So……., Sundays, the memories of a misspent youth of dreaming of Rock stardom, and Formula 1 of course, after all, Formula 1 is what Sundays are for right? I used to skateboard on half pipes when I was a kid, for quite a number of years the deck and trucks were attached to my feet, well, apart from when I was playing music, or watching F1. One Sunday, my then girlfriend (now wife) must have been slightly not as into F1 as I thought to my dismay, and decided on the advice of one of her oldest friends who found some random flyer in a random pub, to disappear for the morning (and leave me in peace to watch the grand prix). A few hours later, slightly smelly, slightly sweaty, and with a beaming smile on her face, in she wandered to tell me about the fun she had on skates for a few hours. If I had known then where this would lead………………
After a few weeks of peaceful F1 time, lots of random youtube videos, and talk of nothing but skating, she convinced me to skate up. Now, understand, I’d never been on skates, apart from those adjustable yellow and blue Fisher Price ones when I was like 4? So my first choice was to buy the Rule book, and see what this was all about. A couple of weeks later, another friend of hers had a pair of old Bauer blades for sale, so the inevitable occurs. I have 8 wheels! So along I go (on a non F1 Sunday I might add).
The rules aren’t that difficult to follow, although those early days of having no-one to show me the ropes was quite daunting. Not quite sure what I’m looking for, not quite sure exactly what’s going on, then the team we were in had a couple of guests down from Cardiff for a scrim. I was appalling during this scrim, but Jon, a ref from the other team helped me out to muddle through, and really boosted my confidence at the end helping me understand bits and bobs. So now armed with the rule book, and a little understanding, there was no turning back.
I soon got bored of blades, and got my first pair of quad skates. Cheap and cheerful as they were, I fell in love! For the first time in a decade, I had trucks under my feet again. the ease and maneuverability was immense. Took me no time at all to get used to them, and don’t get me wrong, I’m not the best skater in the world, but I can do enough on quads for me to get on with refereeing without having to think about what I’m doing on them.
Next came our first public bout as spectators. Tiger Bay Brawlers v’s Bristol Harbour Harlots. I noticed it was easier to watch the refs when they weren’t on the internet. Head Ref, Skatan from Glasgow, and on the outside Pack, a very tall chap called Chaz Tizer who did a cool walking backward impression of a robot! the game was immense, and I knew then I needed some stripes! Right after the bout, I went down trackside, and as soon as the Derby girls had all done their high 5’s, I went and introduced myself to the aforementioned refs saying “Hi, I’m Joe, I want to be a ref too!” A couple of Facebook add’s later, and I had two friends on my list who were more than happy to answer any and all the questions I had.
After a little while, my girlfriend gets invited up to the Brawlers for their birthday bout, this started a friendship which has given me some of the greatest experiences of my Refereeing career. Soon I was going up and helping with scrims, and Chaz became my unofficial mentor. Between him and Hazel (my wife) they have nurtured my knowledge and understanding of the game, and the rules.
Eventually, Haze and I decided to start our own team in our hometown, NPTRD was born! Yes we’ve started from scratch, but we have gained respect, and with our NPT friends, built up a reputation as one of the friendliest teams in Roller Derby. Although I’m not reffing much for the team, and I’m even moving toward Bench Managing, I still get the call from other teams now and again to help out. The experiences I’ve had within Roller Derby have been some of the toughest things I’ve ever done in my career. I’ve Jammer refed, and OPR’d possibly some of the toughest games I ever will, and although sometimes I’ve felt completely down about my performance, I’ve revelled in the opportunity and education I’ve had.
So, now I’m head ref for NPT, I’ve head refed my first bout this year (not that I wouldn’t have before, I just love Jammer reffing), and I’m teaching and debating the rules with one of the nicest chaps I’ve ever met, Dan of Iniquity, my protege! All we need now, is to recruit a few more refs, and the girls of NPT can gain the benefits of constantly being whistled at! Come on, get your Zebra on! Join Team Zebra!
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