Name: Buffy Boiler
When not being a derby ref extraordinaire what do you do?:
As well as being a referee for GCRG I'm head of Fund-raising and Sponsorship and a skater for Granite City Brawlers – I also play a lot of tabletop wargames, role-playing games, and anything with a lot of highly technical rules really.
What got you into reffing?:
GCRG vs Dolly Rockits in October (I think) 2010, a lot of my friends were getting into Derby in some capacity – I'd been very sceptical for a while but as soon as I saw an actual bout I just fell in love with the sport. I was literally wearing the t-shirt by half time.
GCRG vs Dundee Roller Girls in 2011 at a bout titled “GI JAM.” I actually only did the first half, myself and Jaffa Skates were both starting out so we split the game between us – which was a fantastic idea, it allowed us both to get our feet wet without too much pressure. My first full length game was GCRG vs Manchester Roller Derby a month or two later.
Favourite bout you've reffed:
I don't think I really have one, you take little things from every game and it's always a combination of some cool things that happened, some rules based humour, maybe something weird that you hadn't seen before, and things to work on in training. What's been really nice for me lately is I've been able (along with the rest of the ref crew of course) to support some of our newer refs as they do either their own first bouts or as they push themselves to try new roles within the game-day crew. That's something I love seeing, people getting better at something over time, whether they're officials, skaters or whatever.
Any bout day rituals?:
Bacon and coffee. There are always nerves, because what we do as referees carries a lot of responsibility, but they don't tend to bother me too much these days unless I'm doing something I'm less familiar with.
What's your favourite rule?:
“18.104.22.168 - Referee discretion is intended only to allow referees to keep the game safe, fair, and consistent in the event that an unexpected situation arises. Discretion does not allow referees to change rules.”
It's so, so important that we remember that as important as the referees are, ultimately our sport is by the Skaters, for the Skaters. The rules have been agreed to ahead of time, and our job is to keep things fair, consistent, and above all safe. I like 22.214.171.124 because it's a reminder of the trust the skaters put in us, and the need to stay humble because of that.
He's been a friend of mine for a long time pre-derby, so it feels weird to say it but Righteous Oxide is basically the best ref I know. He was the first Head Ref I worked under before he moved to Dundee and he's just gone from strength to strength. There are a lot of other amazing officials in the UK right now, and I've been lucky enough to work with a good number of them at various points, but Righteous is the one I feel has had the most impact on me as an official. He's always calm, always working to improve himself, and always keen to pass on his skills to others. To me, that's what we should all be aspiring to.
Favourite thing about reffing:
I get to see my friends, whether skaters or refs, grow in ability and confidence from practice to practice, but that's derby in general rather than reffing in particular. I'd probably say for reffing it's when I look at skaters lining up in a tough, close fought, game and everyone on track is smiling. To me that's the best sign that we're doing our job right.
How long have you been reffing for?:
I'm a couple of months off of 4 years now. It's weird in that I feel like I've been doing it forever, but also like I've got a ridiculous amount still to learn, which I guess is good!
What would you do differently if you were starting out today?:
I'd have started cross training earlier, I'd pay way more attention to stretching and mobility work in particular, and I think I wouldn't be in such a hurry. I'm not naturally a patient person but I've found more and more that by trying to rush things I just end up slowing myself down. So mainly I think I'd try and remember to enjoy the journey more.
Skate set up:
Reidell Blue-Streak boots, Pilot Falcon Plus plates, Moto or Reds bearings and either Rollerbones Turbos or Faster Skates “demiurge” wheels. The most important thing is to start with a boot that fits, it took me years to get that right as I apparently have very strangely proportioned feet...
Advice for anyone looking to improve rules knowledge:
Watch lots of Derby, read the rulebook, and when you have questions (and you will...) start a conversation with your ref crew about them. Also bear in mind that many rules questions do not have easy answers, Derby is a complicated game because there's so much happening at once.
In particular for referees it's really important to remember that you can't expect to learn the rules by being told what to do in every possible situation, you'd never remember them all. You have to think for yourself, and you have to talk to other refs to make sure that we're all on the same page. Which is why when I'm working with new refs and they make a call (even if I agree with it!) I'll ask why they made it, what they were thinking and how they arrived at that decision. It's not trying to catch them out, it's making sure that they really understand what they're calling, or not calling – just as importantly.