How to be a Roller Derby NSO

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Flat-track roller derby is the 21st century version of a sport that began in the 1930s. Unlike the staged matches of the 1980s, the roller derby revival of the mid-2000s is a competitive, full-contact sport. Amateur roller derby leagues around the world depend on volunteer non-skating officials (NSOs) to help their competitions, or "bouts," run smoothly. If you're interested in roller derby but not ready to skate, or don't want to skate, you can volunteer as an NSO.

  • Contact your local roller derby league and offer to volunteer as an NSO. If you haven't found any other way to get in touch, show up early at a bout and let someone know you'd like to help. No experience is necessary for an NSO, but you can review the job duties at ZebraHuddle.com.

  • Attend your league's practices and learn the NSO jobs. Begin with the easiest positions: outside whiteboard and score whiteboard. The outside whiteboard NSO writes down penalties and communicates them to workers inside the track. The score whiteboard worker writes the score in large numbers after each jam and holds it up so everyone can see it.

  • Learn the NSO roles involving timing and tracking positions. A jam timer tracks each two-minute jam and the overall bout time. Two or more penalty box timers keep up with the skaters' one-minute penalties. A score keeper for each team records the points for each jam as instructed by a referee. Lineup trackers record which skaters are on the track in each jam.

  • Track and communicate penalties as a penalty tracker or on the penalty whiteboard. These NSOs work listen for referee calls and record and report penalties. They communicate with referees and captains so they can make quick decisions during play, doing everything quickly and accurately in a noisy environment.

Tips & Warnings

  • Check the website of the Women's Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) to find a roller derby league. It maintains a searchable list of member and apprentice leagues, mostly in the United States. It can take up to a year for the site to add a new league. If there is no nearby league listed, contact the closest group and ask if they know of a closer league.
  • Roller derby is a contact sport, and nothing separates the NSOs from the skaters. Skaters or referees could crash or fall into you at any time.

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  • Photo Credit Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images News/Getty Images
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