– or how the ref became an NSO.
My story is a story that I share with many female refs – I was a skater, I got injured, I became a ref. That is the short version. But giving the skates and your body a break doesn’t necessarily mean that roller derby won’t turn your world upside down.
My career as a referee started in a tiny league called Aarhus Derby Danes. We were only two refs with two stopwatches, cheap whistles and no officials whatsoever. In fact, it wasn’t until my first bout in Gothenburg that I realized what officials are there for. This was back in the “good” old days with minor penalties. Back when I didn’t have a clue about reffing. But that was about to change completely.
As many of you know, change in real life can also bring massive change to one’s derby life. This happened to me a little over a year ago, when I decided to move from my small town in Jutland to Copenhagen. I was very nervous and knew no one in the city, so I did what I think any other derby girl in my place would have done: I contacted the local derby league. I got in touch with one of the refs and managed to get invited to my first training. And boy, was that mind blowing – they had so many refs! And real ref practice and stuff! But the most important thing was that I felt welcome instantly.
So far I have reffed nine bouts as a member of Copenhagen Roller Derby, so I guess I can’t really call myself a rookie ref anymore. Being a referee has given me so many wonderful experiences and the opportunity to work with a bunch of amazing people. It has made me grow as a person. I was very lucky, too; No one ever yelled at me or accused me of being unfair. But I recently realized that being the authority figure is not really my thing, and the skating part of the sport was not what I loved the most.
Since my first bout in Copenhagen, I have envied that special bond in the NSO group, which I have never seen among the zebras. And this bond is even stronger now than back then.
But although I could write an entire blog praising the Army of Darkness itself, it is not only because of the awesome people that I do this. I admit it makes things a lot more fun, but I just love being the little geek who makes sure that everything is documented and running smoothly. I am not a very outgoing person; some might even call me introvert, so I don’t exactly have the social skills that are being praised in modern day society. But I love to do the paperwork, and I think I’m pretty good at it. Unlike skating, officiating comes quite easily to me. The things I don’t know how to do yet are things that I would be able to learn in a very short amount of time, simply because I love to do it. It’s hard to explain exactly why I love it; I guess I’m just one of those people who thrive on being organised.
If you are an NSO and mess up your paperwork, it can be pretty bad. But I don’t feel the same kind of performance pressure now as I did as a ref. Most of the time, I know exactly what to do and who to ask if something goes wrong. I am not the authority, but the authority works because of people like me and what we are doing. I find great pleasure in knowing that.
At my last bout in Trondheim, Norway, which was my first bout as a full-time Army member, I was placed in the penalty box as jammer timer/part-time box manager, meaning that we had a box manager who had never tried anything NSO related before. So he took care of the paperwork and I handled the whiteboard, which was kind of tricky at first. But when all of us had got the hang of it, we started to do really well. And suddenly I had an amazing feeling. I realized that this is exactly where I belong.
I am only 22 years old and far from knowing where I belong in my non-derby life, but now I finally know one place that is right for me. These nerdy, black-hearted and twisted people are not just my friends. They are the one thing that keeps me in this city.