Thursday, October 10, 2013

LVRG Ref of the Month- Ria Culpa

Photo by Keyesboard
Many teams boast the skills of their skaters and how much dedication it takes to rule the track. What many forget are the faces behind the stripes and the pure passion that many an official has for the sport and love of roller derby. One such gallant derby zebra is the Lehigh Valley Rollergirls’ (LVRG) own Ria Culpa.

Ria started with LVRG in August of 2007. YES, that’s 6 years and 7 seasons that he has been with LVRG. He got started with roller derby because some of the current skaters would come into his old place of business to make professional prints of bout posters and it got him interested in watching games. He quickly become a super-fan and he eventually decided to join the officiating crew.

We asked Ria Culpa to describe what he liked about officiating. He stated, “on a non-serious note, I love the hand signals for penalties. Illegal procedures make me feel like I'm doing the shuffle. Out of plays and no-packs make me feel like I'm doing the robot. High-blocks allow me to itch my nose. Delays of game are denoted with a "Z" on the board, and I'm partial to that letter for some reason. On a more serious note, I don't "like" to call penalties, I just call them to support the rule set as it is. If I see something illegal happen from beginning to end, and it's against the rules in the impact spectrum, I call them. To that end, I like being able to call multi-player blocks and other things that mean that I'm "in the zone" and seeing everything I need to see.”

He continued by adding, “As a ref, I think my defining moment was actually reffing my first game after LVRG got WFTDA-league status. Our ref crew tries to be first-in-class when it comes to officiating (both in NSO-land and ref-land), and as such, (this was) my first game where I was able to wear the stripes and getting to that point with my skating abilities and ref-eyes was one of my greater moments. Oh, also... Sock derby. That was an experience and a half.”

Ria is a well versed and experienced official, always studying the changes and the application of the WFTDA rules. He wasn’t born knowing the rules, so we asked him on some advice on how to get started in officiating for LVRG. He stated, “First thing's first. Know the game. Watch a lot of derby. Then, learn the rules! They make more sense once you've seen the flow of the game. Of course, all of that can be done as you go (so new people, don't be intimidated!). When you're actually out there, just... go for it! It's a little intimidating to go from "knowing nothing (Jon Snow)" to "you're like a wizard (Sam Tarly)." We (as officials) try to help each other out, and the rules are something that comes with it. Skating is a little less of a concern, I think, because the rules are paramount, but both have to get good to finally ref a game. But both come with practice, experience, and just getting out there.”

Facts about Ria Culpa:

1.      He’s into Star Trek, tabletop gaming (both of the board, and RPG style), video gaming and loves to roll the dice.

2.      He is from St. Louis: A card-carrying mid-westerner.

3.      An electronic cigarette connoisseur.

4.      He is on the ketogenic diet. He has lost 45lbs so far since the beginning of the year!

Ria Culpa was also asked about his goals as an official. He stated, “My primary goal as an official is to help the sport. What that actually means, though, is to do my job (in whatever capacity is needed) in a professional, skilled manner. Whatever the rules and best practices say, go. The better I am at my job, the better the actual sport gets. Not to be delusions-of-grandeur or anything, but if we call things in a consistent, skilled manner, the rules that the skaters vote on are enforced the way they need to be, and the sport gets better. My secondary goal is to have fun. Seriously, this sport is rough, but all the people (officials, skaters, volunteers, fans) associated with it make it what it is--a fun atmosphere. I've made a bunch of really great friends, and as a transplant to the area, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't've made as many friends without the sport. I adore everyone involved. I can't imagine my life without roller derby, without LVRG, and without the phenomenon that this has become. Not that my life was an empty pit beforehand, but as a non-sports loving nerd from the opposite side of the world, this opened up and fulfilled me in a way no other thing has, really.”

Looking ahead, LVRG ends their season on October 19th with an interleague Pink vs. Black bout of teammate versus teammate. This will be your last chance to see the Lehigh Valley Rollergirls until the opening of the 2014 season on March 1, 2014.

Find us online at:

All functions will be held at the Independence Family Fun Center, 4345 Independence Dr, Schnecksville, PA.

For more information about becoming a skater or official, contact us at

A big thank you to all of the volunteers, officials, friends, and family that make our team the best in the Lehigh Valley. This is as much your team as it is ours. Thank you

To find out more about our contributing photographer, Keyesboard, please visit his FaceBook page here: