Tuesday, January 3, 2012

While I Was Away

Dear Readers,

Oh, it's been a WHILE, hasn't it?

In my office, I have a shelf next to my desk, and on it I tape pictures and a calendar and other reminders that I need to quickly reference. As I pulled off these three things that I don't need for 2012, I realized they pretty much sum up the last half of 2011:

First off, we have a Field Notes calendar. I love Field Notes (I prefer them to Moleskines), and with one of my orders, they included this handy one-page calendar. It was the perfect calendar when I needed to quickly find a day and date. This year I ordered a special page-a-month Field Notes calendar, which is nice, but I miss the simplicity of the one-pager.

Next, there's a Boston Derby Dames 2011 schedule. Sure, derby occupied a lot of time in 2011, since I served my league as Head NSO (Non-Skating Official) and Officiating Committee Co-Head. Our July bout turned into a 4-bouts-in-3-days spectacular, which meant some extra work. I spent a chunk of that month (and August) catching up on writing NSO evaluations toward WFTDA Certification.

And then I got a few e-mails with regards to the last scrap of paper: The WFTDA Big 5 Tournament schedule. I love tournament season. You get to work with the best of the best officials from all over during a three-day tournament, and it's a great learning experience. With an afterparty. That might or might not involve a mechanical bull.

Last year I did Easterns and Championships, and this year I applied to work Easterns (in Baltimore), North Centrals (my old region, and since it was in Indianapolis, that was close enough for a visit to the parents), and Championships (in Denver). You'll note that these tournaments are all in the fall--well, the application process starts much earlier than that. Officials need to apply by June, they're vetted, and after a couple of months, you find out if you're in.

Tournaments involve a ton of organization and structure, but on the officiating side, the top dog is the Tournament Head Ref (THR), which is an elected position. Each tourney has a THR, and this person selects a Tournament Head NSO (THNSO), 3 Crew Head Referees (CHR), and 3 referee crews. The THNSO staffs the 3 NSO crews.

Near the end of July, I got an invitation to be a CHNSO for Easterns. I was excited because it was a good opportunity to expand my skills and learn some tournament crew management.

The next day, I got an invitation to be the THNSO. For Championships. Championships!

A few days after that, I got an invitation to be the THNSO for North Centrals.

WTF?!! I mean, I know I'm a good NSO and I'm organized and everything, but really? A CH and two THs? It was unbelievable.

And then South Centrals needed some extra NSOs, so I applied for that and got another CH position.

Needless to say, I was busy. Staffing two tournaments kept me up late for probably a week (on top of which, I had a regular home bout to deal with). For August and September, I flip-flopped between dealing with wrapping up the end of my league's season and organizing the two tourneys, both of which involved many more late nights (the Boy was both angry and amazed that I could go to bed at 3 AM and wake up at 7, full of energy). Before I knew it, it was time to travel.

Easterns was good -- my first time as a CH, and I was nervous as all get out. As a CH, you also work a position, and at Easterns I was a Penalty Wrangler, which is a pretty involved position, trying to help Penalty Trackers capture the penalties refs call as quickly as possible. This can be a pretty physical position, and I discovered that I did better if I warmed up before the bout (usually NSOs stand or sit...Wranglers have to move). The final bout was so fast that it just about killed me--it was like I had to do rounds of shuffles for an hour, with a 10 minute break at half time, during which I sat on the ground and sweated profusely.

My crew at Easterns did really well, though I tend to think that's more based on their talent than my leadership. Let's just say it was a massive learning experience for me, one that I really appreciate getting.

The next trip was South Centrals and North Centrals, a two-week trip. I had business in Indy as well, so I flew from Kansas City directly to Indianapolis and worked for the few days between tourneys to produce this article and hang out with this client.

South Centrals was awesome. I had another solid crew, and I did much better as a CH. Sometimes tourneys can be really magical. You never know what will make them that way, but this year South Centrals was pretty magical for me. I met so many great people, and the venue, hotel, and after-tourney food options were within walking distance, which is a massive plus.

That's not to say that the last two tourneys were not good--on the contrary, they were great, but it's different when you're a TH and don't work actual bouts. You prep paperwork, observe, and do general management. This, I happily discovered, is also a great job. It's a lot of work (and I mean, a lot of work), but it's so incredibly rewarding. At North Centrals, NSOs rocked positions in ways I didn't know they could be rocked. At Champs so many NSOs brought their A+ game that my jaw dropped more than once at the quality of work I saw. It inspired me so much [and the amazing thing is that no one notices it -- sure, if an NSO screws up, you notice it, but we blend into the background so much that nobody's looking at the really amazing work we can do].

Anyhow, the tourneys didn't really end in November. Once Champs was over, I still had to write evaluations. 111 of them, which is close to, if not actually the most evals someone was expected to write for tournaments this year. One might think, well why bother? Well, the certification process is important to me, and it's really hard for NSOs to get evaluations, which are an essential component of an application. It took me until after Christmas to finish it all, but I'm done, and now it's on to 2012.

So, what does the new year have in store for me? Well, in terms of work, things are going well, but I need to hustle to make it better. And blog more, of course. I'm no longer my derby league's Officiating Committee Co-Head, but I am now a WFTDA Officiating Clinic Instructor. So much change. It's sometimes it's hard to say good-bye to the old positions [I was pretty sad when Big 5 season ended, which is a nice way of saying I bawled like a baby], but the new doors that are starting to open seem to be really exciting to walk through. I just hope they prove to be that way.

I hope 2011 ended well for you too and that you have good prospects for this year. More soon--and by soon, I don't mean March.

Your pal,

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