Recruiting and Retaining Derby Officials

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.

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I saw A Wrinkle in Time last Thursday

Non-spoilery thoughts: Gorgeous, vivid, Storm Reid was fabulous, but the story was less than it is in the book, to the movie’s detriment. It was good, and I am glad it’s getting lots of good reactions from moviegoers. But it could have been so much better! Please note my almost 30 year relationship with the source material, though. I’ve been reading the book over and over since I was nine. A lot of the changes I was cool with, but I feel like the climax of the story was defanged by the writing, either because the writers weren’t as familiar with the source material or because producers pushed for changes in the screenplay.

Spoilers below:  Continue reading

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“As my grief began to snowball, I hesitated to tell anyone I was struggling, largely because I didn’t know how. I didn’t know what to ask for, and without knowing what to ask for, it felt too complicated and futile to ask.” Ways to Reach Out When You’re Struggling with Your Mental Health

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Well that’s frustrating

I scheduled an appointment with my therapist today, and it was really nice to go in and talk to her. I noted on my intake form that I have new insurance, and had my hour long appointment, and paid my copay. Just now they actually looked at the intake form, and called to tell me they don’t take Medicaid and will have to cancel my next appointment unless I can pay out of pocket.

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I continue to be here! yay!

So back when season 2 of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend was coming out on Netflix, I started watching season 1. It delighted me for 3 reasons: funny, main character dealing with mental illness, and THE SONGS! I was a theater kid in high school and college so OF COURSE I loved all the ridiculous musical numbers. I love Darryl, and White Josh, and Josh Chan, and Valencia, and HEATHER IS THE BEST. Season 3 came out a few days ago, and I started watching it again. I just got to episodes 5 and 6 and I have feels. Heavy feels. Spoilers ahoy.

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Still Here!

It’s been a while. I might have been feeling too in a rut regarding derby, librarianship, life to have anything worth posting. And then I kept not posting.

But I have this FABULOUS photo by Michael Warrick and since I’ve been with Free State for years but hadn’t updated my photo from the DCRG one, I wanted to do that here and on twitter. And then I wanted everyone to see it so I had to post. So hopefully this will be the first of many new posts.




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Learning to Tapdance

I think I’m dancing on the precipice of a depressive episode. It’s always hard to tell because at first it is just hard to get up, or I need more naps. That’s how it always starts. But there are plenty of times when it’s hard to get up for other reasons, or I nap because I stayed up too late and got up to early. So I haven’t said anything. Doing the wait and see.

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No one gets to decide for others what they should be

A trans friends of mine shared this link as an example of toxicity in the trans community. The post is a perfect example of self-directed misogyny. I commented politely that I thought this was well meant but bad advice. My comment was deleted. Well that’s fine, I can’t control what they do on their blog, but I get to say what I want on mine. 

Femininity is not makeup. It is not dresses. It is not tearing others down for dressing comfortably. I was born with genitals that correspond to my gender presentation, so I can’t speak to any trans experience, but because transwomen are women, full stop, I know that I have experiences in common with them.

I don’t wear makeup regularly. If I wear a dress it’s because I’m feeling too lazy to pair a top with a bottom, or it’s hot out and I can’t wear shorts. I change my own oil. I taught my boyfriend how to change a tire. I know how to use more power tools than many people can name. And all of that is feminine because I do it and I’m a woman. So if a trans woman wears short shorts and a tank top, that’s feminine. If she wears “too much” eyeshadow, that’s feminine. If she doesn’t wear any makeup, that’s feminine. If she wears ball gown everywhere she goes, that’s feminine. If she wears a hockey jersey and bib overalls, that’s feminine. 

Stop trying to convince people to conform to your vision of femininity. Let them be themselves and do what makes them comfortable in their skin. You do what makes you comfortable in your skin.


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The Knotty Dogwalker

Hey guys, in today’s installment of healthcare posts, we’ve got The Knotty Dogwalker, a petcare specialist in northern Maryland.

I have lived with depression, ranging from manageable to suicidal, since I was a teenager. In 2008, at the age of 27, I was 5’4″ and 175 pounds, self medicating with food. I was working a high stress job in the nonprofit sector, commuting over an hour each way to the city often 6 days a week. The one good thing about my job was that I had health insurance, which paid for me to go to an ob/gyn who prescribed me a baby dose (5 mg) of lexapro to keep me at a functioning level. Without lexapro, I could not get out of bed in the morning.
I was so miserable with my job and my life that I made the dramatic leap to become a dog walker. I still had a commute, but found someone to employ me as an independent contractor with no benefits. I continued to work a part-time, lower stress job at the nonprofit, but found that if I wanted to keep my health care, my entire paycheck would go to health insurance. I applied for private insurance through United Health Care and was declined. Apparently, my history of depression and weight gain was a pre-exisiting condition. I could have one or the other, but not both. Sudden weight gain and loss is a major symptom of depression, and yet it counted as an extra strike against me. I decided to risk it and go completely off of health insurance.
I went to my ob/gyn and she was immensely supportive of my decision to leave my non-profit nightmare. “Thank goodness!” she exclaimed.”I didn’t want to tell you this because you wouldn’t have been able to handle it. You were well on your way to an early heart attack.” Without health insurance, I had to pay full price out-of-pocket to see her, but she functioned as a therapist, psychiatrist, primary/urgent care provider and ob/gyn. She knew I took a dramatic pay cut and slipped me free samples of lexapro and birth control (the last thing this situation needed was a baby).
Over the next four years a lot of things happened. I got a roommate to help make ends meet. My employer couldn’t find enough work for me so I started my own business. My parents bailed me out with zero interest loans. My mortgage company worked with me so I got a lower interest rate. And the Affordable Care Act was passed.
My “Obamacare” choices were underwhelming. I could pay a few hundred dollars a month for stellar coverage (did I need this at the age of 30?) or under $100 a month for the bare minimum. I figured out a way to make the ACA work for me, though. I signed up for a silver plan, which helped me to afford a psychiatrist, therapist, ob/gyn, and primary care provider. I got the Essure permanent birth control procedure done, eliminating the need for The Pill and improving my overall mood and health.
As a self-employed small-business owner who doesn’t want children (seriously, never.) the Essure procedure was life-changing. It only cost me a few hundred dollars and I never have to worry about becoming pregnant. A pregnancy or a serious accident could spiral me into poverty. Although my situation has improved greatly, thanks in part to the ACA, I still live paycheck to paycheck. An accident (I’m clumsy, folks) would mean weeks off of work. If I don’t show up to work, I don’t get money. If I don’t show up for weeks, my clients will likely find another professional and move on. The debt from the medical care would stack on top of the lack of income and I could be on the street in a matter of months. But for right now, that’s not going to happen.
My business (and I!) are thriving because I am doing what I love. I lost 30 pounds, went vegan, ran my first 5k, and hired two independent contractors to take overflow clients. I continue to use my silver health care plan, which is far from perfect, but still provides essential coverage that I can now afford. This year at my physical, my doctor said I am possibly the healthiest patient he saw all month. And yet, without the ACA, I might not be eligible for health insurance.
So which do I choose? A job that makes me sick but provides care for the symptoms or a job that helps me thrive with no safety net? How about a third option: let me keep my ACA benefits.

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We NEED Healthcare

Hey guys. I know a lot of you* have chronic health conditions, as do I, and are concerned about the repeal of the ACA. I also know a lot of people are concerned that others are minimizing the potential effects the repeal would have on the lives of Americans with chronic health conditions. So I’ve decided to use my blog as a platform for us.

If you would like to participate, write up a post about your condition, what you went through managing it before ACA, how that was improved after the passage of ACA, what you fear will happen for you with the repeal of ACA. If you like, include your state and the names of your congresspersons. Email it to and I’ll start posting stories in a week or so.


*Edited to add: or have spouses/partners or children with chronic health conditions

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