Or the elbow. Or the 'chop'. Or that crazy signal that means traveling in basketball. What the heck are those zebras on about anyway?

Well, if you can crack the code to their mysterious sign language, you'll gain access to a whole new world of secret information. Okay, not really, but it will keep you from annoying the Striped Ones with silly questions, give you more knowledge as a captain or alternate to communicate intelligently with the refs and be a better advocate for your team, and give you the ability to tell/ask your teammates why they went to the box while they're still in the box. All cool stuff.

Here are some of the most common signals you'll want to know:

Lead Jammer
What every point-scoring star wants to see. My favorite refs are the ones who do this signal with great flourish, making the event fancier for everyone. Showmanship, people... showmanship.

Not Lead Jammer/No Lead Jammer

Opposite of awesome. Also known as "You phail and must skate the full two minutes!"

For shame! If you're new, you probably see this one a lot. Keep those chicken wings in check and focus on laying the smack down legally. Or for pete's sake, if you're going to elbow, at least use the outside one!

Edit: The WFTDA-approved and more common signal for this penalty has the ref touching or cupping their elbow with the opposite hand, as seen here. Either way, you know you've been bad!

Out of Play/20 feet

Watch out pivots! That cocked arm is your warning. If you get the tomahawk chop, you've just been penalized. When the arm comes up, it's a good time for the rest of the pack to tell you to lay off.

Back Blocking

Getting a little too close and personal with the other team? You'll see this one if you've been all but spooning the opposing skaters. The signal used looks like a push, although technically pushing with the hands and back blocking are different penalties, and pushing actually falls under the next category.

Illegal Use of Forearms/Hands

You'll see this signal if you've been pushing, groping, grabbing or whipping off of the opposing team. Although pushing actually falls under this category, refs will usually use the back blocking signal for a push and this signal for holding. See how tricky they are?

Cutting the Track

See those crossed bones? That's poison to jammers, to be avoided if at all possible.

Tripping/Low Block

Whether you meant it or not, taking out other ladies' skates with your skates is a no-no.

Special Bonus Section!

  • When a ref sends you to the sin bin with one pointed finger, you just fouled out on a major.
  • When they send you out with four fingers and the thumb tucked in, you just fouled out on four minors.
  • When you're jamming, and you hear your jammer ref tapping the top of their helmet with their wristguard, it means you're about to get slammed by the other jammer.
  • Too many skaters on the track, false starting, illegal star passes, calling off the jam when not lead jammer and cutting in front of skaters when leaving the penalty box all fall under illegal procedure. Many refs will also use this one when a skater does not have their mouthguard in, although the rules do not specify the penalty for removing your mouthguard and leave it to the refs' discretion, it seems to be the widely accepted signal.
  • One of my favorite signals is the one for gross misconduct, with one hand on the hip as if to say "Oh no, you didn't!"
Check out these other resources for a complete and comical listing of WFTDA referee hand signals

WFTDA Offciating Hand Signals
Rat City Rollergirls Referee Hand Signals

Photos by Rat City Rollergirls and ohtoberich


chugalug said... @ Wed Nov 12, 04:41:00 PM PST

we use the wftda elbows signal which is different.... but great post anyways, and i'm going to suggest our skaters all have a read


Rei Zerburnn said... @ Wed Nov 12, 05:19:00 PM PST


You are quite right, I recall that's the one my league's refs use too.

Thanks for pointing that out, I've edited the post to indicate the other signal!


Buddy D said... @ Mon Mar 30, 02:05:00 AM PDT

Holy cow those are ancient photos.
All of those folks are retired now.

李怡靜 said... @ Fri Jun 04, 12:35:00 AM PDT

IS VERY GOOD..............................

Anonymous said... @ Sun Sep 19, 04:18:00 AM PDT

cant see photos - someone above mentioned they're ancient maybe it's time for an update???

Floor said... @ Fri Oct 21, 02:59:00 AM PDT

I cannot see the photo's either. To bad, cause this article would be very helpful!

Clara Violent said... @ Wed Mar 07, 10:52:00 AM PST

"When you're jamming, and you hear your jammer ref tapping the top of their helmet with their wristguard, it means you're about to get slammed by the other jammer."

i've never seen this happen... seems like it shouldn't be the ref's job to tell you this...

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