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Published on February 29th, 2012 | by Samurai Simba

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Skating With A Dazzle (the adventures of a fledgling zeeb)

The English dictionary defines the word dazzle as,

“Dazzle: to overpower or dim the vision of by intense light: He was dazzled by the sudden sunlight.”

It also defines it as,

“Dazzle: A grouping of zebra.”

I skate with a dazzle and I’m proud of it!

The past almost two years have been a roller coaster of penalties, dirty looks and amazing people. Never in my life have I felt so connected to something as I have within this sport. The excitement, the disappointment, the threats of physical harm! (and it was only my third bout) All of these things have formed me into the ref that I am today. While there are some experiences that I could forever live without, I would never trade them and I would certainly never want to miss the people.

Lets start from the beginning. I got involved with my league through some close friends of mine. They were looking for a newbie coach, to help train the fresh meat on skating skills. Having come from an artistic roller skating background, I figured it would be an awesome way to get back into skating and get some exercise for my big ole butt! Upon my first night there, I felt like I was home again. A strange way of putting it, but that’s how I felt. Comfortable and in my element. If it had been a cult, I’d have drank the kool-aid and been well on my way to the mother ship.

Fast forward a few months and instead of just teaching bambis on ice how to fall without breaking their butts, I’m watching the refs. I’m watching my friends call the game and I’m learning what penalties mean what and, and…HOLY CRAP THAT LOOKS LIKE FUN!!! I WANNA DO THAT!! PICK ME PICK ME!! Another glass of the derby cult kool-aid, and I’m off and running…well, skating.

I start to learn the rules and how to enforce them and every tidbit of feed back and information is like a drug. “MORE! I need MORE! I’m GOOD at this and I LIKE it! Put me in coach! I can’t totally hang!” These are all things running around my head as I am going through a very thorough training time with my head ref. (Daddy Dykalicious) As much as I was so eager to get out there and just start reffing, Daddy knew I wasn’t ready yet and I’m thankful for holding back my enthusiasm for just a ‘lil while longer.

A few more months pass and one of our travel teams was heading up north for a single-header bout and they were in need of refs. Figuring that this would be a good place to cut my teeth, (it was a “B” level bout) Daddy gave me her blessing to be placed as a jam ref. Elated and too eager for words, I pack my gear and carpool it up north for some roller derby action! Being so eager and new, I had created this image of what it was going to be like and how it was going to go. Needless to say, ALL of those went out the window when I arrived and found out that there was some miscommunication and there was a LARGE deficit of officials.

Being my first bout EVER, I was confused and kind of lost. Not wanting to seem like a COMPLETE newb, I just went with the flow and kept my confusion and comments to myself. Although a certain league head ref got this text from me… “What the FUCK did you get me into?!!?” Time passes and most positions are filled and we get ready to start. For a fleeting moment I think to myself “The worst is over! It can’t get ANY worse!” Oh famous last thoughts, how you still torture my brain. What happens during the bout can only be described by the phrase “Derby Vietnam.” Since there were no outside pack refs, girls were cutting track like the lines were a suggestion, elbows were so common that I started to wonder if WFTDA had changed it’s rules on them. At one point I swear that I saw a skate fly into the crowd, but my post traumatic derby syndrome has blurred a LOT of that bout from my memory.

After the last whistle blew and I checked my scores, I took a look around. I was expecting there to be bodies and equipment strewn about, but instead there was the normal after bout clean up, hugs and cheering. I had made it through and I actually got thanked for it! Who knew? The after party was at the venue and I had a great time talking with the other team players and spending time with girls from my own league. All in all not the WORST reffing experience for a first time. It was rough; I will not lie about that. However, I still learned from it and that has been the best part of reffing.

I have many more reffing stories to tell and I hope to share them with you someday, if that’s something y’all are interested in. I would like to share a few things for people who might be interested in reffing or fledgling zeebs.

Don’t be afraid to fuck up!

We are human and can only call what we see. Learning from bad calls will keep you from making the same mistake twice. This is especially true at practice.

Read your rule book.

If you come up with a situation in your head and you don’t know how to call it, that book will give you the answer. If you don’t understand it, ASK! There are so many refs in this sport that are more than willing to share their knowledge with you.

Admit when you made a mistake.

Sometimes we make a bad call, learn why it was bad and we fix it. Don’t be afraid to say “ Hey, I was wrong on that cut track major. It should have been a minor.” Remember, we’re only human.

Reffing isn’t for everyone.

It might take you a little while to figure out, that you just don’t like it. Maybe you are better suited for an N.S.O. position. N.S.O.’s make the world go round in my book, and I would be lost without them.

N.S.O. whenever possible.

In the past two years I have N.S.O’d very little. Mostly because we don’t have an abundance of skating refs, but learning that position is very important to being a well-rounded ref.

Reach out to other refs.

Maybe there’s a league not too far from you, but they don’t really have a ref strong ref crew. Or they are a newer league and they have a few people interested in reffing. Reach out to those refs! Share your information with them. See if they have the time to come to one of your practices. This will help build a relationship between the groups and make you all better refs!

I hope you have enjoyed my little story of becoming a ref, and I hope it has made you smile, laugh, or inspired you to become an official!

Samurai Simba
Ventura County Derby Darlins’
:3

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