Opened up the wordpress tab because this is a BIG DILL, YOU GUYS. The following is a post by Thistle B. Painful, but she’s not just speaking for herself, and I’m pretty sure this isn’t a Mid-Atlantic leagues only thing. So check this out, skaters and board members. If your Head Officials are having trouble staffing games, this is for you. If you aren’t having trouble staffing games, you can still benefit. You may be doing well, but you can always do better!
On a personal note, I don’t travel very far for games. If it’s not Free State, I will occasionally help out because my friends ask me to, and sometimes I feel guilty when I don’t, but if I worked all the games I was asked to, not only would I have to be in at least 3 places at the same time, I’d have no money, no energy, and no chill. Y
This is more or less a post to the skaters of derby, especially in the Mid-Atlantic and New England regions where I’m directly aware it’s a problem. Your officials are exhausted, and every year the problem grows worse. There are more games, more leagues, more tournaments, and the growth of officials isn’t keeping pace. If anything, it’s shrinking.
We can’t keep doing this. You may not see it, but your average serious/traveling derby official is probably working two to six other weekend days each month in addition to your home games, and driving sometimes significant distances to do so. For some perspective, this means I’ve worked over 400 games in 4 years as a ref and NSO.
This is because our friends at other leagues are pleading for our help at their games, and then we end up pleading with those same friends to come work our games. It’s a vicious six to nine month cycle of exhaustion, plus guilt when you can’t help out because of actually having some non-derby plans or because you’ve committed elsewhere already.
I guess my question to the skaters: what is your league doing to recruit, train, and retain officials to help get through this? We need to get more officials now so that in two or three years the crisis isn’t even worse. We need more officials so you can keep doing derby.
So a few bits of food for thought about what kind of officiating environment you as a league provide:
a.) Are you treating recruitment as an afterthought? Is it a small font “Officials also needed!” on your recruitment poster? Is officiating a five minute tangent in your skater recruitment presentation, and do officials present or does a skater do it? Is it generally presented negatively as, “If you can’t skate, you can always officiate”?
Presenting officiating as an equal and valid path is important. Given the officiating shortage, have you thought about doing an officiating-specific recruitment?
b.) Does your league acknowledge your officials? Do you make it a point to highlight the accomplishments of your officials when they do things like make game milestones, or are selected for a particular tournament (playoffs especially)?
Showing pride in your officials and highlighting their achievements helps present officiating positively to potential recruits. It helps show that officials can be intensively driven too, and that there are high goals available.
c.) Does your league treat all your officials with respect and foster a good learning and retention environment? Do you have the attitude of officials being a necessary evil? Do you assume the official is wrong because you don’t like the call? Do you yell at them? Do you criticize their skills?
Officials are human beings too. Just like no skater makes it to D1 level immediately, no official starts out ready to do a sanctioned game. We have a learning curve too. An abusive environment is a huge obstacle for a novice official to learn in, and a huge turnoff for an experienced official to stay in. If we’re expected to put up with things because we’re “just” officials, that says a lot.
d.) What officiating learning opportunities do you offer? Do you scrimmage fifteen minutes here and there, or is it formally scheduled? Are your officials aware of when your scrimmages are, especially if you have only a couple of officials and really need to recruit outside help if possible?
Officials absolutely need scrimmages to learn and practice our skills. Dedicated scrimmage nights scheduled in advance help far more than 15-30 min here and there. Officials also need more than a couple of days to try to recruit outside officials for scrimmages. If it’s a weekend scrimmage, given the game density these days, good luck.
e.) Do you treat all officials as equal? Do you respect the time and effort of a new official as much as a Champs level one? Do you give gas cards only to refs and not NSOs? Do you refer only to refs?
All officials deserve the same basic consideration regardless of experience. Anytime you refer only to “refs”, you’re ignoring more than half of your officials there that day. If you’re giving gas cards to refs, NSOs should get them. NSOs are officials too–it’s what the O stands for. Referring to “officials” is great because it includes all of us.
f.) Do you schedule games, where possible, with other leagues’ schedules in mind to try to reduce having 3+ games in-region on the same day?
Venue restrictions play some role in scheduling restrictions for quite a few leagues, I’m aware. But do you schedule with only that in mind, or are you aware of the other games in your region or tournaments that weekend that place additional strain on your officials for staffing your home event by competing for officials? Have you considered holding combined doubleheaders with other leagues?
PS: This is in no way intended as a callout, so I’m hoping it’s not taken as such. What I’m aiming for is increased awareness: presenting some of the issues officials are confronted with, and how a league can be better cognizant of them and help solve them.