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As roller derby ref, Jeremy Spencer ‘07 keeps ‘em in line

  • Jeremy Spencer is a '07 Carthage geography alumnus
    Jeremy Spencer is a '07 Carthage geography alumnus
    Intuitive Capturing Studios of Bridgeport, Ohio.
February 06, 2013

Every sport needs an official to oversee the action. Whether it is an umpire, referee, or linesman, someone needs to enforce the rules. Roller derby is no exception. Jeremy Spencer ‘07 was bitten by the roller derby bug a year and a half ago. Six months later, he began officiating roller derby bouts.

“One day a friend told me that they were looking for referees,” said Mr. Spencer. “I debated it again and again in my head, but then I decided to do it. I had been an aggressive inline skater for about 17 years, so I already had the skating skill set, so it seemed like a good match.”

When he’s not officiating a bout, he is often working on his research. After graduating summa cum laude from Carthage with his bachelor’s degree in geography, he went on to earn his master’s degree from Northern Illinois University. He’s now working on finishing his doctoral studies in geography at Kent State University.

Some of his work includes research on whether top search engine results regarding hypothermia symptoms match medical literature. He has also worked in concert with the National Weather Service on windchill alert criteria and its relation to weather conditions that can cause hypothermia. Soon he will be looking for a job as a professor — a job search that could take him anywhere in the United States.

No matter where he goes, he plans to continue officiating roller derby.

Roller derby is a fast-paced, full-contact sport comprising mostly amateur female teams. It has seen a large revival over the past decade. When many people think about roller derby, they think of the scripted televised bouts with predetermined winners — more like televised wrestling and the Harlem Globetrotters than actual sports like football or baseball. But those days are long gone.

“If people think that it’s fake or scripted, they should put on the skates and come to a practice,” Mr. Spencer said. “I guarantee they won’t think it’s fake after that.”

Mr. Spencer learned the 45-page rulebook and became versed in the standards and practices of the sport by officiating scrimmages. Immediately, he became even more enamored with the sport for a multitude of reasons.

“It’s fun, challenging, and a great way to get some exercise,” he said. “There’s a lot more than that, though. A lot of people don’t know how intertwined charity is with the sport, and that’s really big for me. They truly give back to the community.”

Team members pay dues that go toward purchasing uniforms and facilities. Revenue from ticket sales go to local charities that are important to the members of the team. Teams often donate to charities that focus on women and children’s health, and also donate money to bring underprivileged kids into a roller rink to skate.

“The sport has really exploded all over,” Mr. Spencer said. “Teams are springing up in communities all over the country, and refs will always be in demand. I’m going to keep doing it because I just absolutely love doing it.”