Get To Know The 513's Officials

In recent years, Cincinnati (area code 513) has begun celebrating itself on May 13, aka 513 Day. We at the Cincinnati Rollergirls would like to take this day to recognize and thank our volunteer officials, who collectively call themselves the Officials Union Local 513. They're the ones who make sure we're skating safely; track points, penalties and a host of other important stats; and generally keep skaters in line and games running smoothly. We couldn't put on our events without them! Read on to learn more about why they do what they do and how you can get involved.

What was your first roller derby experience?

Rabid Derby Fan (left): Watching CRG as a fan at Super Roll Sunday in 2006.

Sod Off: Started as the +1 being dragged along to watch a bout with the hubs [Rabid Derby Fan] in 2006. Officiating since 2009.

Stabby McNeedles: Going to a Cincinnati Rollergirls game at the Gardens the summer of 2007. I didn't quite know what I was looking at, but I was hooked.

Big Tasty: Many, many years ago, a friend introduced us to this amazing sport by taking the "guys" down to the Cincinnati Gardens where we saw girls on skates hitting one another. We got autographs and photos with the skaters after the game and agreed that next time we'd bring the wives and kids, since it would be "Family Night."

During that next game, our then 8-year-old daughter was transfixed by this sport and looked up at us and said, "I have to do this." Our response was, "You don't even know how to roller skate!" She looked at us with a defiant spark in her eye (that we've seen now hundreds of times since) and said, "I can learn."

That following summer, she joined a week-long summer camp for kids who wanted to learn how to play roller derby, and it's been a non-stop journey of fun ever since. She's been playing for seven years now, and after that first year of just being derby parents, then the second year as helping as a bench coach during exhibitions, we decided to get even more involved.

Big Mean Daddy: Cincinnati Rollergirls at the Gardens in 2010 — pretty sure it was versus St. Louis. A friend asked if I wanted to go and it sounded awesome. It was.

Rich Bastardo: I took my daughters to a bout during the 2012 season. I thought my youngest daughter, in particular, would enjoy it. She did. She received a flyer that night about the Cincinnati Junior Rollergirls summer camp and she asked to go. She skated with the juniors for about three years.

What made you want to become a roller derby official?

RDF: I thought it would be a good way for me to both contribute to the sport and better understand the sport.

Stabby: Two of my friends decided to become a skater and a referee. I wanted to do something with derby and still see my friends and I tend to seriously injure myself when I skate, so that was out. Then I started to get asked to write down penalties during scrimmages and help when they were shorthanded at games, and it kind of developed from there.

Big Tasty: It was a way for our whole family [below] to be involved together in the sport. We started training with the 513 because we learned that junior derby has many wonderful parent volunteers, but they're not always trained or as familiar with the rules of the game as they should be. We're trying to change that image.

BMD: After my first game as a fan, I read the entire rule book. There was so much going on the floor and I wanted to try to understand it all. I stayed a fan, and few years later my daughter joined the Cincinnati Junior Rollergirls. The coaches agreed to teach me to skate if I'd help referee for them. I had planned on just doing junior games until the head referee of my first game on-skates encouraged me to grow. I'm really grateful for that.

Rich: The Cincinnati Junior Rollergirls needed parent volunteers to help with their bouts, but I knew nothing about derby rules. CJRG coach Kathy Kissing suggested I start attending CRG scrimmages to learn the NSO trade. I met Rabid Derby Fan, Sod Off, Stabby McNeedles, and company, one morning; they were friendly, knowledgeable, and good teachers. it was fun. I started hanging around.

What's your primary officiating job?

Stabby: I am a Non-Skating Official (NSO) and a Head of Officiating for the 513/CRG. During games, I perform any NSO role because I want to keep my skills sharp in every area, but I am most often (over 160 games, so far) Penalty Box Manager, the person who handles jammer penalties and directs traffic around the box.

Big Tasty: I'm the Head NSO for the Cincinnati Junior Rollergirls, and my wife, Em Seven, is heavily involved in all three of Cincinnati's roller derby leagues. Both of us often travel with the Juniors team to tournaments and events out of town with our derby girl, Harley Trinn.

BMD (right): Referee — typically Inside Pack or Jam Ref, though most of my early(ier) experience was Outside Pack. I'm still just really glad to get staffed and am glad to help wherever needed. I also serve as the Head Referee for the Cincinnati Junior Rollergirls — it is a great opportunity to be on-skates regularly, mentor new officials, and share rules updates and clarifications.

Rich: Whatever the Head NSO tells me to do! I have probably done more lineup tracking than other duties, but this year, I've had some opportunities to be the jam timer, and they've let me into the penalty box. So apparently I'm somewhat trusted with stopwatches, now!

What's your favorite part of officiating?

Stabby (left): In game, I love those moments when a difficult situation comes up and I can see exactly what to do or I can catch the string of five penalties in a row coming from various referees all over the track. Basically, if I can make the game happen the way it's supposed to without any disruptions, I feel like I am doing my job.

Off the track, I have had a chance to meet so many people around the world that I never would have met otherwise. The derby officiating community is full of intelligent, passionate, and creative people (also sarcastic nerds) and I am so glad I get to be a part of it. I have traveled​ around the country, seen exciting cities like Portland, Chicago, and Fort Wayne, and officiated derby there.

Big Tasty: Obviously watching our daughter grow up in this sport, which has taught her confidence, strength, how to overcome adversity, maturity and leadership. By being as involved as we are, we get to see the game evolve as well, and have made many friendships along the way.

BMD: There are great people — officials, skaters, volunteers, fans — pouring a lot of energy into a thing they love. I'm glad to know and be a part of them. Refereeing roller derby is demanding both physically and mentally, and I really enjoy being on-skates as much as I enjoy navigating the finer nuances of the rules. My favorite is when I'm doing both at the same time.

Rich: My favorite part about being a jam timer is the five seconds before the jam starts. You see the skaters getting set; some are tense; some are intense. They're all waiting for the whistle . . . and then it starts. Recently I had the pleasure of jam timing a bout in which two former junior rollergirls were playing for the Violent Lambs for the first time. During each of their first jams, I was thinking about how much work they've put into being skaters. I was very happy for them. Luckily, I only lost track of four seconds during my "emotional flashbacks," (cue '80s movie montage music) and I returned to reality and started the jams on time.

What's the most challenging part about it?

RDF: Maintaining a firm understanding of the rules in order to be able to apply them properly — especially in unusual situations. Every game I officiate, I learn something.

Stabby: Finding the right balance between league business, my own officiating development, my actual job, family, friends, and my other interests. Derby expands to fill all available space in your life if you let it.

Big Tasty: Splitting time between the three leagues can be a challenge sometimes. We've officiated up to five games in the same day. That's a really, really long day.

BMD: Derby will consume as much time and energy as you feed it — and will always want more. Finding balance between officiating, being a derby dad, league administration the "real world" has been tricky. Fortunately, I have a very supportive family.

Rich (right): Anything requiring the handling of stopwatches is a challenge. It's hard to keep track of multiple skaters in the penalty box. As a lineup tracker, long hair and wrinkled jerseys are nightmares. I won't admit how many jams it took me before I figured out the difference between "94" and "34" on the jerseys of a couple visiting team's skaters during a recent bout.

Do you have a favorite or most memorable derby moment?

RDF: I was one of the lineup tracker spotters for the Gotham/Rose championship game in St. Paul in 2015. The energy in the Roy Wilkins Auditorium was amazing and it was incredibly loud as Rose pulled ahead to end the string of Gotham wins. It was so loud it was hard to communicate with my officiating buddies.

Sod Off (left): Three-way tie between watching Gotham come back to win the 2014 Championship game while working the scoreboard and watching Rose end the dynasty in 2015 and 2016 as penalty box manager.

Stabby: Two things that happened very close together at 2013 Championships in Milwaukee are probably my favorites.

1. My Derby Wife got our entire NSO crew to sing "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" to derby propose to me in the officials' room before the final game. I don't know how anyone's actual proposal can compete with that.

2. While preparing to go on the track to officiate that game, the center track NSOs and I made a needlessly complicated joke that ended up with us in tears laughing and then unable to make eye contact with each other for the first 10 minutes of the game.

Big Tasty: The first time officiating in front of a crowd of thousands at the Cincinnati Gardens was a very special experience that will be hard to top.

BMD: So many: road trips; inside officiating jokes; post-game assessments; but, most recently — I took a night "off" for the CRG home opener at Schmidt Fieldhouse and got to enjoy the evening as a fan. It re-ignited that spark that got me into it in the first place, and gave me a fresh perspective.

Rich: I was really happy to see my daughter skating in juniors bouts, and enjoying her time around the skaters and coaches. Great coaches; great kids. I miss them! That's why I still help out with CJRG bouts.

What are your officiating goals?

Sod Off: Keep challenging myself to perform that perfect game. Over 500 games and hasn't happened yet.

Stabby: Honestly, if anyone has suggestions for me, I am looking for some new ones. I am hoping to officiate overseas at the Roller Derby World Cup next year.

Big Tasty: To continue to grow and develop a group of parent NSOs that can supplement staffing games for all of Cincinnati's derby needs.

BMD: I am currently a JRDA (Junior Roller Derby Association) recognized official, and I am perusing certification in both WFTDA (Women's Flat Track Derby Association) and JRDA. I am very excited about partnership (along with MRDA, Men's Roller Derby Association) on The Rules, and hope this leads to collaboration in other areas between the bodies.

Rich: I hope to stick around and help the local teams—CRG, CJRG, and the Battering Rams.

What would you say to someone who's considering becoming an official?

Stabby: Try it out! Contact your local league and ask about officiating. Be prepared to not know what is happening for a while, don't be afraid to ask questions, get as much feedback as you can, and maintain a realistic assessment of your skills on both the positive and negative sides.

Big Tasty: Dive in headfirst, and ask a thousand questions. We are fortunate to have some very experienced, veteran officials in the 513 that can teach with patience.

BMD: "IT'S A TRAP!" Just kidding (mostly!) I would definitely say "do it." It isn't always easy, but it is always worth it. I've met great people and learned a lot. The 513 is lucky to have so many high-level and dedicated officials. Everyone is willing to help everyone continue to learn and grow, regardless of experience. I'm glad to be a part of it.

Rich: The 513 crew take our derby duties seriously, but we get along well and enjoy the sport and the work. New people are always welcome. NSOs seem to be the "band geeks" of roller derby, and we're happy to meet people who might like to try it out. You'll have fun. We won't be mean to you! Though a few NSOs have escaped our ranks to become skaters or announcers—or even referees!—we still think fondly of them.

Anything else you'd like to add?

RDF: I’ve been fortunate to be able to work with very talented and passionate officials. That has helped me learn and grow as an NSO. Those people have provided a lot of motivation and have influenced my officiating. Thanks to all of you!

Big Tasty: We're normally not allowed to cheer, so as to show no preferential treatment to any team, but for the sake of this article, we'd like to wish our daughter Harley good luck in the two upcoming tournaments in May and June!

Rich: We are very lucky to have outstanding leadership and top level and talented NSOs running our group. They set high standards for us, and we take a lot of pride in doing our jobs well. If one of them tells you you've done a good job, you know you've done well.

Stabby: If you need to manage large groups of volunteers, it helps to bring baked goods.

Interested in joining the 513? Email Officiating.

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