If you have been to a roller derby bout you may have noticed there are a lot of people around the track making the bout run smoothly. Besides the volunteers who are selling tickets, raffle, merch, beer, etc; there are officials watching over every aspect of the bout. Officials are affectionately known as zebras and flamingos. Zebras are the skating officials refereeing the bout wearing the black and white stripes. The flamingos are non-skating officials wearing pink shirts, better known as NSOs. Each official has a vital role in the bout from calling/tracking penalties to keeping time/score. Let’s dive a little deeper into individual roles and while we’re at it bout game play may begin to make more sense.
Head Referee – The ultimate authority of the game. The head referee assigns roles to all other officials. They are the only official with the authority to expel a skater, manager, or coach. The head referee skates inside the track.
Jammer Referees– Two referees are responsible for the jammers, one for each team. The jammer referees pace their prospective jammer on the inside of the track. They are in charge of calling lead jammer and keeping score, raising their hand to signal score to their scorekeeper each pass. Jammer referees wear a color identifier (wrist band, sash, helmet cover, etc) corresponding to the team they are responsible for following.
Pack Referees– The remaining referees observe the pack with the primary responsibility of calling penalties.
Inside Pack Referee– Works with Head Referee to define the pack. This position also provides information to Jammer Refereees on jammer status, such as jammer entered track in front of or behind the other jammer.
Outside Pack Referee– Three outside pack referees cover front, middle, and rear allowing constant and consistent coverage of the pack. Multiple positions allows pack referees to focus on core penalty groups. Positions are adjusted to best assess multi-player blocks, loss/gain of positions, and the legality of contact.
Jam Timer– The Jam Timer stands inside the track in full view of the pack and jammers. They are responsible for the official game time. With five to the beginning of the jam, the jam timer raises an open hand into the air announcing, “Five seconds.” The Jam Timer then whistles the jam start and points to the track. When two minutes have elapsed, the jam timer whistles the jam done with four short whistle blasts. This same whistle progression is used to signal an official timeout, official review, and team timeout. The Jam Timer stops the period clock and positions themselves in front of the pivot line signaling why the time was stopped. The time stoppage periods are ended with a rolling whistle.
Penalty Tracker/Wrangler – Penalty Tracker is stationed inside the track. As the name implies, the penalty tracker records the penalties skaters incur. The tracker works with referees to keep accurate records. The Penalty Wrangler position is optional, but very helpful. The wrangler writes the number and penalty on a whiteboard to assist the tracker as penalties are called.
Penalty Box Manager/Timers– When a skater enters the box, the penalty box officials signal where the skater should sit. Timers are then responsible for timing the penalty served, telling the skater to stand when appropriate and then when they are done.
Score Keepers– The Score Keeper is paired with a Jammer Referee, signaling back the score for each pass. The Score Keeper then tells the Scoreboard Operator the score.
Scoreboard Operator– The Scoreboard Operator updates the score with each pass. After each jam the score is confirmed between Scoreboard Operator and Score Keepers. The Scoreboard Operator also makes visual confirmation with the Jam Timer between jams and during timeouts to verify official time.
Lineup Trackers– For each jam the Lineup Tracker records jammer, pivot, and blocker numbers for their assigned team. If no pivot is on the track, it is recorded. The Lineup Tracker then records the number of passes the other team makes. If a skater enters the penalty box, the pass which they enter and are released is included.
So now you have an idea of the different jobs officials have in running a bout. Interested in learning more about becoming a ref or NSO? Drop us a line on Facebook and we’ll hook you up with more information. What better way to get an up close view of the action than to be part of it. -Coral Reaper #555
Photos by Chris Ramsay