Frame of REFrence: Salmon in a Stream

By · January 18, 2012 · Filed in Referee/NSO Crew

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.

Jam Timer

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).

Leave a Comment