So you want to become a ref?

Referees, or the Zebra Squad, are an integral part of roller derby.  They ensure that all the rules are adhered to in the game, but also train with their team and help them to improve and make sure they understand the rules.  Refs need to be observant, be willing to learn a lot of theory and be authoritative.


There are three basic kinds of referee.  They are the jammer ref, the pack ref and the outside pack ref.  Here is a little information about each:

  • Jammer Ref

    – This ref’s job is purely to keep an eye on the jammer.  There are two used in a game, one for each team.  They watch the jammer closely for any penalties they make and also count the score for each person the jammer passes.  These refs need to be good, fast skaters with a decent level of stamina – those jammers can be mighty speedy!

  • Pack Ref

    – The pack refs stay with the main pack of blockers throughout the game.  There will normally be two, one covering the front and one covering the rear of the pack.  These refs watch for penalties incurred by the blockers and ensure that the pack remains intact (ie, that no skaters skates off out of play).  Pack refs need to be very observant and have a close attention to detail, as it can be hard to spot a shifty dig with an elbow in amongst a pack of eight blockers!

  • Outside Pack Ref

    – The outside pack ref does the same job as a pack ref, but skating on the outside of the track.  There are usually three, one covering the front of the pack, one covering the middle and one covering the rear.  This is a good position for people learning to ref, as they mainly provide back up to the pack refs.

What You Will Need

There is some basic equipment you need in order to be a referee.  Some things you’ll need immediately, and others you can pick up as you need them.

  • Skates

    – You’ll need these to start!  Don’t worry if you can’t really use them yet.  Everyone begins somewhere, and we’re more than happy to help you develop your awesome skating potential.  Most refs prefer to be on quad skates, like the derby players.

  • Safety Gear

    – This will consist of elbow and knee pads, wrist guards and a helmet.  You don’t need a mouth guard as you’re going to need to be able to speak clearly, and shouldn’t be receiving a high level of contact.  Again, you’ll need this gear straight away, but when beginning you can usually borrow pads.

  • A Whistle

    – Refs like to talk about the best kind of whistle to use, but for beginners pretty much any whistle that makes a good, clear sound and has a lanyard is fine.

  • The Rule Book

    – You can learn a lot from other officials and from the derby players, but at some point reading and learning the rule book is going to be essential.  Accept no substitute!  A copy of the rule book is available online from  You can read online, no printing costs required!

So how do I become a ref?

Come along to our wreck skate and speak to Frodo Buddings (our head ref) or drop us an email at