Job, children and commitments have frequently conspired in recent years to prevent me taking up regular exercise. Well, that and the fact that I hate the gym, despise running and am fairly rubbish at team sports. I briefly flirted with taking up squash, but lack of co-ordination ensured that this was short-lived. I have always managed to remain slim, but when I turned 40 I had to admit to myself that I needed more than just a daily dog-walk to help me keep fit and trim.

My son was invited to a party at a Roller Disco, and I went along as an adult helper. I had not really skated in some 30 years, but it soon came back to me (sort of…) and I realised I loved it, and hence I wondered if it were possible to take up a form of exercise on roller skates. Google came up with two options – artistic skating or Roller Derby. Being fairly inelegant, I generally take to anything ‘artistic’ as well as a duck takes to merchant banking, so Roller Derby was the only option.

Fast forward a year, and I was reaching the end of my minimum skills. I had loved skate academy – especially the feeling of achievement that accompanied ticking off a new skill or levelling up. What I did not love was being hit. I have always been a migraine sufferer and I have a dodgy neck, so one good hit would leave me with a 3 day headache. I regretfully concluded that I had taken my derby journey as far as was possible.

I will be forever grateful to Skeletor, who sat me down and explained that engaging in contact was not for everyone, and that I could train to be an official and still skate! At the time we did not have a skating referee affiliated to the league, so I had to travel to attend officials’ clinics and read a lot of online resources. I have been very lucky, in that the officials’ community is a welcoming one, and I am always pleasantly surprised at the willingness with which people offer help. Without exception, all the senior referees (and NSOs) I have worked with have been generous with their time, feedback, references and advice.

I have been lucky in some of the opportunities I have had, the highlight of which was the Northern Takedown tournament in Denmark earlier this year. Officiating has given me a circuit of colleagues and friends, a sense of identity outside of family and work, and fitness! That said, Derby is a greedy mistress, demanding of my time and money. It is not sufficient to just turn up at games and toot whistles – one must study to ensure complete familiarity with rules, particularly frequent rule changes and clarifications. As with any discipline, practice is needed. Travel to events can be expensive, and though often the host league or affiliated league may be able to help, there will always be costs involved.

I would love to have the time, and the energy (in the run up to Christmas particularly I confess I have the energy levels of a sedated sloth) to dedicate to my development within the sport. For those that do have time and funds, the sky is the limit. I would love to officiate at a World Cup or Champs Playoffs, but though that ultimately remains the dream, it simply is not possible in the near future. That may change – I know plenty of referees older than me who referee the sport at the highest level. I know of three fairly high-level British referees who only took up skating in their 50s, so at 44 I have plenty of years on skates left in me!

In the meantime, I will do what I can and hopefully, in the short-term, that will at least be enough to shed the inevitable Christmas weight-gain!And I would recommend getting your skates on to anyone of any age – what’s the worst that can happen?!?

Photo credit: MojoWoko photography