Jitter Rox, NHRD’s Head NSO, most certainly “rocks!”
A lot of people don’t know all that goes on behind the scenes. There’s a great deal of organization, planning, preparing, practicing, score keeping, penalty tracking, jam timing, etc. Without the Refs and the Non Skating Officials (NSOs) it would just be some girls going around and around a track. I sat down with NHRD’s Head NSO Jitter Rox to talk derby.
What do you “get” out of participating in NHRD?
As someone who relocated to New England for a job, I got a family! I get to spend my free time with a diverse group of really cool people that understand me.
Not all NSOs want to be skaters — did you ever want to be a skater? Do you consider yourself more than “support staff”?
I never wanted to be a skater — I was only at an NHRD info session as moral support for one of my good friends (Jager Raider). I was shocked when Woody Yankabitch, the head ref at the time, told me I could get involved with derby without skating or competing. I was so excited! While I’ve never had the desire to be a skater, I do own skates, and encourage all girls that are still building their skills to NSO for a year. It’s a great way to learn the rules, get to know the skaters and understand strategy.
She’s not afraid of you!
Any position / job you like doing better or worse than others?
I like all of the NSO jobs-they each have their own challenge, but it lets you understand derby a lot more once you get it!
I’ve been with the league since 2008 and with derby since 2007. I’ve seen derby grow so quickly in that time – especially our own league. How do you feel about being a part of NHRD – or do you feel more like a Universal Soldier as we often help out other leagues and teams?
I joined NHRD in 2009, the year we became a WFTDA apprentice league. As the first WFTDA league in New Hampshire, I think NHRD has a great balance of helping out the smaller leagues around us while focusing on ways to evolve as a league. For the officials, it’s great. We get opportunities weekly to officiate with different leagues throughout the area (last year, I drove about 11,000 to different bouts and tournaments). This lets us learn new methods and grow our experience for the bigger tournaments.
Would you consider switching to coaching or something else more closely working with the teams/skaters?
I really like being a Zebro! It’s the best team since we never lose!
“Briefly” explain the NSO/Ref testing and levels so that people understand we’re not just pulling penalties out of our butts! That we actually have training and rules and procedures.
My friends outside derby are always surprised by how many rules there are. “It’s that sport where girls in underpants beat each other up, right?” The rule book is 65 pages long. As it’s a sport that is still evolving, there are revisions that happen constantly. Officials not only need to know the rules, but also need to stay up with the WFTDA rules discussions, as there are changes throughout the season. There are five levels of certification for Non-Skating Officials. Certifications are reserved for the officials that WFTDA sees going beyond the standard expectations. To get certified, an official needs to pass a very tough rules test, have other leagues write evaluations and submit a packet to a committee that evaluates if you meet the criteria. It’s a big process, and we have to go through it every two years to keep the certifications active.
Thank you Jitter! A woman of great organizational skills and a fabulous SHOE wardrobe! We’d all just be making left hand turns without you!
If you would like information about becoming an NSO or a referee, please contact Jitter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Catch up on league history, learn about team rosters, and get schooled in Roller Derby history in the 2013 New Hampshire Roller Derby Media Guide.
Download Media Kit (2.8MB PDF)
“…Rules Committee has seen to it that no one who understood the game the year before should understand it this year. The motto of the Rules Committee seems to have been: ‘New rules and new [fans] each year.’ …They changed rules every season as if they were trying to work up a new game…and make it into something they didn’t quite know about. They made illegal all the old plays that used to be the essence of the game and sat up nights trying to think up new things to put in their places. It has got so now that the Rules Committee itself is about the only body of [people] who know enough about the game to play it, and they haven’t anybody to play it with.”
This quote sums up the sentiment I get from many people each time WFTDA comes out with a revised rule set (almost unfailingly longer than the previous set) or clarification essays on the current rule set. I can appreciate the frustration. Teams need to change their strategies. Referees need to retrain their crews. These are not trivial tasks. Fans puzzle over why teams take unexpected tactics or why their favorite jammer got sent to the box. Their inability to understand the changing game can affect how much they enjoy being a spectator.
The evolving of the rule set is just a necessary part of the evolution of roller derby. As our sport becomes more mature, we need more robust rules. As teams push the limits of the rules, holes are found that need to be corrected to avoid unfair advantages. As more referees are needed, clear, detailed rules need to be written down to ensure accurate and consistent enforcement. Thoughtful consideration and revision of the rule set will eventually lead to better play by teams and more enjoyment by fans–even if it’s painful for everyone in the short term.
The quote at the beginning of this post was taken from an essay written by humorist Robert Benchley around 1930 about another sport that was in its early years of gaining popularity. The title is, “Football Rules or Whatever They Are.” I think football managed to survive its growing pains of rule revisions and so can roller derby. Maybe one day we’ll have mega pop stars having wardrobe malfunctions during the half-time show of our national championships! I’m willing to suffer through a lot more rule changes for that!
WFTDA recommends Fox 40 whistles for referees. These are special whistles that don’t have any little balls in them so you get a crisp, clear note. This prevents referees and skaters from mistaking the warble in conventional whistles for the 4-short blasts ending the jam. The Fox whistles are also louder than conventional whistles, important at loud bouts. Fox now makes a Sonic model that’s even louder. (Hard to imagine, I know!)
Being able to hear whistles clearly during bouts is important. However, I often leave scrimmages with my ears ringing until the next morning. It’s bad enough that I avoid “echoing” end of jam signals, which is technically against official operating procedures. (Echoing is when the refs repeat the 4 whistle blasts that ended the jam to ensure all skaters heard it.) The ringing is especially bad on nights when I’m acting as a jam ref because I have to blow my own whistle a lot or when I’m the front inside pack ref because I stand next to the jam timer at the start of the jam. I’m pretty sure going home with ringing ears a couple times a week is not good for my hearing.
The simple answer is to wear ear plugs. I’ve tried this, and it does work. Unfortunately, it works too well. I can’t hear the NSO’s or my fellow refs talking to me. I’ve even tried special ear plugs that supposedly only cut out high frequencies. You probably don’t notice–and definitely can’t hear at a bout–that referees talk to each other a lot. For example, pack refs suggest minor penalties on jammers to the jam refs when their view is blocked, pack refs double check what they saw with each other before calling penalties, and there’s a constant dialog to capture penalties with the NSO’s. Jam refs have to talk to each other a lot to convey lap points and lead jammer status. I miss too much information to be effective as a ref when wearing ear plugs.
Have any other refs out there or people with loud hobbies where communication is still important found a solution to this problem? My ears will thank you!
Sometimes you can’t beat the basics. A great exercise that concentrates on the upper body is the PUSHUP.
- Lie flat on the floor with your hands slightly wider than shoulder width. Raise your body up off the floor by extending your arms. BODY STRAIGHT. ABDOMINALS TIGHT.
- Keeping your body straight, lower your body to the floor by bending your arms. Push your body up until your arms are extended. Repeat.
BUTT DOWN! Watch a pushup video here.
Too easy for you? Then how about adding a twist and doing an INCLINE PUSHUP.
- Stand facing bench or sturdy elevated platform. Place hands on edge of bench or platform, slightly wider than shoulder width
- Position forefoot back from bench or platform with arms and body straight. Arms should be perpendicular to body.
- Keeping body straight, lower chest to edge of box or platform by bending arms. Push body up until arms are extended. Repeat.
Watch an incline pushup video here.
These and other exercises come from the website EXRX.net. This site breaks down each exercise by muscle group; body part; exercise. Whether you are using weights; cables; your own body weight; etc. It’s a great tool and the video demonstrations are very helpful and shows you how to actually DO the exercise.
I have a five-year-old daughter. I’ll call her Neo. Her definition of a grown-up is someone who can eat candy for breakfast if they want. Based on this definition, she knows she is not a grown-up.
The other week we had an incident at practice where we discovered we were out of instant ice packs in the first aid kit. I couldn’t ref at the next practice because my husband is taking a class at night, but I decided to take Neo to buy some ice packs to replenish the kit and bring them to practice. Neo bounced up and down at the check-out line telling the clerk, “We’re buying ice packs for Mommy’s derby girls! Sometimes they get hurt, so she’s buying them ice packs! They’re her derby girls!”
Other than amusing the clerk, it made me think, my derby girls? Then it struck me that Neo’s other definition of grown-ups: They can tell kids what to do. I’ve told her in the past that referees make sure everyone follows the rules. As far as Neo is concerned, derby girls are big kids on skates being supervised by grown-ups in black and white shirts. It’s just a taller, faster version of pre-school.
Once we got to practice, I let Neo sit and watch the girls do some rule scenarios while I put the ice packs away. Seeing the disarray of our medical supplies, I got absorbed in chucking empty packages and expired medications, and repacking things more efficiently. Neo watched the players intently. My previous hypothesis on her views were confirmed. She crept up to me and whispered, “Mommy! One of the derby girls said a bad word!”
“What did she say?”
“She said STUPID! Are you going to put her in the box for a time-out?”
“No, she wasn’t calling another person stupid. She was calling a problem with a rule stupid.”
“Oh.” Neo wandered back to watch the skaters do drills, more impressed. Apparently, to a five-year-old, derby girls are bad ass because they can say a bad word without going to the box!
With all the players and referees whizzing by getting all the attention, there’s a hard working group of folks who seldom get their due: Non-Skating Officials (NSOs). These fabulous skate-free folks not only perform essential functions to ensure a smooth-running derby bout, they also do it wearing the ugliest, ill-fitting salmon pink polo shirts you’ve ever seen.
I’m starting with this position because it has a special place in my heart. When I first joined NHRD, it was the very first job I had in the league. The jam timer blows the whistles to start the blockers and the jammers for each jam. They time the jam and blow the ending whistle at two minutes if it isn’t called off early by a Lead Jammer. The jam timer may also be responsible for taking care of the period clock as well. These days, it’s usually my fellow blogger, Tiara Misu, whom you will find jam timing at our bouts.
Penalty Box Officials
These charming NSOs are the ones some skaters begin to develop strong relationships with because they see them so often. The penalty box officials time penalties, ensure skaters enter and leave the box legally, and that order prevails. This was Tiara Misu’s primary domain last season, and it is now managed by Neon Kaos.
Penalty Trackers, Whiteboarders, and Wranglers
Referees would be useless without these NSOs. They are the ones you see huddled in the center of the track trying not to get run over by anyone. The penalty trackers keep a detailed tally of the penalties called on each skater. They are sometimes called “stats” NSOs. The whiteboarders keep a more simplified tally of majors and minors on all the players so that referees can know how many minors players have accumulated and players who accumulate enough trips to the box to get ejected. It is the whiteboarders’ job to signal referees so that the appropriate skaters get sent off the track. The main whiteboard is in the center of the track, usually expertly overseen by Jitter Rox wearing the most awesome stilettos ever seen on the flat track.
The wrangler is an assistant to the whiteboarders and penalty trackers. Dixie Cheeks is our current wrangler. As you may have surmised, roller derby bouts are rather loud. It can be hard to hear what a ref is yelling when that ref is looking at the players, not the NSOs s/he is talking to. The wrangler’s job is to chase down refs when a call was missed or to flag a ref down when a skater needs to be sent to the box. This job probably burns the most calories out of all the NSO positions.
Before I forget them, there are two lonely NSOs stationed by themselves in opposite corners on the outside of the track. They hold mini whiteboards and take down the penalties of the outside pack refs. Then they jump up and down until the inside track NSOs spot them and transfer the penalties to the inside whiteboard. They don’t get much company out there in the boonies, so give them a hug between periods.
Scorekeepers and Scoreboard Operators
This last set of NSOs are above everyone else–literally. They sit up in a balcony above the players’ benches and look down at the track. From there, they can clearly see the bout and see the points signaled by the jam refs. They then get to play with a bunch of cool buttons and make the score appear on the big lighted scoreboard. Pretty awesome. Sometimes the scoreboard operator is also in charge of the period clock, so the bird’s eye view is also important for detecting when the period clock needs to be stopped for time-outs. They also have the prime spot for flirting with the bout announcers.
Whew! I think that’s everybody. As you can see, it takes a lot of off-skates work to put on a bout. Next time you come to an NHRD bout, after you’ve gotten an autograph and a picture with your favorite derby girl, please take a moment to thank an NSO (and tell them they look great in salmon).
I am Game Ovaries, but everyone calls me “Ovie”. I joined NHRD as an NSO (non-skating official) and volunteer in April 2011. Outside of roller derby I am a Visual/Merchandising Associate Manager for a high fashion company. I can work anytime from 5am to mid afternoon, to working overnights from 10pm to 7am. I even have to work weekends (YUCK!). When I’m not working, I’m hanging out with my friends. Going to shows, movies, bowling, just having a good time. I recently rekindled my hobby of painting. Other than hanging out with friends and painting here and there, I have no other hobbies or after-work activities. I’ve tried to be active after work, but that never really went according to plan. I blame reality TV shows and snack foods. So as you can see I needed something to fill my not-so-exciting afternoons up. Roller derby it was!
I became fascinated with the sport after watching the movie “Whip It”. I know, I know… I’m sure this may sound cliche but I was in awe while watching the scenes of these women slamming into each other, speeding and passing by their opponents and just knocking players down. I was hooked. I looked up roller derby videos of real life leagues. I watched videos of bouts, wipe outs and even skating techniques. It was as if my eyes were glued to the screen of my computer. I wanted more! One day I came across the New Hampshire Roller Derby league website. I researched what it took to be a skater and I thought “Hey, I could do this. I want to do this! I can learn to skate and be like these women. I want to play roller derby!”.
I participated in the NHRD tryouts back in January of 2011, and did not advance to Freshmeat Training. Believe me, it was a blessing in disguise! I had only skated maybe all of 4-5 times before tryouts and was truly inexperienced. Even after not making it through the next step of training, I decided that I would continue to skate at local rinks to get more skating experience. Another reason to keep skating was because I had just spent $200 on a skating package. $200 is $200! I couldn’t just let that money go down the drain. I bought the works: skates, helmet, knee pads, elbow pads, wrist guards and a mouth guard. Where else would I wear all that gear?! I could’ve just left the items to collect dust but I was determined! Determined to learn how to skate… and to become a roller girl!
Some members of the referee and NSO crew, summer 2011
This past year has opened my eyes to a world of opportunities for myself with New Hampshire Roller Derby. Only a year has past by and A LOT has happened for me! I’ve learned how to skate and I’m not to shabby at it! Other than gaining skating experience, I’ve met and became acquainted with the skaters, refs and NSO’s in the league. This year has been a huge stepping stone for me. I’ve overcome a lot of obstacles but have so many more challenges still ahead of me. I will be blogging about my past year as an NSO, the ups and downs of being a freshmeat skater, people who have influenced and pushed me along the way and anything else that comes to my rookie mind!
Derby is an action-packed game, and it takes a lot of eyes to make sure proper calls are made. While all seven referees wear the same stripes, we have different duties during the jam.
Inside Pack Refs:
There are two pack refs on the inside of the track. One manages the front of the pack, and the other stays with the back of the pack. Their major task is to call penalties on pivots and blockers that occur in their line of sight. They are also responsible for declaring “no pack” situations. This is when the players split into a formation in which no group of skaters can be considered the legal definition of a pack. They also assist the jam refs to determine whether blockers engaging the jammers are “out of play.” Out of play is when a blocker has gone too far ahead or behind the pack. The front pack ref has the additional duty of watching for “false starts.” This is when one of the pivots or blockers starts ahead of the starting line or a blocker lines up ahead of a pivot’s hips.
Outside Pack Refs:
Three referees are assigned to the outside of the track. Because the further from the center you are, the faster you have to skate, most referees use a “skate and wait” procedure. We usually set up where one ref starts on the pivot line, one ref starts at Corner 1 (the closest corner to the starting line), and the final ref starts at Corner 3 (diagonal from Corner 1). The pivot line ref helps the front pack ref call false starts. Once the skaters take off, the pivot line ref skates over to wait at Corner 1, while the Corner 1 ref follows the pack until Corner 3, when that ref takes over. Thus, each ref is only skating half a lap at a time, and there is always one outside referee with the pack. Outside pack refs have most of the same penalty calling duties as inside pack refs, but have the special job of signaling to the jam refs if their jammer cuts the track on the outside.
Jam refs only have one skater to pay attention to, but they probably have the most stressful jobs on the ref crew. They are responsible for calling when jammers get lead, penalties, and points. Before the jam, the jam refs start on the inside of the track on the jammer line. They signal to their jammers how many minor penalties they’ve accumulated. Once a jammer makes it through the pack, their jam ref calls them lead or not lead with hand signals. If the jammer is not the lead jammer because of a penalty, the jam ref makes the signal for that penalty. After each scoring pass, the jam ref signals over their head how many points were scored in that pass. It’s those points that are stressful. Mess up the points, and you’ve messed up the game. Just a little pressure!
This is probably all old news to all the hardcore derby fans, but I hope this helps all you new (and future hardcore) fans understand why there are so many stripes out there!