an invisible power shift in WFTDA derby officiating

Is your league struggling to find refs and NSOs for games? Does it seem like all the experienced ones are “busy that weekend”?

It’s been building for a while, but this season we seem dramatically closer to “peak derby schedule” than last year. Between A, B, rec, juniors, men’s, tournaments, etc there are more games being played every weekend than ever before.

But there aren’t more experienced refs and NSOs to work those games.

I’m not going to get into why the number of officials hasn’t increased, not yet at least. What I want to talk about are the choices this allows officials to make.

Good officials now have 2 or 3 or 5 games to choose from within their travel distance almost every weekend.

To begin understanding which ones they will decide to work, you have to understand why officials officiate.

Just like improving their ranking is more important to most teams than an individual win or loss, the goal of most officials isn’t just doing a good job at their position in your game. It is improving their resume. A better resume gets them staffed in higher level games and tournaments and both of those give them the opportunity to improve their skills, to be the best they can be.

Of course that’s not the only factor in play here. There’s also certs and evals to think about, but that process is so broken it’s going to have to wait for another time.

I can’t sum it up better than what an NSO told me the other day when talking about which game she was going to do next:

“(League A) is a 3 hour drive away. They give a good travel stipend, feed us well, are genuinely appreciative that we volunteer our time to make their games happen, their HNSO puts together tournament-level NSO crews for almost every game. She demands competence, but is easy to work with. Working their games improves my skills and looks good on my resume. They do all the paperwork, correctly. There are very few game delays due to NSO issues, and when they do have them they’re resolved quickly.”

“(League B) is a 10 minute drive away. They act like we should be thanking them for the opportunity to work their games. They struggle to get bodies in all the NSO positions, much less people who know what they’re doing. Its fresh meat and derby widows who don’t care about doing the job beyond the bare minimum. There are always multiple time outs for fixing problems with the score board, penalty tracking, etc. Their HNSO doesn’t know how to do half the paperwork. All sorts of issues are missed, some of which impact game play. I end up a worse NSO after working their games because of the chaos and disorganization. It’s a waste of my time.”

Guess which one she’ll be working for this weekend?

Which gets us back to my initial point…Leagues haven’t figured out that the officiating environment they’ve cultivated is now, more than ever, determining the quality of officials they get because competent officials have a ton of options for which games they choose to work.

All the posts you see about “being more polite” to officials aren’t addressing 10% of the issue. And until more people realize that, at the league level and at the level of how rules and procedures are structured (also a subject for another post), nothing is going to get better.

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