“Are you a skater?”

This is the question I am most often asked when I wear my Outfit league hoodie in public.  Usually the conversation ends rather quickly when I tell the person that no I am an official instead.  Sometimes I am lucky enough to have them ask what I do as an official but then they quickly lose interest once they find out it does not involve skating. I figure since I rarely get to tell people what exactly it is that I do in person, I would take this opportunity to inform the public about what a Non-Skating Official (NSO) is and what it means to me to be part of the Outfit family.  As a NSO, our jobs are just as important as the referee’s.  We are the ones keeping score, tracking penalties, and making sure that the bout runs smoothly. We are also the ones you see standing behind the penalty box making sure girls (and guys) serve their appropriate amount of time.  I, like most others, thought being a NSO would be “easy.”  After all I skated for a while and I knew all the rules so how hard could it really be to stand in the middle and write down penalties?  Yeah, I quickly learned better the first time I was asked to help with penalty tracking.  You have to pay attention to the refs and hope they yell loud enough over the crowd and music to understand what in the hell they are saying.  I am pretty sure I spend a bulk of my time yelling “REPEAT!” at the refs during scrimmage, and those practices are closed to the public.  You also have to learn the ref hand signals for each penalty as well as the corresponding letter for it so that you can mark it down correctly.  Some of the letters correspond nicely, such as “X” means the skater cut the track; but then some don’t make any sense (who decided to make “A” mean High Block?). 

Hopefully you are still reading this, but I will completely understand if your eyes have glazed over and you are thinking to yourself “What in the hell is this chick talking about?”  So for those of you who are still reading this, I would like to talk a little bit about my experiences as a NSO in the Outfit family.  Skating as well as working with other leagues, I know that some NSO’s are not really treated very well.  Many are ignored and seen as “less than” because they do not skate.  It is frustrating to see skaters as well as fans not really appreciate the sacrifices we make to the league as well.  Yes we don’t skate, but we are still dedicated to the success of the league and LOVE the sport.  We also have other lives outside of derby and just because we do not skate does not mean we are not “part of derby.”  There has been a lot of controversy around the whole idea that derby is “by the skaters, for the skaters.”   We are ALL part of the derby community, be it as skaters, bench coaches, refs, NSO’s, announcers, or volunteers.  WFTDA and derby would not be where it is today without the countless hours the volunteers of the leagues put in, which include NSO’s.  If you happen to be one of the skaters guilty (as I admit I was) of not really talking to your NSO staff, please do.  They are here to ensure you have a safe and fair bout.  Have you hugged or thanked your NSO today??

I have been blessed to be part of a league that embraces their NSO (or Bookies as we are called) staff.  Every Sunday night after scrimmage, the skaters thank me for coming and I have never really experienced what it is like to be an “outsider looking in” as some of my colleagues with other leagues have mentioned.  Our skaters are more than willing to learn the various NSO positions and will help out, especially when they are on Team Injured. Most importantly, at least to me, is that the skaters take the time to talk to me and the majority of skaters know who I am and what my name is.  I am proud to be part of the Outfit family, even if I can no longer skate.

We are ALWAYS looking for a few good women (and men) to be part of the NSO staff.  If you are interested in becoming part of an AMAZING league, please email our Head of Official Code Adam at referees@chicagooutfitrollerderby.com