I have always loved watching tennis - well, ok, maybe just Wimbledon. I love everything about it - the players, their outfits, their skills, their reactions, the will we / won't we get a British player in the final.... (well, will we?). I've got to be honest though and say I've always felt a bit sorry for the ballboys and girls (or BBGs as they are known). They are on alert the whole match, ready to retrieve balls, distribute balls, hand out towels etc etc, and they never seem to get acknowledged. Watching Wimbledon this week it struck me that the role of a BBG isn't too different from that of an NSO - Non Skating Official. They are impartial, they are not allowed to watch the game, they have expert rules knowledge and if they are doing their job properly no-one knows they are there.
Here the similarities end. Wimbledon BBGs apply in their hundreds for a 1 in 3 chance of being chosen for the coveted position. They train for months in a regime that hasn't changed in decades, which constantly challenges and develops their fitness and rules knowledge. They practice drills again and again until they are perfect. A huge amount of time and money is invested in each new generation of BBGs to ensure the consistently top level standard is maintained.
How many leagues can hold up their hands and say they do the same with their NSOs? Before we start admonishing leagues for this let's look at who our NSOs are. Fresh Meat? Baby Zebras? Injured or recovering skaters? Do you see a theme - these people are passing through, serving their time as NSOs for a variety of reasons. How many people are NSOs because that's what they want to be? Being an NSO should be desirable, not just something you do by default or because you're on your way to bigger and better things. How an individual feels about an NSO role can be influenced by how their league feels about NSOs and the value placed upon them - the time taken to train, nurture and develop them.
Unlike Wimbledon, modern flat-track roller derby doesn't have a 135 year history steeped in tradition and an unchanging, failsafe training regime for NSOs. We're new, we adapt, we're free to promote the role of an NSO as an aspirational one. Roller derby is about empowerment - go ahead and empower your NSOs - train them, value them and love them. They are awesome!
To celebrate the awesomeness of roller derby NSOs, over the coming weeks I will be profiling NSOs from various leauges. Feel free to nominate an NSO from your league as a way of saying thanks for doing a great job :-D