March 14, 2014

Non Skating Officials - Heart and Soul in Roller Derby

For many years I had been interested in roller derby, despite having never attended a bout. It wasn’t until I met two co-workers, Unchained Malady and Mollytov Maguire, who spoke so enthusiastically about their league, FoCo Girls Gone Derby that I finally decided to go to their 2013 Season Opener home team bout. I was sold.

After attending a New Recruit Informational Meeting shortly thereafter my derby dreams began to blossom. I was GOING to be a skater and I was GOING to skate in my first bout before the end of the year. I admired and idolized other skaters in my league, listened to their advice and pushed myself to become a better athlete. However, my body had other plans...

Towards the end of my 5th practice as a new recruit I sustained a patellar dislocation to my knee, a common injury amongst female athletes and the 9th I had experienced the same injury. Discouraged, I began the long road back to skating. For those considering skating themselves, I have since found training tips and gear to help prevent knee injuries like this.

Once seeded the love of derby can only continue to grow. Before I even began skating as a new recruit, I was invited by the league to attend scrimmages and learn the rules of Women’s Flat Track Derby as an NSO (thanks to my derby wife, ZZ Stardust.) Team Flamingo (nickname inspired by the pink official’s shirts) became my home as I worked to get back on skates.

For the Non-Derby readers, NSO stands for Non-Skating Official. NSO's are volunteers, sometimes injured skaters like me, who LOVE the game of roller derby and want to be involved. We do a variety of jobs during a bout, including penalty tracking, inside/outside whiteboard, scorekeeper, lineup tracker, penalty box timing, Jam timer, and collecting/submitting bout stats as Head NSO.

 It may not sound as glorious as being a skater, but it’s also a lot less work. It can also make for an awkward vibe when players with your league try to talk to you in the penalty box and you have to ignore them. Or maintaining neutrality by not cheering for your friends or gasping at a hard hit. Oh, also there is 100% less dancing...

But for a Bout to be a Bout, we NEED NSOs. Imagine the chaos were there no one to keep score and determine the victor? Or make sure that players serve their penalties for unsafe play? Or keep time to determine the end of a jam? Collectively, NSOs make roller derby happen!

Luckily for me, if there ever was a perfect league to learn NSOing positions, FoCo Girls Gone Derby is the place. FCGGD boasts four dedicated WFTDA Level 2 Certified NSOs: Bladeybug, JewJew Bee, Shake n Break &Whistle Blower (also a skating official.) All of which are happy to teach, share WFTDA knowledge and advice.

The more time I spent learning various NSO positions, saturating myself in numbers and statistics, the shape of my derby dreams shifted. The aspiration to join the Micro Bruisers travel A team was replaced with the desire to travel MORE by officiating tournaments, and someday gain the knowledge and experience to officiate a championship tournament. I’m already looking forward to NSOing at Slaughterhouse Derby GirlsMayday Mayhem tournament, and hope to go to Casper, Wyoming for the Wyoming Roller Derby Cup. These opportunities allow NSOs to develop their skills and meet officials and skater from all over the country.

Mind you, not every NSO gets certified or seeks to travel, just as bout after parties aren’t for everyone in the league. Many NSOs love the league and devote what time they can to volunteer wherever they're needed. It’s an easy sport and community to love. Everyone’s experience with roller derby is different and there’s a spot for all.

This month I’ll be celebrating my one year derby anniversary. Looking back, it wasn’t the year I thought I’d have, but I wouldn’t trade my experiences for anything. I look forward to what the future holds, and should my knee hold up I plan to get back on skates for Team Zebra as a skating official. Yay, roller derby!

Derby Love,
Danger A-Gogo

P.S. Hello reader, thanks for stickin’ with me so far. Perhaps you’re interested in officiating yourself, either an NSO or skating referee? Well we’d LOVE to have you! Email us at

1 comment:

  1. The Officials of FoCo, whether they are Referees or NSOs are incredible people and bring a high level of professionalism and knowledge to any game that they participate in. I was over joyed when you came to Cheyenne last weekend and performed the NSO position you were assigned at the highest level. Thank you for being so active in your sport and learning these invaluable positions, taking them seriously AND doing them well.
    Jim Class Hero
    Head Referee Cheyenne Capidolls