NSO – Not Saying ‘Owt Or the Art of Keeping Neutral
By Leanne Pearce
I am an NSO with The Wirral Whipiteres, and am now into my second year with them. After completing the freshies training and moving up to hitting and blocking, I quickly realized I was not cut out for bouting. I had already started to NSO to help my understanding of the game, and so jumped in fully.
NSOs are solely responsible for each job they do. There’s no one watching over their shoulder to see if they are counting the scores from the Jam Refs correctly or timing the penalties correctly. Who would know if a Penalty Box Manager gave her team’s jammer 50 seconds in the box and the opposition’s jammer 70 seconds? Who would really know if a Score tracker gave her team a cheeky extra 4 points during a 2 min jam?
So being an NSO is serious business; you need a love for the game stronger than a love for the team you’re affiliated with. You need integrity and honesty. You need to adhere to a set of rules, guidelines, policies and procedures, in The Whips’ case, a Code of Conduct. Ours state that officials must be impartial and unbiased, and follow the WFDTA Code in, primarily, professionalism and neutrality.
It’s not easy keeping neutral. Inside you can be grinning like an idiot because your jammer has just clawed 20 points back during a power jam, but you need that professionalism and dedication to the role to be of the utmost importance.
Recently, The Whips played against Fierce Valley Roller Girls and I was the Jam Timer. The final jam ran to the full 2 minutes, due to the lead jammer losing lead status. The Whips were second and closing the gap between them and Fierce Valley, I saw a Whips star pass and knew the new jammer was fast; if anyone could score those points to catch up and maybe even beat Fierce Valley, it would be her. The shouts from the benches were tremendous, the crowd was on their feet, and the bout really was coming down to the last 30 seconds.
At this point, I looked down to my stopwatch and focused on the remaining time. I couldn’t let the possibility of my timing of the end of the jam whistle put The Whips in any sort of advantage, or Fierce Valley in any sort of disadvantage.
Spot on two minutes, I blew the four short blasts and it was echoed around the sports hall by the refs.The result? The Whips lost by a couple of points. Could I have changed that by blowing the whistle 5 seconds earlier or later? Maybe. Would I have been an honourable NSO upholding The Whips’ Code of Conduct? Nope.
That’s why we NSOs don’t cheer, don’t smile, don’t clap or dance during the bout; we must remain neutral to show our integrity and professionalism. Although, the non-dancing rule is really hard to abide by when Don’t Stop ‘til You Get Enough by Michael Jackson comes on during a Time Out…….