This is the story of how I became a Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby Official. It might not matter to you, but you might find it a little entertaining.
One night a few years ago I was asked to pick up a niece from a skate party at Airline Family Skate Center in north Houston. I mentally debated on going home and started to watch whatever was on my Netflix queue, pick up something at RedBox or go ahead and go early to the rink and skate around for a bit until the rink closed. Nostalgia got the better of me and off I went to try and skate once more after hmmpfteen years since the last time I laced up a pair of potato skins.
Also though I was wobbly, I managed to push off and gain momentum and not hinder traffic too much out on the floor. After a few songs I got the confidence to try some crossovers instead of right leg pushoffs. And I almost completed the turn…. Almost. that is until I planted my rear right wheel of my right skate with the frontleft wheel of my left skate. Which, with my momentum caused my upper body to remain in motion while my feet remained in place. In half a second I realized that I was airborne and would not be able tuck and roll. All I could do was pull my arms into myself and land on my forearms. Luckily I didn’t break anything, no not even my ego… cuz some kids were like “WHOA!” can you fly again mister?!”
I loved the feeling of skating past slower people (than me at the time) it was almost as good as being back on a bike (motorcycle) . Ok not so much, but similar if you quint your eyes and don’t compare speed or sound. In any case I figured I’d give this skating thing a try for a few weekends. Turned out I still liked it, so for Christmas I gave myself a pair of Brass Knuckles 2.0, Proline plates and some wheels that are no longer on the market. I spent at least one night a week skating til I was out of breathe at Humble Family Skate.
While at work that the Hess building in Downtown Houston, installing electrical conduit, Copperhead comes by during break and asks if I wanna buy tickets to a roller derby game. Sure why not?! I think I had recently seen the movie Yes Man with Jim Carrey, this is the only explanation for my exuberance to just go out and try new and new to me things. I went to the game and that following Monday I made every excuse to work around Copperhead and talk about the game. Eventually it came up that I was skating again. We ended up making plans to go see a bout in Texas City to watch a banked track game at Southside’s House of Derby with some of our friends. On the way back it had come about that Houston Roller Derby might need some refs. “Really? what do I need to do?” well get better on skates and learn to skate backwards for one, as well as learn the rules to the game. However it turned out that there was some miscommunication, and at the time their practice was too far away. I find this funny now, because I officiate and announce within a 200 mile radius of Houston.
But I gave up on the idea of reffing for Houston Roller Derby, after all they’re a big name and ranked league, like consistently top ten in their division. So I just kept skating. One afternoon, I found a friend from middle school on Facebook. After about an hour of catching up, I got invited to Champion’s Rollerworld, on a Thursday night? that’s a “school night” and I wanna be rested so i can go skate at Humble after i get home from work on Friday. But i went a head and said yes. When I got there I saw a bunch of girls in derby gear skating around and bumping into each other. There was one skater that i was certain I recognized from somewhere. I’ve always been outgoing just not agreeable. So while this skater was showing one of the girls how to turn around and skate backwards. I went up to her and asked her if she could show me how to do the same thing. “sure, just open and close the book” something that to this day I cannot do, I turn around another way that doesn’t require me lifting more than two wheels at a time. After that exchange I ask her if she has anything to do with HRD becuase she looks so familiar. Turns out that I was talking to Private been Jammin. So I ask her if this is a new league or a new HRD team. “Oh no no no no, this is a new league” She points out the league president and has me follow her up to the prez. So I asked why a new league? turns out HRD is reaaaaaaaalllly popular. So much so that their boot camps fill up quick, and there really isn’t an outlet for new skaters to start of and learn.
Dominique Socks Ya wanted a place where any skater could come out and play, after proper training of course. HRD isn’t setup to take in girls who “never skated in my life” or “haven’t skated since I was 10”. The boot camps are geared towards showing skaters, who can skate, how to safely stop and fall in derby. Northside Fury wanted a spot where anyone can come out and start from the ground up. Or in many cases from the wall towards the track. They were fortunate enough to have Private Been Jammin, Chainsaw Chic and TeeTotalher (formerly known as Queen Obscene) to help with training from endurance to basic derby skills and skate maintenance. Side note eight skaters who started out with Northside Fury are now on HRD home teams
I on the other hand wasn’t so lucky. You see there wasn’t a ref training program, just learn the rules watch some bouts and guess what? We’re going to Corpus Christi to ref a mashup. Wait! Whut? How did I get roped into this? Well Krez Sez is a bit of an overachiever. But this was my foundation in willing to travel for derby as well as being comfortable in stripes, pink or black. See Krez has over twenty years of a background in officiating various sports. So he’s a natural at this. Personally I love having to keep on my toes mentally and physically.
To ref, at least for me, I have to be able to gauge impact between two opposing skaters, in addition to a group of skaters who may or may not meet the definition of a pack as well as the skater who may or may not be within the engagement zone of a pack as well as the jammers who are trying to zip their way through the EZ into the pack and back out, while skating and trying to compile all I see in front of me and peripherally (now not as much with the stricter pack rules) against 50 pages of rules. Which includes non skating penalties such as not having a mouthguard fully seated or being stopped on the track and to what purpose. Within fractions of a second while listening for verbal cues from other officials and ignoring the cat calls and boos from the fans. And only getting to rest between jams or when a team calls a timeout… I often wish both teams would use all of their time outs evenly spaced throughout the bout.
Alas, I keep officiating and occasionally announce, because of the great community that is derby. Occupation, race, or creed doesn’t matter. All that matters in derby is derby.