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If I was given a dollar every time I heard a team, at some point after losing a game, complaining about how bad the refereeing was and it was because of them that they lost, or that they weren't calling penalties correctly or missed that blatantly obvious high block, I'd be considerably richer than I am now. Alternatively, if I had to hand over a dollar every time I heard, that was reffed really well, I'd be down about ten bucks. 

Complaining about the officials at a game is not only pointless, it's also counterproductive. You shouldn't blaming others for why you lost, you should be looking at why you lost. Blaming other people for your defeats destroys critical thinking and self improvement. It's easy to say well it was the refs, it wasn't us, we did nothing wrong. This is not the way that your team is going to get better. What you should be considering is hey, we got a lot of stopped block penalties in that game, perhaps our interpretation of the rule isn't correct, so let's work on that. Any time that you have a level of human interaction you are including a variable factor into the sport and the really good teams take this into account when playing, they adapt to the style of refereeing. 

Rollerderby has traditionally had the problem that it's far easier to learn to play the game than it is to referee the game and yet, to play you need referees. As the game matures and referees get more experience that problem will diminish, but there will always be a lag between skaters and referees when it comes to proficiency. Referees often have to learn to skate as well as absorb the surprisingly complicated and nuanced ruleset, oftentimes with little or no outside help - especially in the more isolated areas. Consider how many hours a week you spend practicing compared to how many hours a week your league has ref training. How many leagues have started up by people going that looks fun we're going to start a league and we need someone to officiate it? Anyone got a boyfriend/girlfriend going spare we can throw the rule book at? And I take my hats off to those guys because that's hard, hard work. 

And now time for a little bit of context. Let's take a quick look at two other obscure, low-to-no paying sports, (American) football and soccer. These are multi-billion dollar/pound sports where players earn in a week more than most derby leagues turn over in a year. The referees for these games are vastly experienced and well paid and they still make mistakes - and in huge games: Superbowl Finals, Champions League finals, the World Cup and so on. Mistakes are the human unknown quantity in any game. Think of it this way; you're jamming, you cut track, you made a mistake from a skating point of view. If your team was perfect, you would not get a single penalty during a game. The difference is that the referees are always under the spotlight and have to do their utmost to be mistake free, they can't blame someone else if they screw up. 

It must be remembered that they're volunteers, just like the skaters. But, unlike the skaters, they don't get to play the game, they don't get to share in the ecstasy and the agony of final jam victories or overtime defeats. They have to be impartial, impassive and fair so that you get to do all the fun stuff in a game. Remember that next time you want to shout at them, because the person who looks foolish when they decide it's not worth the abuse and hang up the stripes will not be the referee. You need to nurture and embrace all your officials - NSOs as well as referees - because as they get better, your team will also get better; it is not coincidence that often the best leagues also have the best referees. 

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not intending this to be a whitewash, we do know that there are bad refs out there. And by bad I don't mean rookie or inexperienced, I mean biased or aggressive or just involved for the wrong reasons. Fortunately they are few and far between and they normally quickly drop away, but there will always be the odd one or two floating around and if you, as a league, find yourself in that situation it is something to be addressed. But that is far different to bitching about a crew because you can't take ownership of your own skating defects. Being a rollerderby referee is tough, don't make it any tougher for them, it's not worth the extra 30 seconds in the box.

About The Author

DOB: 11/27/1968

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