by Catherine Beat-Her Bonez
Hi! I’m Catherine Beat-Her Bonez, the WFTDA Education Programs Manager, and I’d like to introduce you to a new project I have been working on behind the scenes. “WFTDA Education Meets…,” is a series of interviews led by me and the WFTDA Education team that will feature WFTDA committees, member leagues, or individuals who provide the community with resources and training or who volunteer in an interesting role.
Through these interviews, we will be exploring topics that relate to educational initiatives and programs, with a focus on new and upcoming WFTDA resources and initiatives. We are also excited to highlight the achievements and efforts of our fellow community members.
This will be a place where people can browse, read, get inspired or find more resources. We also want to offer some topics in different languages (Oh yes! We have ambitious plans!).
Our first few interviews will focus on officiating. First up, we’ll cover the challenges and joys of skating competitively and officiating, through an interview with Maurine and She-Lock, two Swedish roller derby players and officials. During the interview, they share advice for those who want to try both roles and tips on what to focus on as a skater/official.
Happy reading — and learning!
Catherine Beat-Her Bonez: First off, who are you? Tell us a bit about yourself.
Maurine: I’m Maurine! I’m a Swede of Polish heritage living in Stockholm. I found derby while studying up north in Sweden. In 2012 I was scorekeeper for a game before I had any idea about the rules. Shortly after, I started training and soon became a jammer. It took another two years before I took up officiating more seriously, as I transferred to Stockholm Roller Derby.
Today I skate as a jammer for our All-Stars, officiate as much as I can, and try to do my part to evolve Swedish derby as a board member of our national governing body. I also work as a clinical psychologist while running my own business as a sports and organizational psychology consultant.
She-Lock Holmes: I am She-Lock Holmes, but when I officiate I am CAPS LOCK or Num Lock (I use the first when I’m skating and the second when I’m an NSO names — yes, I have many names). I’m a Swede currently living in Amsterdam, where I work for an online travel agency and, more importantly, where I play and officiate with Amsterdam Roller Derby. I have moved around tons though, so Amsterdam is my fifth league.
Catherine: You both skate and officiate. What do you like about holding both roles?
Maurine: I couldn’t imagine not doing both. I played handball for many years, and it was ingrained in us that if we want to compete, we have to help out. I officiated children’s handball before eventually moving up to officiating seniors, while still being a junior myself. I started out in derby with the mindset that I would [both officiate and skate] in some capacity. What helped me take the step was the wonderfully fun, genuine, and passionate individuals that officiate. I felt welcomed right away. Despite the demands that are required to be an all-star skater, I keep officiating as much as I can because it helps me elevate my skating skills and my understanding of the game.
She-Lock: A while back I found my old notes from reading the rules when I first started derby. I made drawings to visualize scenarios and noted down questions and everything. Rules were just my thing from the very beginning.
Two years ago I was injured and not rostered for a US tour that my team, the Stockholm Roller Derby All-Stars, was going on. My friend Iceman suggested I join as NSO for an Italian tournament he was head-NSOing called Skate Im Ring. That was so much fun I signed up for more [games]. And then more. And more. The benefits of officiating include gaining a much better understanding of the game and also the structures around it – things like understanding who to talk to about what during a game and knowing what will win you an official review. Plus, my backwards skating and edgework have improved massively.
Catherine: Let’s say I want to start officiating for my league. Do you have any tips for easing into it? What should I focus on first?
She-Lock: Start by talking to your league’s current officials, if you have them. Ask to help out during scrimmages. I personally find jam-reffing the easiest, as you focus on the actions of one person, and the actions against that person. You can start by just counting points, then penalties committed by the jammer, then penalties committed towards the jammer. From the inside of the track you also catch all the information coming from the inside pack-refs about the pack, from penalty and lineup trackers, and from the jam timer between jams. A lot of officiating is about communication.
Maurine: It’s easy to get stuck in your own head, so I’d start with letting go of the pressure of calls and penalties. Start by joining any team practice and just observe what the skaters are doing on track. If you’re lacking the skating skills to keep you where you want to be while maintaining a focus on the track, I’d make sure to double up on the footwork skills. Next, focus on one penalty at a time. What are the criteria and metrics used to assess a particular penalty? Observe each situation and take the time to consider why it should or should not be assessed a penalty. A good no-call is as important as a good call. If you have officials around, talk to them, regardless of their experience level, and discuss scenarios!
Catherine: Officiating brings with it a different perspective of the game and the rules. How do you approach it mentally?
She-Lock: It is hard to not ref on track when playing, and to not ref your teammates at practice. Other than that, I approach the two similarly. Going into a tournament as a player, I make sure I eat and sleep and drink a lot of water ahead of time, just to prepare for maybe three games. Going into a tournament as a skating official, I have to do the same, as I am likely to skate at least three, often four, games per day of that tournament. If I have done my prep, I am likely to perform better.
Maurine: I did have a period of time with unexpected negative side effects from officiating. As I played and had started to get slightly more comfortable in my officiating, I would get faster in my decision making on track and increasingly frustrated by calls or lack of calls. Sometimes I had more information than the officials, as I could feel what contact had impact and which didn’t. Sometimes I forgot I wasn’t in a position to assess certain penalties. I quickly learned to let go and to accept that calls will happen based on what is perceived, not necessarily what actually happened. This has not only helped calm me back down, but improved my game as well.
Catherine: Both of you are still skating competitively. How do you balance both, time-wise?
Maurine: I’m lucky that we have multiple teams and leagues in Stockholm; this gives me the opportunity to officiate bouts without the time and cost of travel. Our league also has a scrimmage system that allows for skaters to take on a supporting role for a period of the session, offering an opportunity to officiate our B and C teams. As I’m improving though, I have been allowing myself to officiate one tournament abroad per year. I am very fortunate to have the trust and support of some inspirational officials across Europe who recognize my limited abilities to travel for officiating and are willing to select me for events in order to develop my officiating internationally.
She-Lock: What even is balance in derby? I have rather poor training attendance, but am lucky to now be in a league that gives attendance for officiating, as they see what that contributes not only to me as a player, the league as a whole, but also to the growth of the entire sport. I try to not travel to officiate more than twice per month (don’t ask me how that’s going).
Catherine: Besides traveling to officiate, how do you and did you build your officiating skills? Any tips or tricks?
Maurine: I learn from experience, so I’ve been throwing myself into every opportunity that I get in order to develop. The alt. position is absolutely gold for this as you get to follow the process of experienced officials while feeling the excitement of maybe getting put on at any minute. I’ve always asked all the questions, no matter how silly they feel. I’ll even ask the same one multiple times. I’ve also made sure I ask multiple people the same question, as interpretation and explanation vary. Most officials are happy to discuss rules!
She-Lock: Learn by doing. Feel a little down or something hurts, but you still want to be at scrimmage? Go officiate, whether on or off skates, it will contribute to those able to scrimmage as well as to your own mood (short-term goal) and understanding of the sport (long-term goal). Ask more experienced people questions. I personally also watch a lot of footage, especially the WFTDA Playoffs and Champs, because the quality and angles are so good. I try to see penalties as they are about to be called and sometimes look at situations over and over to try to understand a call or no-call.
Catherine: Since we are talking about watching footage, I’m going to throw in a personal question here: How can I watch footage and not focus on the skaters? I’ve been trying several times to watch and focus on the officiating, but it’s hard.
She-Lock: Watch the skaters! When you think something’s penalty-worthy, check what the officials are doing. With footage you rarely have the right angle to assess if something was a right or wrong call, but you can often see if the officials were paying attention to that action at all.
Catherine: Awesome, I will definitely try this out.
Last but not least: What has been your best officiating experience?
She-Lock: Being OPR [outside pack-ref] at Euro Clash 2018 gave me a sense of joy that lasted for weeks. I was honored to be picked for a crew, and once there, I got to receive great feedback and properly feel myself improving and thriving. My crew head, Dire Wolff, turned to me at one of our crew meetings and said: “You can IPR, right?” And that’s how I had my first time IPR-ing [ inside pack-refereeing] an open game at a sanctioned bout.
Maurine: My best officiating experience was probably Swedish Championships last year. It was my first experience officiating an actual finale. Additionally, it was the first time I experienced not knowing exactly what games I’d officiate when selected, as the crew for the final was selected based on your performance during the first games of the event. I guess it spoke to my competitive side!
Next month I’ll be chatting with the team of officials at Dublin Roller Derby to find out how they built their training program for officials and congratulate them on their great training videos.
Here at WFTDA Education we’re always on the lookout for interesting topics to learn about, so if you know of any people or leagues who deserve coverage, please reach out to us here.
We’re also looking for copywriters, editors, and proofers of all this content. If you or someone you know would like to volunteer, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.