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.