in fast, constantly changing situations and scenarios, to communicate clearly and quickly, to remain calm, keep safe, play cleanly and to skate well. More and more 'stuff' reduces your reach of these qualities measure by measure, piece by piece.

If you can't do it, is it worth doing it this week?
Is it worth leaving with a negative experience at the moment?
Could you do with the break to put your focus where it's needed to pick up the other stuff later?

Be honest with yourself. Know your limits and give yourself what you need to do the job well. If you can't because of external factors, get THOSE things done then come back to focus on the game etc. You'll be a better ref, skater, official, etc etc for it; knowing yourself allows you to be better used in your team.

Over the last few months, things had been building and I'd tried to keep doing it all of it still, when in reality and in hindsight, it was too much. My refereeing and in turn, my confidence and motivation suffered for it. Less time to prepare, less time to read, less time to explore the rules further, less time to train; resulting in a poor environment to perform.

Sometimes doing 'a good job' will require more than you've got in your 'brain-space'. Accept it, recognise those times and take the necessary time to say 'no' to training/practice/reffing or the 'stuff' if needs be; where do your priorities need to lay?

Giving yourself 'a break' will maintain a consistent flow of ability/performance rather than BIG fluctuations in performance. This is often seen in f a great week followed by a terrible one due to your "stuff". Up's and downs are natural but your actions and choices can and will play a crucial role in your own personal development in training, whether that's skating or reffing or tiddly-winks.

Reffing is something I want to do and something I enjoy. The challenge, the skating and the whole 'noble art' of balance, reflection, action, reaction, problem solving and professionalism.

You can't have and continue everything at all times and to do it well, you have to accept that.
You are limited, you are finite, you are or may struggling currently. See it and deal with the problem than "pushing through" and doing yourself, your crew or your team a disservice. They deserve you to be There; with them and not mentally elsewhere.

 When you have the chance and things slow down, then you can take the time to reassess why you do what you do and what environment do you need to be in to do it well, then create and/or facilitate it. That may just be the removal/completion or some of your "stuff".

In reflection, for my refereeing, in having the "Stuff" now out of the way and taking the time to reassess my wants and the game, I feel I've quickly regained the qualities needed for the role. I can now better maintain those qualities, facilitating good quality reffing, with "processing power" to boot in order to focus my 'spare' attention on improving, rather than not having the capacity to do so.

I'm asking questions, and inviting you into the discussion. What could you change? What needs to change for you to do your job better? Are you leaving with more positive than negative experiences? Be reflective and HAVE FUN, Sport is just a tool for your learning about who you are. :)

I'll leave you with a happy shiny ref pic from Sunday's training - Reffy happiness.

Gingerdread Man Out.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

14th March - 2nd April: A herd of Zebras.

On Saturday I was joined by a rather splendid group of stripes to help manage and govern a bout for my 'home league'. I was rather excited to be working with some familiar faces and a few I had yet to referee with.

Most open door bouts I'd had the opportunity to be involved with had been double headers and long days, this was just the one single game for a change which flew by.

Most of my bout experiences as a referee have had one or two slightly odd or new situations arise, whether that's a situation the crew hadn't seen before or had to deal with, injuries or of course, police interference.... (Read this post for more info ;p).

So it came as a little bit of a surprise with the first 'home' bout, all going well, smoothly with no real disruptions. Just a nice good game of Roller Derby. HOOORAY! Cherry Fury, Meg Le Maniac and Duncan Disorderly joined us from London way, alongside Xavier Bacon, Stubble Entenre, and myself and Abi Sinya came together to refree Seaside Siren's VS Romsey Town Rollerbillies.

Refs we're briefed, as per protocol and Dee's overall focus and emphasis was on 'calm'. Calm talking with each other, calm to the skaters, just being calm through everything we do. If you're not calm, go away, breathe and come back calm.

I'm sure having a very experienced ref crew helped matters but it does ring as very true.

Referee's keep the game flowing, reacting in a hasty/and rushed manner may rub off on others and escalate a problem rather than solving effectively, not to mention making poor calls from not thinking clearly. There was one foul out which Dee sorted mid Jam while John, as planned, took on the whole IPR for a moment while Dee moved outside to inform skaters and benches, to then be rejoin in the middlee after the situation had been dealt with to carry on with the rest of the game.

I won't go into masses of detail over the bout, as I've left this post too long but it was great to see such an experienced crew working together and I'd learnt a lot that day as ever, bringing through lessons and learning into my ref practice and supporting other referee in league too.

I have begun to refocus my attention to adequate mental preparedness and approaches in order to be an effective and fair referee any time I;m on skates and in Derby. Having the mental focus and calm approach allows the body to do what it does and your mind to focus on the game. Training sessions have been busy with a few recent ref shortages but I've been feeling really happy with my performance of late, especially with limited resources while enabling our crew to move on-wards and upwards.

That'll do for this overdue post :)

Monday, 4 March 2013

There's always something to do.

As said before, through this blog, I hope to have some useful posts on here for other refs, so they can help aid their leagues and referee crews no matter their experience, fresh eyes and fresh perspective can help mix up some old ingredients and cook up something new. (Don't ask me about the food analogy, maybe I'm hungry)

I'm sure every league is unique in terms of training for both their players and their NSO/Ref crews. Nonetheless, I hope some of the below may be of use to some. Adapt, change, make better etc; I'd love to hear what you use and what's working, so comment below.

I hope some of the below is old news, but if not, enjoy and give it a go.

1. Scrimmaging:

Obviously scrimmaging is super useful, you're looking at and being involved in game-play in a similar or same  as you would a bout, but with less pressure on you as a general rule. This is, no means  a casual 'walk in the park' and/or a pretty-skating-around-in-circles session, there's always something to do and learn. As much as scrimmage and training is for the skaters to practice, it's also for you as a referee or ref crew to grow and learn from. Gather before hand to have a mini meeting and establish, positions, questions and perhaps some goals for the session, this may be, try a new position or nail all hand signals for penalties given etc... Setting goals gives you a focus and adds some personality, accepted where each referee is "at" in terms of ability and set the ideal for some improvement made for that session.

Mid-scrimmage, If you need to take an 'official time out' to go over something then do it. Don't be afraid to use it or feel particularly rushed*, yes you need to sort the query out quickly and effectively, but it's your training time too! Doing so, may mean you may be able to explain something to newer ref's who may need time to ask, clarifying a situation for them and your crew to then be fully focused, rather than figuring out why on earth X was doing Y while shouting at Z as they go into the next jam (personally I'd do almost anything to get 5 seconds to stop, breathe and be ready and fully focused for the next jam). All of this gives a greater chance of making sure you're calling things correctly, keeping consistency andd sets the scene for the skaters having the best experience possible from your crew, by being then and there. Fight for it!

Feeling ready, understanding what is expected and having sufficient knowledge and experience are key components, for myself at least,  to feel confident and settled in a situation. Confidence should result in a better flow of game-play and better quality reffing for the skaters, improving their game and learning. If you're not confident, pretend you are, maybe you'll learn a thing or two.

*As much as you have the luxury to take OTO's, you should be as strict as feels right with your usage. If you need to clarify because it will have an impact on future gameplay, then do it, if not, keep a small notepad and write it down to discuss as a ref crew after training or on-line over the next few days. Maybe set a personal limit of no more than 1 or 2 per 1 hour Scrimmage (where possible). Set a way to deal with those burning questions between your ref crew. If it's a casual scrimmage maybe you could have 1 minute breaks for the first period, and back to 30 seconds for the second? (Just tried suggestions)

Scrimmaging is also a good chance to work on your 'game-face' and mental preparation for bout day. Treat it as you would it any bout and you'll have a higher probability of making the most of your time practising.
An old basketball coach said to me "practice doesn't make perfect, only perfect practice makes perfect". Your 'practice' has to be a game-specific and as close to the desired outcome as possible. If not already doing so for your local scrimmage practice, include kit check, brief ref meeting, warm up, captains talk etc, it get's you in practice and used to the routines you may do in the near future or are going through, alongside training skaters for what will happen. At the closed door scrimmage I refereed the other week, some had never had a kit-check done... it's important for often overlooked or neglected elements of the game to be understood for both skaters and referees (alongside of course just adding another level of control in terms of maintaining safety. You may argue a quick kit check could be done every session!) I know for sure I need to develop my understanding of NSO roles and limitations to broaden my all around officiating knowledge as an example.

You could also try to imagine crowds (Or maybe play recordings of crowd noise) (Although I'm sure it'll be noisy enough anyway) which may help you deal with real-bout distractions, and maintaining good ref-etiquette in high-stress situations.

If you can, try new roles, or lesser practised roles and if you're amazing, inject a little self pressure... if you can learn to channel pressure/stress and work with it for reffing open door or external bouts, when stuff's loaded onto you by others in future, hopefully you will already be able to take the weight.

2. Training sessions:

Better refs will mean a better league. If players aren't being called for things, they wont learn and will make those mistakes in-game. Drills are no exception. I enjoy the challenge of hearing what the training leader plans to do, and in a few seconds, figure out how I can learn from it in my role as a referee and direct myself and trainees with what's going to happen and what situations from the drill, we're likely to see in regards to reffing. (On a coaching front I make people do the work, don't always tell people stuff, ask them, it forces them to learn and makes you a better coach by learning to ask the right questions, prompting people to learn and gain confidence through solving the answers themselves)

I try to get to as many training sessions as possible and while this gives our ref crew a chance to ask questions between ourselves (which is relentless) it's extra time on skates to hone ref skating**, alongside practicing drill calls, signals, cues and aiding any clarifications the skaters may need as and when.

I find drills which last a good few minutes with players working on a specific pack/small group based activity most useful for ref practice seeing and calling. Understanding the scenario given to practice, you can quickly recognise the main penalties a scenario will bring to you and a change to be looking out for the 2-3 main penalties which may arise. For example, a 3 player drill working on driving a set player off the track (2v1) will tend to see Cutting penalties mainly, alongside perhaps Skating Out of Bounds penalties. As much as it's handy to know what you might see and focus on those fewer areas than overall gameplay to get a better understanding of what each infraction looks like in a real-time basis, eyes should still of course be open for blocking and target zone penalty infractions. This is great for old and newer refs alike to focus on a few areas rather than having to observe the whole game and the ever changing situations. If you look at 'referree-ing' as the whole practice, it's useful to break down all elements, focusing and and developing on a smaller part, to then apply once again to a bout or scrimmage scenario. (Whole-Part-Whole learning)

I've even found for myself through using drill exercises simple stages/triggers to look out for in driving off drills as an example, to make it easier to focus on the relevant pieces of information coming in to make sure an effective call can be made and reduce any information overload.

3. **Skating.

Last part and it will be brief.

Being able to skate, and skate well as a SKATING official, is pretty important, the name says it.

Referring is not a cop out from skating/playing, it is an art in itself. The mental aspect alone; knowing the game which has 65 pages of rules and game parameters for you to be clued up on, alongside standardised practices for officiating, hand signals, verbal cues, the ability to see these split second events and make a decision on them; is quite mind-blowing enough. Now, get on skates, skate for hours solidly and make decisions which impact the game and outcomes that result in winning, losing, fouling out, injury reduction, fairness, sportsmanship and more. CHESS BOXING!

All I'm trying to say, in a semi-rant in regards to the paragraph above, is the more time on skates the better, as a general rule, but that being said it's another area like all of life, that requires a FOCUS to make sure the best is being made from your practice and time. Realise an area of weakness and put yourself in the situation that will force it of you. Focus, even if loose, will probably be better than none.

-Lack of Speed? Go OPR with a fast moving pack.
-Lack of footwork/inside track awareness? Go Jam Ref
-Lack of speed getting back up from falling? Take two knees between each jam and work on speedy get ups.

Many positions change the style of referee skating, so changing position alone can help, other-times, you may need to set the goal of NO forward skating, to nail your backwards skating, or only right turning derby stops to always face the pack from the inside (Or oppositte for Outside). Skating has to become second nature, so PLAY, have fun, set challenges, dodge, weave, try new things.

I'll have a few drills coming up on future posts about this :).

Blog in a nutshell: skate lots, read plenty, observe tonnes and have focus.

Until next time.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

21st Feb: Experience is Everything.

A little late but I wanted to write about it nonetheless.

I was asked to help referee at a closed door event over the weekend. 2 of our league's newer refs, Emma and Jacqui drove me there and attended with me to observe and learn, as per their ongoing 'snow tiger' training.

Upon arrival to the venue I observed an "incident" in the car park which warranted a call to the police, but we headed promptly into the Sports Centre to put it behind us and prepare for the task at hand, finishing off a few discussions from our Roller-Derby-Test-O-Matic (EPIC FUN SITE CLICK HERE) testing on the entire car journey, and preparing for Referee duties.

Slowly players started arriving with a few referee's I've not had the pleasure of reffing with yet. 2 from Coventry, 2 from Surrey, Northampton and myself (Skating 1 Ref Short on the outside). I was down for Front IPR for the day and was looking forward to having the opportunity to further practice with the new rules. It was the first change for some of the refs to experience bout situations too so it could have gone either way.

The game got underway and played through reasonably well between both teams who are, to my knowledge, two relatively newer teams. There were a few mix ups in the penalty box from a newer NSO set up but nevertheless the game flowed reasonably well. The general feel from the get go, which was always explained was a casual set up to give both trams a chance to experience bout situation.

Around 10 Minutes in, the Centre manager needed to let me know the Police wanted to talk to me, so after the jam I went to see the Mr Policeman who needed to take a statement regarding the incident I saw and reported earlier. Luckily he was able to come and visit me post bout so after a few minutes, I rushed back in to re-assume my role as front IPR. Usually things like this can fluster me and throw my focus, but I felt I upped my game and remained composed and focused to get on with the rest of the 1st period. I hope that's the strangest thing I have to deal with mid bout, but then again, this is Derby so I can't rest easy.

After the break for fluids and feedback between refs, we got back on with the second period. Nothing too taxing in terms of gameplay, almost an expulsion for a player fouling out, and plenty of power jams to both teams, resulted in the game finishing with, I think, a 30 point difference.

All in all, it was a great chance to try new things as it was stated from this closed door's inception. The day allowed for a few Refs to loose their external game V-Cards in a casual environment, a chance for NSO's to try new things and practice and of course, for skaters from two teams to practice and play derby. Thanks for organising Rach!

What I've learned/realised over the weekend:

- I'm better at dealing with interruptions when I have to and making quick decent decisions
- Be observant throughout bout prep, ready to plug any gaps or issues as early as possible.
- Lucky and thankful to be a part of a league with a strong NSO Crew.
- Lucky to have been able to learn from and work with some great people from various leagues so early on.*

*(Notable thanks to Xavier Bacon (ongoing help and opportunities), Scream Winchester teaching me how to kit-check and saw T and I through my first closed door at Kent), Fu Man-Drew (Calmest man inside track), Stubble Entendre (Enthusiasm and ongoing support), Noise Tank (Flair, and support through closed doors), Scoot'er (Examples and opportunity for reffing my first open door), my own league and **refs** (T for being an awesome head of refs) and for the ridiculously lengthy discussions and all on UK Refs.

Thanks to all I've chatted with, wrestled rules with and who have lent ANY advice over the past year. It's greatly appreciated, I love Derby and I want to be a good referee first and foremost, and you're all helping me to do that, thank you.

Next bout I'll be at should be the Seaside Sirens vs Romsey Town Rollerbillies on the 9th of March, Titled ever so Essex-ly, Pie and Bash. There's going to be a STRONG ref crew and I'm sure the game's going to be a good'n.

Friday, 8 February 2013

7th Feb: Ref Trainingz!

So just a quickie,

We've been working hard within our league to develop a programme to help develop ourselves and in turn, new refs as the need arises. Falling in with our own progression we made our own Referee testing to ensure that we were of a self imposed level to ensure refereeing is to the highest possible standard, and although it takes years and much experience to do so, the test was a good focus and goal to work towards.

Our test is basically the WTFDA referee minimums test.

I managed the following.

- 96% Rules Test
- 97% On hand signals and verbal cues.
All greens on skating minimums and managed to get 10 1/2 Laps in 1:35.

Fun times!

Monday, 28 January 2013

27th January 2013: Post scrimmage training.

Just a quick one, training tonight we had the ever so awesome John aka 'Xavier Bacon' visiting and supporting our crew refereeing for the afternoon. John took a Head Ref Rear IPR role giving our newer refs a chance to shadow. It's so important to have time to be out of the pressure of having to call things, and take a back seat to let the game come to you, so to speak.

I mainly stick to front IPR at training sessions as it's something that just naturally happened due to our crews preferences but tonight for the second 30 minute scrimmage I moved over to Jam ref. (eeeeep)

As with anything, its really easy to stick with what's comfy and, as much as the word sounds like bad practice, it's easy to neglect other areas. I'll be honest thought and say, I have spent little time Jam Reffing. As much as I realise I made a few mistakes I noticed the general understanding and ability was in me for the role but needs some more specific focus.

As a short term aim and plan I will practice more in the Jammer ref to develop as an all around ref, while reading specific rule areas and discussion, in depth around the position.. Hopefully will see some progression in the area over future sessions.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

25/1/2013 - LOW BLOCK!

Lets Kick things off shall we! (Did you see what I did there with the title? *toots whistle*)

I had to post something on this new blog as frankly, it looks ghastly to have nothing on it while I'm playing around with the layout and a plan of action.

Hello everyone and welcome all to my blog. I hope it will become a useful tool to aid me in documenting my derby experiences, to house my otherwise unshared or forgotten thoughts and to see what the world and interwebz thinks about it all. I aim to share things that I've found useful in the hope they'll be the same for you.

I am in no way intending this blog to be a source of sharing of, or flinging any Derby bickering. It's not in my nature and frankly, I want to stay out of as much of the 'politics' as possible, focusing simply on the my informal mantra of 'BE A GOOD REF'.

I will get a 'real' post up over the next few weeks and I honestly hope this blog serves you well in terms of another site to spend time reading through, comment upon, and help you in Derby in whichever way it may.

In a very brief review, 2012 was an overall challenging and changing year personally, but one in which Derby and Refereeing had become a real interest and perhaps obsession in some respects.... Daily clicking down the UK Refs discussion pages, imagining scenarios, flicking between rule areas, impulsive signals while watching derby games on the internet and coming up with all sorts of weird ways to try to improve in my weaker areas of refereeing.

In 2012 I re-learnt to skate, shadowed, read, struggled, overheated, travelled, made mistakes, made improvements, made great friends. Now, I'm lucky to have a 'solid-as-can-be' local ref crew with me as we try our best to help each other, striving to be the best we can, helping those we practice with to learn as much as we do every time we adorn the foot-wheels and Fox 40's.

The WFTDA finally released the new ruleset which brought mixed reactions from many including myself, but after wrestling with it and testing, I now feel I've got a reasonably healthy grasp of where the game is and how it looks and plays. I have my first few closed and open bouts of the year - under the new rules - coming up in February and March and look forward to refereeing with new and old faces from across the country.

Here's to hoping for a great year of Derby and many happy ref breakthroughs as the sport grows.

All players reading, I will be showing my gratitude for you all being a lovely bunch by shouting at you, having a referee "you're-dead-to-me" face, blowing whistles so loud they could deafen, and waving my arms around at you accordingly.