Derby is an action-packed game, and it takes a lot of eyes to make sure proper calls are made. While all seven referees wear the same stripes, we have different duties during the jam.
Inside Pack Refs:
There are two pack refs on the inside of the track. One manages the front of the pack, and the other stays with the back of the pack. Their major task is to call penalties on pivots and blockers that occur in their line of sight. They are also responsible for declaring “no pack” situations. This is when the players split into a formation in which no group of skaters can be considered the legal definition of a pack. They also assist the jam refs to determine whether blockers engaging the jammers are “out of play.” Out of play is when a blocker has gone too far ahead or behind the pack. The front pack ref has the additional duty of watching for “false starts.” This is when one of the pivots or blockers starts ahead of the starting line or a blocker lines up ahead of a pivot’s hips.
Outside Pack Refs:
Three referees are assigned to the outside of the track. Because the further from the center you are, the faster you have to skate, most referees use a “skate and wait” procedure. We usually set up where one ref starts on the pivot line, one ref starts at Corner 1 (the closest corner to the starting line), and the final ref starts at Corner 3 (diagonal from Corner 1). The pivot line ref helps the front pack ref call false starts. Once the skaters take off, the pivot line ref skates over to wait at Corner 1, while the Corner 1 ref follows the pack until Corner 3, when that ref takes over. Thus, each ref is only skating half a lap at a time, and there is always one outside referee with the pack. Outside pack refs have most of the same penalty calling duties as inside pack refs, but have the special job of signaling to the jam refs if their jammer cuts the track on the outside.
Jam refs only have one skater to pay attention to, but they probably have the most stressful jobs on the ref crew. They are responsible for calling when jammers get lead, penalties, and points. Before the jam, the jam refs start on the inside of the track on the jammer line. They signal to their jammers how many minor penalties they’ve accumulated. Once a jammer makes it through the pack, their jam ref calls them lead or not lead with hand signals. If the jammer is not the lead jammer because of a penalty, the jam ref makes the signal for that penalty. After each scoring pass, the jam ref signals over their head how many points were scored in that pass. It’s those points that are stressful. Mess up the points, and you’ve messed up the game. Just a little pressure!
This is probably all old news to all the hardcore derby fans, but I hope this helps all you new (and future hardcore) fans understand why there are so many stripes out there!