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Published on June 25th, 2012 | by DerbyLife


Advice From A Veteran Referee

By Su Real, Denver Roller Dolls.

Most derby leagues I have worked with over my career take the attitude that their officials would tell them if they weren’t happy, right?


Volunteers are just that: volunteers. They are giving you their time and energy for free. And believe it or not most of them don’t want to work that hard at it. People have jobs. They have families. They have millions of ways to spend their time. They could be home playing video games! Instead, they are looking for a reason to give their time to your organization.

Most people that I know who volunteer at roller derby do it because they want a personal connection with the skaters. They are looking for something bigger than themselves to be a part of, and they’d really like that something to be as cool as roller derby. They WANT to invest themselves in a derby league. But it is up to the skaters to give them the reason to pick YOUR league.
It isn’t hard to get people invested in roller derby. There is that certain awe factor that happens when you tell your friends you are in roller derby and suddenly you are the most interesting person in the room. But it does take conscious effort.

Instead of assuming that people want to work for your league – I’m mean OBVIOUSLY it is the coolest around –you might consider assuming that there are over a hundred different leagues that they could be working for instead. It is up to the skaters to give the volunteers a reason to come back for scrimmage week after week and give up their weekends for bouts month after month.
Here are a few suggestions. But they are just suggestions. I am sure the best league around – and that’s yours- can come up with a whole list of their own.

• Say hello to the officials at scrimmages.

• Tell them thank you for being there.

• Try to realize that that once a week scrimmage opportunity is the only chance officials have to practice their skills. They are going to get things wrong. Isn’t that the point of practicing? And after all if skaters never made mistakes there would be no need of officials.

• Treat your officials like you would your co-workers. If you wouldn’t go storming across the office floor yelling “That’s f*cking bullsh*t!” at work, you probably shouldn’t do it on the track.

• If someone does throw a temper tantrum, speak to them. Don’t let it become “culture.”

• If you disagree with a call, utilize your skills of diplomacy. Tell them you didn’t understand the call, and ask them to explain it.

• Those people on and around the track who aren’t wearing skates — they need love too. Probably more because most people never even know they are there.

• Make it a point to personally invite your volunteers to league events. It might just push them over the” maybe fence” into the” yes yard”, and it shows you know who they are.

• Show your volunteers you appreciate them. Give them a certificate. A poster signed by the skaters. Stickers. Whistles. A Hug. Whatever. Just show them that you appreciate their talents and skills.

• Include volunteers in your annual awards ceremony. You’d have no bouts without volunteers. There would be no “most feared blockers” or “highest scoring jammer” without the massive crew of non-skaters who help make your dreams become a reality. This includes the announcers and photographers. Who else chronicles your dreams?

• If there is one individual in the officials’ organization that is affecting retention or sowing seeds of discontent, deal with it right away. Don’t let the well that the league relies upon get poisoned.

• Follow up and follow through. Don’t let your volunteers get disenchanted because someone didn’t respond to an email for a month.

• Over communicate. It is better to let your volunteers filter out what is too much information rather than having them wondering what is going on, when, what time and whether or not their attendance is needed.

There are so many ways you can accomplish the same end, but the most important component is to be pro-active. Don’t wait until half your official squad is ready to quit: let your volunteers know that you are grateful they are part of your league and not that other league 5 miles down the road.

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