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A Blog Written By Skaters for Skaters

So You Want To Be A Roller Derby Referee?

Posted by Jordan Youtz on

Ever wanted to call the shots?

Do you have a keen eye for girls that break the rules and get out of line?

Did your girl friend or wife join a derby league that leaves you home alone 24/7?

Can you skate backwards, sideways and practically inside-out?

Want to join a fun community to party, travel and boost your social life?

Wouldn’t you just look awesome dressed up in a zebra stripped wardrobe?


If you answered YES to the majority of these questions then it just might be your time to conquer your fears and join the WFTDA (Women’s Flat Track Derby Association) as a roller derby referee. Actually, there’s really nothing to be afraid of except the raft of a few derby dames teaming up to dispute your unlawful call. So learn the sport and learn it well!

There is plenty information on the web about becoming a roller derby referee and most of it is the nitty gritty fine details dealing with fees, exams and policy. We’ll touch a bit on that but mostly focus on how and where to become a roller derby referee.

Most WFTDA leagues have a page all about becoming a referee. Here you will learn that roller derby is considered one of the most challenging sports to officiate. The players are always moving and the “ball” is in constant motion, not to mention the players are fierce.

The 4 important responsibilities of becoming a roller derby referee:

  • The volunteer position is time demanding and requires excellent knowledge of the sport.
  • You must pass the Officials Minimum Required Skating Skills Text, as well as the Officials Written Rules Test. (You must allow one month to pass before re-taking these tests)
  • Most derby leagues will help with finding and purchasing the gear but you are required to have: quad skates or inline skates, knee and elbow pads, wrist guards, mouth guard, impact helmet, whistle and a ref shirt. Remember, leagues cannot play without a ref and a ref cannot ref without a league. This concept tends to create a reciprocity type of relationship between leagues and their refs.
  • Become well versed on the current set of rules and regulations.

In modern roller derby, referees for a new league are usually recruited from the friends and family of the skaters on that league. The recent expansion of roller derby has increased the popularity of the sport, thus raising the bar for qualified derby referees. As most derby leagues seek out referees from within friends and family, this is changing due to a perceived bias that friends may have toward their ‘Derby League’. The question at hand is how to equal the playing field for both teams and to remove and bias toward one team or another.

A solution to this issue was born out of Las Cruces, New Mexico from an enthusiastic crew of roller derby referees called ‘The Dark Side of The Bout’. They are independent officials that offer their services to all roller derby leagues and teams without bias or prejudice. They officiate flat-track derby by the latest rules provided by WFTDA, MRDA, and JRDA.

Roller Skate Nation recommends getting in contact with The Dark Side Of The Bout to become a qualified and registered derby referee for the opportunity to offer your skills without any bias.

A derby bout is packed full of officials and the good news is that you can ref even if you don’t know how to skate. Here is a breakdown of refs for each bout. There is a head ref, 2 jammer refs and at least 2 more skating with the pack. The non-skating positions include jam timers, scorekeepers and penalty trackers.

Once you’ve made up your mind on taking on this adrenaline defying position as a roller derby referee, feel free to ask us all your questions about the most suitable roller skates and proper safety equipment.

Let the whistle blow and the bout begin and please share your experience as a referee in the comments.