Them’s the rules – or why you should totally NSO
It is a truth universally acknowledged that roller derby can’t exist without officials. Although there are only up to 10 skaters on track at any time in a game, a fully staffed WFTDA bout needs at least 18 volunteer officials to be run properly. And even if we ignore the 7 on-skates officials and the track repair crew, that leaves still 11 NSO (non-skating official) positions to be filled for each and every game. I won’t go into detail of what these roles entail, since plenty of other blogs have made a much better job of that than I could. This is just me trying to make the case, not only why you totally should, but also totally want to NSO. And no, that’s not just because of the copious amounts of snacks you’ll be provided with on game day.
As it is, York Minxters Roller Derby have made it a mandatory requirement to NSO at least 3 times before any skater would pass their minimum skills. This is certainly one of the easier tests to pass, but it’s really no less important than those 27 laps in 5 minutes.
NSOing and volunteering in other roles hasn’t only given me the opportunity to see some really fantastic high-class roller derby for no more than the cost of fuel to get there, it's also taught me how to actually watch a game to get the most out of it.
Each NSO role concentrates on a different aspect, so if you’re busy tracking or timing penalties, either in the box or at the inside white board, you’ve got less time to actually pay attention to the point scoring. But when you get the opportunity to just watch, having taken on these specialised roles will give you a much better ability to read the game and understand what’s going on.
A better understanding of rules and how they’re applied doesn’t only help you getting much more out of a game as a spectator, but obviously will in the long run also make you a better skater. It helps you to avoid committing penalties inadvertently, but also to spot opportunities for surprising yet legal tactics.
Not to mention that learning in a practical setting is much more fun and effective than studying for the WFTDA rules test by just reading the rules.
I've long passed the minimum requirement of NSOing at three games, but I don’t intend to stop. Continuing to volunteer as an NSO or other off-skates positions allows me to be involved, even when I’ve still got quite a way ahead of me until I pass my mins—or if I should be unlucky enough to sustain an injury that would keep me off skates for a while. It helps my league, which has to nominate NSOs as part of the requirements to participate in tournaments, it helps me to grow on a personal level (there’s no better way to learn to stay calm in stressful situations), and it really is just a lot of fun. You just need to learn to keep your cheering inward (easier said than done), as absolute neutrality is a must on game day.
I feel lucky that here at York Minxters Roller Derby there’s such a dedicated and helpful crew of officials (on and off skates), and I can only recommend getting involved to anyone interested in roller derby.
- Scornflake Grrrl