September 26, 2013

Official Review: My Year in Roller Derby

“Yes, I officiate roller derby.” I say that phrase a lot; often to the surprise of people I meet on airplanes, at conferences, or even when I am with my friends and family. People usually ask me a ton of questions about the sport, the rules, what I do; and quite often, provide commentary about how surprised they are that roller derby is even around anymore.

As I prepare to celebrate my cough*36th*cough birthday next week, it dawned upon me that I quietly celebrated another milestone last week, the conclusion of my first year in roller derby.

It was with more than a little angst that I agreed to volunteer with our local roller derby league, FoCo Girls Gone Derby in September of 2012. At the time, I had some exposure to roller derby through my then local (now WFTDA Apprentice League) Appalachian Roller Girls (ARG) in Boone, North Carolina. Although I had watched several bouts, witnessed many wicked hits and celebrated the wins and loses with ARG at their after parties, looking back, to say I knew anything about roller derby would be misguided and just plain wrong.

When I headed off to my first “practice” as an official, I didn’t even own a pair of skates. I arrived at the roller rink, picked out my size 10 rental roller skates and then had a quiet epiphany; I hadn’t put on roller skates in over 20 years. *Flashback Alert*: Picture it, the late 80’s/early 90’s; as a young middle schooler taking a trip to the roller rink and skating to the then coolest Madonna or Tiffany song, ya, that was my last go around with roller skating.

I put my gear on, and off I “skated” (editorial commentary here: to say that I was “skating” is probably an overstatement. What I was actually doing was balancing on 8 wheels and gently rolling forward praying to God, or frankly any deity that would listen at that moment, that I wouldn’t fall.). Sure, on a Saturday night at a bout, you see how athletic and quick the skaters and officials are, but quite frankly, you don’t get to that point without falling. You see, there’s LOTS of falling in roller derby. Lots. Did I mention that we fall? A lot.

You might guess that I am terrified of falling, and at that time, I would absolutely, unequivocally agree that falling and getting hurt is what worried me most about roller derby. To call myself an athlete prior to joining derby would make anyone who knows me, laugh out loud. Heck, it would make me laugh out loud.

Regardless of my fear, I told myself that I really wanted to experience this sport and to eventually become the best official I could be. So off I “skated” (reference editorial comment above) in the outside official’s lane while the skaters whizzed by me at an amazing clip. I cringed every time a skater came within ten feet of me or when their body slammed into the ground around me. What I started to notice was that every time they fell they literally bounced back up like popcorn. Falls seemed to mean nothing to these women, in fact, it was an expectation that at some point you were going to fall and fall hard.

It wasn’t until about a month into my derby career that I was beginning to feel more confident on my skates, and was quite happy with my progress. I had practiced my crossovers, my “controlled” falling and my stopping skills. I was skating with the big kids, the A-Team Micro Bruisers, now at practice and then it happened.

I was skating in the outside lane for officials when the scrimmage jam ended. The skaters on the track were rushing off, the next line of skaters were rushing onto the track, I was skating to my position for the next jam when, standing before me was a skater. We made eye contact, I zigged, she zagged and BOOM, we hit each other, hard. The contact was hard enough that we both spun around, fell to the ground, me hitting my head on the track and the skater landing on top of me.

I was dazed and confused as to what had just happened. It took me a minute to get up and rattle the cobwebs out of my skull, but then I realized I had just experienced my first real “fall” in derby. Sure, it hurt, but more importantly, in my mind, had “survived” a brush with derby death! Let’s be honest, those next few jams all of my fears of falling getting hurt came rushing back into my head. While the first fall didn’t kill me, I was sure that something similar would happen again and I would get really hurt.

As we continued the scrimmage, three or four jams later a skater while falling down herself, unintentionally slide tackled me to the ground. Many people, sans me, saw this happening as they described it, in slow motion, but didn’t have time to “warn” me. Unlike the first hit which I saw coming, this one took me totally by surprise and I went down like a sack of Idaho’s best potatoes. What surprised me more than the fall however was, much like the skaters I bounced right back up and resumed skating.

After that scrimmage, I realized that I had this incredible energy and drive when it comes to derby. I never expected roller derby, of all things, to become such a positive influence in my life. My derby experience has not only taught me about skating, but also about the importance of getting up after you fall, whether it’s on or off the track.

I’ve grown to love this sport and I couldn’t be happier knowing that derby will be an integral part of my life for a long time to come. I look forward to celebrating more derby anniversaries in the years to come.

Thanks for a great year!

Whistle Blower

First Year Stats for Whistle Blower
  • # of Bouts Officiated as a Skating Official: 23
  • # of Bouts Officiated as a Non-Skating Official: 26
  • # of Tournaments Officiated: 4
  • Furthest Distance Traveled to Officiate:
    • 1224 miles for Rolling Along the River Tournament. Sioux City, IA (Driving Roundtrip);
    • 2040 miles for Wild West Show Down, Bremerton, WA (Roundtrip Flight)
  •  # of Derby Crushes: 4
  •  # of Derby Wives: Still Zero. Nada. Zilch.
  •  # of Derby Weddings Attended: Just 1 real one (Love you HardKore Ken & Warchick Barbie!)
  •  # of derby friends: Too many to name, but I am so fortunate to have each of them in my life!


  1. Blower I will marry you as long as you don't have anything against bigamy. ~ Battle E

  2. Or against your derby wife coming up to your kneecap. Just kidding...carry over from last night. Love your face, Battle E. Awesome article, Blower. You, sir, are a gentleman and a scholar.