Referees & Non-Skating Officials

Sin bin of refs


Referees are some of the unsung heroes in roller derby. They ensure the safety of the players. They maintain the rhythm of a game. They have to learn over 60 pages of rules and regulations. The spectators shout at them. The players and coaches get disgruntled with them. They hardly ever get a break; mostly it’s in between games. But they continue to skate on with their heads held high looking for penalties and counting points.

They do all of this out of the kindness of their hearts and by spending their free time and money; all for their love of roller derby.

Ref's meetingThat’s lucky for us, because we just couldn’t do all of this without referees, and despite the occasional spontaneous outbursts from players, everyone in our fair sport respects that fact and values the time and effort that referees put into the game so that everyone else can enjoy playing and watching.

Having refs at training sessions helps players clean up their game immensely, a ref is the best person to tell you as an individual when you’re at risk of penalties, whilst your bench coach has a whole team’s inner workings to control and strategies to work out. Think you’ve got a brilliant strategy idea? You’ll need your rules experts to confirm if it’s viable or not, and guess who you’ll turn to for that? Yep, your team Zebra who know those 60 pages of rules inside and out!

Northamptonshire Roller Derby welcomes anyone interested in Roller Derby referee training. You will still need to be able to skate to a certain standard, so sign up to our newsletter and keep an eye out for Newbie Intakes, come along, and join the fun – in your own way 🙂

Words by Scooby Smack & Thunder Kaz

Take a look at our article ‘Refs Are Human‘.

Penalty timingNon-Skating Officials

A quick glance through the websites and Facebook pages of every Roller Derby league will tell you that they welcome Non-Skating Officials. I can tell you that this is an understatement! More than likely they are crying out, begging and auctioning off their firstborns for NSOs.

Penalty tracking

A large part of this is that most of us don’t come to NSO-ing honestly. A lot of us are injured skaters, an even bigger percentage were cajoled, bribed and threatened into our positions. I understand, it’s tough. When your league have a bout game all you want to do is cheer, take photos and watch every second of the action, which is hugely important! But… is there a better position to watch how the rules are put into action and improve your own game play than NSO-ing? You can find out exactly what the referee is thinking when they call that penalty, you can see the penalties stacking up and see how the odd elbow can affect the whole game.


NSOs are responsible for timing, recording penalties and scores, track laying, timing penalties and releasing skaters. If they’re good at it, you won’t even know they’re there, everything will just run smoothly, with as little drama as possible on game day, leaving skaters with nothing to think about but playing.

As well as everything else that goes on at an NRDL game day, officials (both skating and non-skating) have a massive role in building the roller derby community. You can go away and officiate for other leagues, meeting their skaters and officials, making friends and stacking favours for the next time we’re short. That way the bigger stuff gets easier, finding skaters for mixed bouts, officials for our own bouts, setting up fixtures, to name but a few.


So this is a call to arms! We always need more NSOs, the more we have the smoother everything runs and the less work we all have to do. You’ll learn so much, become indispensable to the league. Not up to bouting but want all the excitement of game day? NSO! Love to see who is scoring the points? NSO! Love stats and spreadsheets? NSO!

We want to hear from you, whether you’re already involved in the league and haven’t considered NSO-ing before, or have no interest in skating at all but love this crazy sport! There’s full training and I promise, it’s the best and most rewarding position to play!

Claudette Doom
Head NSO for Northamptonshire Roller Derby League.

All photographs copyright Gradient Photography and reused with kind permission.