Get it? Therapy? Derby? Ahhhh everyone’s a critic… but guess what everyone! I made a mistake this weekend! It was a doozy of one too. One that would have not gone over very well if it was a tournament, but luckily it was a scrim and I had a very supportive crew behind me and some great derby individuals involved in the bout who I had incredibly constructive discussions with afterward (PHEW!). One thing I take pride in is that despite the obvious heatwave of embarrassment that came with realizing I dropped the ball, I did not let the error define the rest of my evening and my performance for the remainder of the game, as well as the second bout, was MUCH better. Had I gotten angry with and berated myself, as I have done so many times in the past, it would have been an entirely different story; which brings me to this weeks article for my fellow growing officials (though it can really be applied to skaters as well).

Don’t Fear the Errors:

You will never learn, grow, and improve your performance as an official (or a player, or a coach) without making mistakes. So stop fearing them or dreading them. Realize that they will more than likely happen and when they eventually do, be prepared to identify and accept the knowledge that comes along with it. Doing something, and having it go wrong, is a bazillion times better than doing nothing. So blow your whistle, make your calls, track those penalties, and don’t be afraid to ask for help from the other people on your crew.

Your crew has your back! Photo courtesy of Rob Vida Photography.

Your crew has your back! Photo courtesy of Rob Vida Photography.

Just remember: every single successful skating or non-skating official has a hell of debris trail of failure behind them, but look at them now! They are where they are today because they’ve mucked up too. Lots!

Stop Punishing Yourself:

Once again WE ALL make mistakes and sometimes struggle with our game performance. We can get our calls jumbled, we sometimes take WAY too long on official reviews, and sometimes we even award too many or too few points. I’ve given lead jammer to a jammer that I just sent to the box in that same jam (not allowed btw), I’ve called a high-block a forearms, I’ve spent almost 10 minutes as Head Ref debating a challenge. It’s okay. Every single thing that has happened to you out on the track serves to prepare you for the next game, and the next, and the next, and so on.

That's right, smile! You've all fabulous! Photo courtesy of Funkie Bruisedher

That’s right, smile! You’re all fabulous! Photo courtesy of Funkie Bruisedher

The more time you spend needlessly punishing yourself for a mistake, the less amount of time you spend actively improving. Forgive yourself, move on, and search each experience for the lesson within it.

Stop Thinking You’re Not Ready to Try That New Position:

Do you think I was ready to serve as an inside pack ref the first time I was assigned the position? Think I had the confidence to jam ref the first time I was asked to? HELL NO. In fact, my first 7 games were spent comfortably on the outside of the track as an outside pack referee. I didn’t even jam ref until my 20th bout. Nobody EVER feels 100% ready when opportunity comes a knocking but the best opportunities in this sport, the ones that will make you a stronger, more knowledgeable, and more confident official, are the ones that will force you to go outside of our comfort zones and challenge yourself. So get your jam timing on or say yes to serving as the Head Ref of a scrimmage. You got this, zebra!

Of course, all of that is easier said than done. So, I’ll show you one way that you can defeat that mean, relentless inner criticism that creeps up on you during a bout. By practicing your ABCs!

Presenting: The ABCs of Derby (well of everything, really):

No, I did not invent this. It’s a proven form of cognitive behavioral therapy that has helped countless people through history deal with anxiety, depression, and a whole ton of other personal struggles. Here’s how it works: when an (A)ctivating Event happens, such as making a mistake, you can interpret it positively or negatively (Belief). However you decide to interpret this event will then affect how you feel, think and behave (Consequence). (A)ctivating Event -> (B)elief -> (C)onsequence. ABC! Let’s see what it looks like if you take a negative approach:

Activating Event: You make a call you shouldn’t have

Beliefs About the Event: That was stupid, I am a bad ref

  • Everybody saw that and thinks I ‘m an idiot
  • My crew is so let down
  • I can’t believe I just did that…
  • I’m always making mistakes
  • I’m a joke
  • I can’t do this
  • I don’t deserve to officiate
  • I’ve ruined this game
  • How could I do that?


  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Stress
  • Panic
  • Fear
  • Depression
  • Self-sabotage
  • Decline in performance
  • More likely to repeat the mistake or make more mistakes
  • Loss of confidence
  • You become less helpful to your crew

Sound familiar? Don’t worry, it’s familiar for me too, but is this line of thinking very rational?  I’d say that it isn’t. The negative line of thinking is not only completely unfounded (how do YOU know what others are thinking about you?) but it ends up holding you back and essentially shuts you out of any and all personal growth opportunities you may have had for the remainder of the game. So next time you make a mistake and start beating up on yourself, I want you to take a deep breath and at the FIRST possible moment you have to yourself during the half or after the bout, I want you to re-frame your mind to positive thinking and see how much BETTER that goes for you, your crew, and the bout on a whole.

Activating Event: You make a call you shouldn’t have

Beliefs About the Event: Everyone makes mistakes

  • I’m human
  • I forgive myself
  • This experience has made me stronger
  • I am a more knowledgeable referee because of this experience
  • I am a good official
  • I am constantly growing
  • I am a valuable asset to my crew


  • Calmness
  • Re-focused
  • Personal/professional growth
  • Knowledge
  • Understanding
  • Self-respect boost
  • Confidence maintains
  • You continue without allowing inner conflict to cloud your mind
  • You continue to be a strong asset to your crew
  • The bout continues unhindered

In essence what I am attempting to say is rather than self-criticize, strive to be more self-AWARE. Stop filtering out the positives of what you do, stop catastrophising situations, and stop placing negative labels on yourself. Never forget: you’re a derby official an/or skater and/or coach and that makes you awesome! Be proud and celebrate the strengths you bring to this sport! Kevlar, out!



  1. Kevlar, You’re amazing! Your knowledge and experience is such an asset to everyone on the flat track, and mistake or not, you are an incredible ref!

  2. Thanks Kevlar, I’m not quite that negative when I make a mistake…but it does hold me back and make me question how good I am at this job. I like to ref and I always need more experience. I had never OPR’d until the first time I OPR’d. Thanks to Kurz for the opportunity. I’ll work on stepping outside my comfort zone by Jam Reffing someday. I will ask for some instruction and assistance beforehand though. I needed this pep-talk. Thanks again!

    1. Happy to hear you’re looking at branching out even further, Doug! You have come along a GREAT ways this season, you’re improved each and every time I see you officiating an event. Keep up your hard work and don’t lose that motivation to grow. It’s also great to hear you’re not catastrophic with your negativity (I used to be and tend to still be every once and a while). Keep your stripes on and keep going, the Sask derby community needs more dedicated officials such as yourself!

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