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Objective: This drill teaches refs to get numbers and colours ready mentally before a call, and then make clear and procedurally correct calls in a timely manner.
Typical length of drill: 10-15 minutes.
Materials needed: Required: Cards in two colours (red representing majors, black for minors) listing all penalties in each colour, Cards listing random team colours and skater numbers. Track or markers simulating the inside line of a track. Optional: Chair/bench/table to hold cards.
Skill level required: Ability to look at and concentrate on nearby skaters while starting, changing speeds and stopping. Knowledge of penalty call procedures and current rules (including referee hand signals).
Description: The refs line up in 2 parallel lines. The ref in the left line is the active ref, who will play the role of an inside ref and follow and watch the assistant as though she were a skater. The ref in the right line is the assistant. The assistant picks up a number card and a penalty card without showing them to the active ref. The assistant then skates away, and the active ref follows alongside and watches. After several strides, the assistance shows FIRST the number card, then 3-4 seconds later the penalty card. The active ref then makes a loud, procedurally correct call, appropriate to a major or minor. As soon as they are back at the start, the assistant provides feedback on how well she heard the verbal call (was the number and colour clear?), saw the hand signal (was it correct, done clearly, held long enough to see, high enough to be visible from all angles?), as well as procedural aspects (order, correct whistle or no whistle?). Assistant returns her cards and switches lines. Calls should be made while skating, and while continuing to observe the assistant closely.
Intermediate Version – Reduce the delay between number card and penalty card to 2-3 seconds. Cards requiring additional hand signals and verbal calls are added, such as “45 GREEN – only blocker on track” or “too many skaters”. Number cards including the note “3 minors” can also be added, since pack refs always memorize which pack members have 3 minors at the start of each jam.
Advanced Version – Reduce the delay between number card and penalty card to 1-2 seconds. The active ref is also supervised by a stationary experienced ref or NSO. After making the call, the active ref approaches the supervisor, who gives additional feedback on the quality of the call and signal as it appeared at a distance, and as a penalty tracker or a skater on the bench might have seen and heard it. Time permitting, the active ref then verbally gives a clear example of a situation that would call for that penalty and why it would be a minor or major (The skater false started, but yielded advantage, or the illegal Elbow caused a skater to lose relative position). Assistant can now make sudden starts, stops, or falls and the active ref must adjust without taking his eyes off the assistant. Obstacles can also be added (a chair to skate around simulating a suddenly stopped jammer ref or a skater), a coat or cone on the ground to see in peripheral vision and step over without taking eyes off the assistant.
Additional notes: This drill can be set up quickly and run several times in a single practice, using time whenever the skaters don’t require the refs. I first learned a version of this drill while training with the Rat City Rollergirls, and it was modified with input from Riff Reff of the Stuttgart Valley Rollergirlz. When designing cards, some penalties don’t need both a major and minor version - “high blocking” for example. Showing the number card with number (and possibly 3 minors) first teaches the ref to be proactive and notice the numbers of skaters in his area before a penalty occurs. It also simplifies the procedure of making a correct call. If the refs are making mistakes more than 50% of the time, slow everything down until better calls and signals are achieved.
Example: Active ref first sees a card with BLUE 99, and begins repeating BLUE 99 silently to himself. He then sees a card with Cutting the Track written in RED. He then reacts instantly with a LONG WHISTLE, BLUE 99, CUTTING THE TRACK (with clear enough hand signal visible to be recognized from any angle and distance), MAJOR (with hand signal). Both then return to start, where assistant provides feedback.