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Roller derby has its policy debate moment
October 24, 2010 8:23 PM   Subscribe

Competitive roller derby is undergoing a transformation: skaters are adopting tactics that are unconventional, but legal, and other teams have to adopt them to just keep up.
posted by LSK (63 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
No video?
posted by empath at 8:31 PM on October 24, 2010


Hm, sounds like some nice young lady out there must have picked up a copy of Ender's Game...
posted by hermitosis at 8:35 PM on October 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Videos are kind of linked in the article.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 8:46 PM on October 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


All human endeavor eventually becomes about rules.
posted by The Whelk at 8:55 PM on October 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


No sound, but I'm pretty sure this is the style they're talking about. This is the Oly Rollers vs. the Rocky Mountain Rollergirls a couple weeks back.

That seems damn slow compared to a lot of the derby videos I've seen. I imagine the dispute is a bit like the European-style hockey vs. NHL hockey debate, with a dash of D&D-style rules lawyering thrown in.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 9:05 PM on October 24, 2010


Another hallmark of the western style is skating backward. When a player hits an opposing jammer out of bounds, the jammer has to reenter behind that player. So if that player skates backward on the track before the jammer can hop in-bounds behind her, the jammer is forced to retreat farther to reenter, delaying her next chance to pass the pack and score points.

I think that's great strategy but it seems absurd that it took 50 years for someone to try that.

There are a lot of local mens teams around me that are always looking for big guys that can skate. I would try but I would want to wear inline skates and don't like how the teams are basically funded by the players. I've gone through that mess already with years of "pro" inline hockey. Great competition, too many headaches.

I think the sport would be much more exciting with inline skates. Inline skates are so much faster with all the maneuvering through tight corners. The edging ability is just non existent on quads.

The video fairytale of los angeles posted looks like it's a nice example. To me, that seems simply like a smart fun way of playing.

I have to say it seems more like a "trap" debate than a euro\canadian style hockey difference though.
posted by zephyr_words at 9:15 PM on October 24, 2010


Wouldn't you be at more risk of twisted ankles on inline skates? I guess no more than ice hockey.

Also, the reason it took 50 years is that Roller Derby was fake for 40 of them.
posted by empath at 9:17 PM on October 24, 2010


Hmm. I just started learning about roller hockey because a friend of mine joined the local league that was forming. They must use slow pack tactics, because this doesn't look that unfamiliar.
posted by zug at 9:21 PM on October 24, 2010


The question is "What happens to the game when both teams adopt the same strategy?" If the answer is "It becomes dull", then it needs to be banned by rule. This is why the NFL has the pass interference rules, why Soccer/Football has the offsides rule, and why Basketball has a shot clock.

There are two correct reasons for changing rules. First, a tactic is causing real harm to players -- this is why chop-blocks and spearing are illegal in the NFL, and why high sticks are illegal in hockey. The other is game destroying situations -- which is why we have the Infield Fly rule in baseball (without it, an infield fly is a near-automatic double play -- if the runner doesn't run, you don't catch the ball on the fly and go for the double force, if he does, catch it and get the runner for not tagging up.)

The forward pass in football, and the bunt in baseball, became part of the game because when both sides adopted the tactic, the game remained fun to watch for the fans -- or became more fun to watch! Four Corners was destroying basketball, so it had to be eliminated -- and the shot clock was a simple way to do so. The iciing in hockey and the offsides rule in footie keep the game from becoming a "blast the ball away" defensive battle -- a tactic that was very effective in preventing scoring, but there are only so many 0-0 games that people will watch.

Is slow play better for Derby? The question is what happens when both sides do so? If the answer is the game remains exciting for the fans, then they've discovered a better tactic, and they should be rewarded. If the answer is the game becomes boring or players are getting hurt, then rules changes need to be made to eliminate the tactic.
posted by eriko at 9:25 PM on October 24, 2010 [25 favorites]


People do roller derby?! What's next, CB radio? 8 track tapes?

I been through the desert on a horse with no name,
It felt good to be out of the rain...

posted by Meatbomb at 9:32 PM on October 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


There are a lot of local mens teams around me that are always looking for big guys that can skate.

Like the Harm City Homicide? Having watched them get steamrolled by the New York Shock Exchange a few weeks ago, I would appeal to your sense of civic duty if nothing else -- their roster is pretty shallow and it's hurting them. I'm only half joking when I say, "Suck it up and strap on some quads, friend."
posted by Narrative Priorities at 9:41 PM on October 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


skaters are adopting tactics that are unconventional, but legal, and other teams have to adopt them to just keep up.

You can replace "skaters" with any kind of team athlete, and that statement would stand.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:44 PM on October 24, 2010


zephyr_words: I think the sport would be much more exciting with inline skates. Inline skates are so much faster with all the maneuvering through tight corners. The edging ability is just non existent on quads.

This is simply not true. If you're not edging on quads, either your form isn't good enough or you're using the wrong wheels for the surface.

Good quad wheels on a good sport court surface give you as much or more short-track maneuverability than inlines possibly can. (I have skated extensively on both.) I skate for the New York men's derby team, and we're constantly drilling hockey stops and quick slaloms, and on a modern derby-sized track, there's just no comparison. The big contact patch of quads means you can push as hard as your form allows you to through crossover turns, while the adjustable trucks preserve maneuverability.

It just isn't my experience that inlines are better than quads on a derby-sized track.

(Now, if we're talking actual speed skating, that's a different story.)

I notice you're from Maryland. I'd suggest looking up the Harm City Homicide if you want to sit in on a practice. They're good guys. (On preview, what Narrative Priorities said.)
posted by pts at 9:47 PM on October 24, 2010 [6 favorites]


What the FUCK?

Let us play our sport with ...strategy, ffs, and don't fucking panic over it, dig? People just really don't know how the fuck roller derby is played and want to talk about it, because girls in hot pants. I can grok that shit, but don't act shocked that bitches be strategizin' for themselves. Ergh.

And no, inline skates are not preferrable. Trucks flex, and quad arrays provide good stability for quick, agile moves. I bet it would be CAKE to hip-check an inline skater into the AIR.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:33 PM on October 24, 2010 [6 favorites]


I just hope that roller derby always keeps the mandatory pun rule.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 10:39 PM on October 24, 2010 [9 favorites]


"What the FUCK?

Let us play our sport with ...strategy, ffs, and don't fucking panic over it, dig? People just really don't know how the fuck roller derby is played and want to talk about it, because girls in hot pants. I can grok that shit, but don't act shocked that bitches be strategizin' for themselves. Ergh.
"

Yeah, but no. Sorry, this is what being taken seriously as a sport looks like: There's not a single mention of hot pants in the article, it's got athletes on both sides talking about a shift in strategy, and no one's being condescending. The comments here have put roller derby into a context that includes baseball, football and hockey.

I know that you play, so why don't you talk about what the different strategies mean for your game?

But this is something that's pretty normal and regular in discussions of all sports, not just derby, and it's got nothing to do with girls in hot pants. If you don't think the article did a decent job at explaining the way derby's played, do a better job yourself.

(Now that I've finally seen my NYSE buddy's derby name, I'm kinda disappointed.)
posted by klangklangston at 10:46 PM on October 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


Yeah, on the one hand, you're right, klang, this is to be expected; perhaps this is the tenor of sports writing. I don't usually read sports writing, and I find it facile, as a player of the sport. And as a west coast "style" skater, this has to smack of condescension. The rules of flat track are national, and there's no fucking benefit to exclusively fast packs, so where's the news appeal? I guess, in Chicago, they're shocked. Did they read the rules?

I've never seen a team from another region play, though I've seen mixed teams. I had no idea they didn't slow down packs in Newark or whatever. I can't imagine a reader having the adequate interest in the game to understand the ramifications of this regional strategy distinction and also having anything to benefit from reading this article. So, I think it's a bit facile, a bit condescending, a bit "DID YOU KNOW? THEY ARE USING RULES NOW! GIRLS!!! Just think of it!"

The article doesn't explain the rules of the game in remedial detail; I'm not criticizing it for failing to do so and I don't, hell, CAN'T give a full breakdown of the difference between some major and minor penalties. There's a subjectivity built into the sport. There are half as many refs as players in any give jam, because it's a fucking complicated sport to judge.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:57 PM on October 24, 2010


Stroller derby lol
posted by seagull.apollo at 10:58 PM on October 24, 2010


Good quad wheels on a good sport court surface give you as much or more short-track maneuverability than inlines possibly can. (I have skated extensively on both.) I skate for the New York men's derby team, and we're constantly drilling hockey stops and quick slaloms, and on a modern derby-sized track, there's just no comparison. The big contact patch of quads means you can push as hard as your form allows you to through crossover turns, while the adjustable trucks preserve maneuverability.

Interesting. I've probably just used crappy wheel\floor combos then.
I should have left that comment out of my post as I guess a lot of it is preference too. If you grow up your whole life inline and ice skating you're going to be much better on inline skates.

I'm familiar with Harm City and they are who I was referring too. They've come out to some bars before promoting the team with one of the local womens teams and everyone seemed pretty cool.
Unfortunately, I have no time right now to add yet another hobby.

And no, inline skates are not preferrable. Trucks flex, and quad arrays provide good stability for quick, agile moves. I bet it would be CAKE to hip-check an inline skater into the AIR.

Inline hockey skates do all the above too, just through different mechanics. There are some pretty interesting experimental chassis too.
Even though I'm a goalie, I've played a lot of player doing full check ice hockey and check inline hockey. It's really not that easy to crush someone and I can't imagine it being SO much easier to check someone into the AIR.

Anyway, I didn't mean to start an inline vs quads thing. I was just thinking it would be interesting to see a match done in different skates.
posted by zephyr_words at 11:03 PM on October 24, 2010


The slow pack challenges the competing jammer, used to skating at high speeds, to cut through a stopped or slow group of players without illegally hitting another opponent in the back. "They play very slow," says Beth. "They tend to create walls that are stopped on the track, which is a challenge for our jammers because if they clip you when they're stopped, (a) you go flying because of momentum and physics and (b) you're liable to get a back blocking major [penalty]."

So, here's some derby rule explanation for you. Back blocking minor and major are distinguished by whether the player who is pushed from behind falls. So yes, we are getting floppers in derby, because if you are contacted from the rear and you go down, and the ref sees and calls is (a gamble) the "offending player" goes to the box for the major penalty and is out of play and susceptible to being scored upon. I think I have that right. I'm still a newbie.

What would be a more interesting article, in my opinion, would be an examination of flopping in derby, in comparison to basketball, which I understand is having a nationalist-flavored kerfuffle over the same manner of flopping as performativity which derby, of course, has long been associated with.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:07 PM on October 24, 2010


This was an article about the evolution of a game, and to me, as a derby outsider, it was a good read.

Ambrosia Voyeur, can you point out the passages that you find condescending?
posted by seagull.apollo at 11:16 PM on October 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


That non-existent sexism is so angrifying!
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 11:20 PM on October 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


I don't find passages of the article condescending. Its existence seems that way to me. But I have some amount of familiar or expert knowledge of "western" style, and clearly that means it isn't written for me.

zephyr_words: "Inline hockey skates do all the above too, just through different mechanics."

Okay, no, I don't think so. But please, correct me if inlines do something I'm not grasping. Quad have trucks, which means when I lean left, my arrays of wheels change shape from


|| || || ||

|| || || ||

to

\\ \\ \\ \\

// // // //

The individual skates' movement are subjected to curvature because the wheels' rolling directions are altered relative to one another, while also having a different map of contact surface from the typically much narrower inline wheel, though derby wheel materials and width are what we geek out over.

So in straight and curving skating, inlines are like this:

| |
| |
| |
| |

I think this amounts to more maneuverability WITH traction. On inlines, you can be very agile but you sacrifice contact points with the floor to achieve it. And then you can be knocked out.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:22 PM on October 24, 2010


If you've only ever skated on roller-rink rentals, you have not experienced adjustable quad trucks. Here is a diagram of the parts of a derby skate. Notice that the trucks control the axles' motion relative to stationary pivot points at the toe and heel, which accounts for the swivelling movement in opposite directions of the front and back axles when lateral pressure is applied in a weight shift.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:42 PM on October 24, 2010


Inline hockey skates don't have all the wheels at the same height, so the effective "blade" is curved. It's called having "rockered" wheels. So, with 4 wheels, going straight, and with your weight centered, your floor contact looks like

|  |
|  |

In a turn, it looks like

 /  /
|  |
|  |
 \  \

With only the center two wheels touching in straight line travel, you can almost just turn your foot on the ground. It's very maneuverable for hockey. I don't think it would help that much on an oval track.
posted by ctmf at 12:06 AM on October 25, 2010


skaters gonna skate
posted by daniel_charms at 12:08 AM on October 25, 2010 [8 favorites]


daniel_charms: "skaters gonna skate"

YA HEARD?

posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:19 AM on October 25, 2010


Thanks ctmf. I would have simply said something about them being rockered without all the sweet ascii diagrams. Quads are definitely better than the outdoor "rollerblade" style inline skate. I guess I should realize that's the image most people associate with inline skates. I have been talking about hockey skates.

There are also chassis that mimic an ice blade radius profile. The Tuuk Rocker is one I've tried and really like. Being able to customize the radius really improves speed, maneuverability and stability.

As far as inline skates having less contact, I don't think it really matters. Wheel slip outs are pretty rare if the right wheel is selected. You plant your weight and the wheels slightly compress. That combined with what they are made out of gives a very "sticky" feel which is great for traction.
The main ability of taking a hit is getting low, counter checking and being strong. I think that works with either skate.
I imagine if I can take an open court hit from a 215lb man who has a lot more space to accelerate, and not go flailing, that inline skates could be used just as well in a jam.

Compared to a hockey skate I think there the gap is pretty narrow as far as which gets the job done especially if you are talking about making a hockey player into a derby superstar. I bet there would be a lot more crossover if they used inline skates.
There are plenty of guys that grew up playing check hockey and if they didn't continue to play at a high level after college they had to stop playing check. There is a large untapped market of great skaters with pent up aggression. =]

The sport obviously has it's skate of choice. I just know I've always been interested in seeing a derby where inline skates were used.
If quads are so much more superior people should be able to choose to play in inline skates if they want. =]
posted by zephyr_words at 12:54 AM on October 25, 2010


Is there a Negro League?
posted by pracowity at 1:46 AM on October 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


The article gets a + from me simply because the word "fishnets" does not appear in it anywhere.

(That and the phrase "by day she is (insert occupation here), but by night, OMG SHE PLAYS ROLLER DERBY!" or something similar to that.)
posted by Lucinda at 5:38 AM on October 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


I can't imagine a reader having the adequate interest in the game to understand the ramifications of this regional strategy distinction and also having anything to benefit from reading this article. So, I think it's a bit facile, a bit condescending, a bit "DID YOU KNOW? THEY ARE USING RULES NOW! GIRLS!!! Just think of it!"
The Windy City Rollers were (and probably are) doing attendance numbers in the multiple thousands, and I've heard the Outfit do well too. There is definitely "adequate interest" in roller derby hereabouts. Why wouldn't a fan want to read about the strategies? I imagine there's a bunch of people with no direct involvement in roller derby who're plenty glad this article avoids the usual ZOMG SHE IS A SOCIAL WORKER BUT ALSO SKATES cliches, and don't see why discussion that goes beyond that is any more facile or condescending than an article about strategy in any other spectator sport.
posted by jtron at 5:51 AM on October 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Beth Amphetamine is a great name. Also, did y'all see that uplifting movie with Juno in it? Cuz I know y'all loves ya some Juno.
posted by Mister_A at 6:42 AM on October 25, 2010


I don't usually read sports writing, and I find it facile, as a player of the sport.

If this was sports writing, the players would be talking about how they gave it their best out there and they're taking it one game at a time and they're happy with the way the team is playing together as a unit.

This article, on the other hand, I think did a good job of explaining something interesting that's going on in a sport that a lot of people aren't familiar with and had a good balance of including enough so that an outsider would understand what was going on without getting bogged down in unnecessary details. Good read.

Also, the discussion of in-line skates reminded me that the other night I was treated to the sight of a man skating down P St. in Washington wearing in-line skates that had blinking LED lights and a black T-shirt that said "I'm skating my ASS off." Indeed.
posted by ekroh at 6:50 AM on October 25, 2010


zephyr_words: I agree that a bout with both inlines and quads would be really interesting, and despite my above comments, I'm not at all confident that I could easily deal with a big hockey player who knew how to move on his/her skates.

I think the point is, putting wheels on your feet is awesome and everybody should do it more.
posted by pts at 6:58 AM on October 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've never seen a team from another region play, though I've seen mixed teams. I had no idea they didn't slow down packs in Newark or whatever. I can't imagine a reader having the adequate interest in the game to understand the ramifications of this regional strategy distinction and also having anything to benefit from reading this article.

I have a passing interest in Roller Derby. I go to the occasional match here in Toronto. I recently saw the CN Power play the Lake Effect Furies and get totally tromped on because the Furies were using some of what I now know to be Western-style tactics -- not exclusively, but they were mixing in some slow stuff with the fast stuff.

I hadn't previously seen anything other than fast derby, so the tactics were interesting. I didn't know why this visiting team knew these tactics while our home team seemed completely in the dark on how to handle them.

So, I thought the article was helpful and interesting, and explained what I saw in that match.

Maybe that makes my interest in the game inadequate or something, I don't know. How much more interested do I need to be before I get to be considered actually interested?
posted by jacquilynne at 7:38 AM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just want to point out that this post has one of the more awesome numbers: 96969

It seems like the skating backwards maneuver is a cheap move based on a technicality. All WFTDA has to do is specify in the rules that "behind the player" is defined by the player's position on the track in the direction of travel, not by the player's actual backside. I'm sort of amazed that this wasn't killed outright when it was first tried.
posted by me3dia at 8:26 AM on October 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Are they turning around to skate backwards, but still in the direction of travel, or do they skate backwards opposite the direction of travel? I agree that it seems like a cheap move either way.
posted by hydrophonic at 8:46 AM on October 25, 2010


eriko, I was really hoping for some discussion like yours about how different sports have reacted to potentially not-fun new strategies. Thanks.

(I was also thinking of similar things in multiplayer video games -- like bunny hopping in FPS deathmatches or certain kinds of rushing in RTS games.)
posted by straight at 8:53 AM on October 25, 2010


One of the better RD articles I've read.

It sounds like it's too early for rules jiggering. The fast/slow/fast-slow dynamics that have emerged remind me of a saying regarding martial arts: Soft styles beat Hard styles, Hard/Soft styles beat Soft styles, and Hard styles beat Hard/Soft styles. A fluid application of speeds depending upon the situation/strengths of each team doesn't sound like it'd take anything from the sport and may well enhance it.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:02 AM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hydroponic, I thought it was already illegal to skate against the direction of play -- I'm pretty sure you get penalized if you fall too far behind the pack. But I admit I'm a novice at derby. I could be completely wrong.
posted by me3dia at 9:43 AM on October 25, 2010


Another hallmark of the western style is skating backward. When a player hits an opposing jammer out of bounds, the jammer has to reenter behind that player. So if that player skates backward on the track before the jammer can hop in-bounds behind her, the jammer is forced to retreat farther to reenter, delaying her next chance to pass the pack and score points.

That seems like bullshit and should totally be illegal. At first I thought the style involved skating *facing* backward and was wondering how that could be an advantage. But if I'm understanding it right, western style includes encouraging a blocker who's knocked a jammer out of bounds to actually move in the opposite direction of the pack for no other reason than to force the jammer to enter *behind* where the actual hit occurred. Is that right?

If so, it's bullshit and should totally be illegal.
posted by mediareport at 9:51 AM on October 25, 2010


All WFTDA has to do is specify in the rules that "behind the player" is defined by the player's position on the track in the direction of travel, not by the player's actual backside.

Yep, or just make the rule "The jammer has to re-enter the track behind the blocker who knocked them out of it OR at the location of the block."

I'm sort of amazed that this wasn't killed outright when it was first tried.

Yep. Making the jammer enter the track earlier than the actual point of impact is just horridly stupid and unfair, and it's ridiculous that the rules keep allowing for it.
posted by mediareport at 10:03 AM on October 25, 2010


Oh, and me3dia, I think you just get penalized if you get too far ahead of (or behind? I'm not sure) the pack and then try to block the jammer. The western style technicality doesn't actually break that rule.
posted by mediareport at 10:08 AM on October 25, 2010


Yep, or just make the rule "The jammer has to re-enter the track behind the blocker who knocked them out of it OR at the location of the block."

Yeah, that seems fair. The original rules simply didn't anticipate skaters intentionally skating backwards. You've already got a ref shadowing the jammer, so it wouldn't take much to mark the spot.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:09 AM on October 25, 2010


I can't imagine a reader having the adequate interest in the game to understand the ramifications of this regional strategy distinction and also having anything to benefit from reading this article.

Ambrosia Voyeur, hopefully my take on this makes you feel better about the whole article.

Before reading, all I knew about roller derby was the following:
Seems like a lot of alternative types around me play it.
It involves skating in a circle and checking people.
Silly names.
Bruises.

Now, after reading just this article, I know the basic goal of the game as well as supposedly "traditional" style play with fast packs and supposedly "western" style play with slow packs. I am now interested in going to a bout because I can grasp that there is something to watch other than slightly gothy punky girls skating in circles hitting each other. In other words, this is the first article I've read that has said nothing about the players clothing styles and anything about the strategy that goes into a successful meet. Now it's a sport to me.
posted by WeekendJen at 10:22 AM on October 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


With the pack changing its characteristics every second (now it's okay, whoops, now it's split, whoops, now there's no pack, whoops, now the pack is okay), how would you determine the position of the player who knocked the jammer out of bounds, if the jammer is allowed to re-enter the pack in that position?

(Personally, I love the "jammer has to enter behind the person who knocked her down" rule, and I try to do it whenever I can.)
posted by Lucinda at 10:28 AM on October 25, 2010


In other words, this is the first article I've read that has said nothing about the players clothing styles and anything about the strategy that goes into a successful meet. Now it's a sport to me.

To be fair, it was always (well, last ten years or so) a proper sport. The fact that they have fun with it (the names, the outfits) was an outlet for the players (C.F. the XFL.)

But yeah, most articles got tripped up in the superficial details. Ling Ma deserves a lot of credit for focusing on the sport aspects of the sport.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:58 AM on October 25, 2010


I feel like I should clarify a point that the article doesn't seem to make clear, which is that a team playing a slow-pack strategy still cannot just stop skating. Intentionally destroying the pack (whereby the pack is defined as the largest group of in-bounds blockers skating in proximity to each other) is illegal and will get you a penalty.

What the slow pack (really, "pack control" is a better term) strategy aims to do is to trap an opposing blocker within a group of your blockers, while their fellow blockers blithely skate on ahead. Once the opposing blockers get too far ahead, they're out of play and are not allowed to engage the jammer. Meanwhile, you've controlling the pack by keeping that one opposing blocker bottled up, as your jammer skates blithely through and racks up points.

It's up to the other team to avoid situations like this; many teams specifically run blocker-trapping drills, so you have to be ready for them. If you see a fellow blocker getting bottled up, you need to get in there and get them out. The degree to which a team that's not ready for this will just stand there, confused about what to do, is pretty amazing.

But what you do is you get that trapped blocker free and you start skating; the other blockers have to follow you, or they're destroying the pack.
posted by pts at 11:02 AM on October 25, 2010 [7 favorites]


One of the awesome things about roller derby is that since this is still early times in the rebirth of the sport, new strategies like this, or even regional strategies can still surprise and mean teams have different feels. If you look at something like the NFL, there's very little strategy-wise that differentiates each team because the best strategies to fit the rules have mostly been thought of.
posted by garlic at 11:20 AM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I want to join the chorus of voices saying that derby is a sport to take seriously. Really, it's a hell of a game and very accessible for neophyte spectators. It's a brutal, physical, exciting sport featuring amazing feats of skill performed by dedicated amateur athletes. If you're at all interested in sports, go check it out.
posted by chrchr at 12:46 PM on October 25, 2010


Lucinda, I guess I either don't understand the technique or I'm not thinking it through. My point is it shouldn't be right for a blocker to skate in the opposite direction of the pack solely for the purpose of keeping the jammer from entering behind her. Is that what's happening? Is that the technique you like to use? Let me know if I'm misunderstanding something.
posted by mediareport at 1:04 PM on October 25, 2010


Lucinda, I guess I either don't understand the technique or I'm not thinking it through. My point is it shouldn't be right for a blocker to skate in the opposite direction of the pack solely for the purpose of keeping the jammer from entering behind her. Is that what's happening? Is that the technique you like to use? Let me know if I'm misunderstanding something.

The way I read the current derby rules (from May of this year) you can't skate "backwards" (clockwise - opposite derby direction) and block. ("Section 5.1.1.3 - Only players who are stepping and/or skating in the counter-clockwise direction may execute a block. It is illegal to block while at a standstill and while moving in the clockwise direction—this includes positional blocking.")

You get around this by skating very, very, very, very, very slowly. Almost to a stop, but with a tiny bit of forward momentum. The rest of the pack will zoom on ahead of you. Then, right when you're about twenty feet behind the pack (the instant you are almost out of play), you speed up.

If you see this happening to your jammer, you need to knock down the blocker who is doing the slow skating. She falls and is out of play; your jammer can pop back in bounds and SCORE SOME POINTS!
posted by Lucinda at 1:59 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


The way I read it, the backward-skating blocker is intentionally giving up the eligibility to block as a trade-off to make the jammer enter significantly more behind. It's essentially a no-contact block, since it costs the jammer forward motion.

Once the jammer gets back in, the blocker would, of course have to catch back up to the pack to be eligible to block again.

Or do I have it wrong?
posted by ctmf at 2:04 PM on October 25, 2010


ou can't skate "backwards" (clockwise - opposite derby direction) and block.

Right, but the "western style" skaters aren't blocking. They're just skating backwards to make it harder for the jammer to get back into play. That's what seems stupid and unfair to me.
posted by mediareport at 3:03 PM on October 25, 2010


That's what seems stupid and unfair to me.

I see your point, but what it effectively does is raise the bar for what players are be expected to do. Backwards toe-stops (aka "Tomahawk" stops) are no longer a "nice-to-have" skill, especially for jammers; pretty soon hockey stops (once a top-10%-type skill) are going to be the same way.

With these new tactics, you HAVE to have that maneuverability in order to effectively get back in the game. Also it provides that much more motivation for jammers to be the fastest and most agile skaters on the track; after all, if the blocker never touches you in the first place, they're not going to be able to knock you out of bounds.

The concern over all this is understandable. As skills rise to meet the challenge, roller derby becomes less of a "everybody's invited!" kind of club, and more of a serious sport. (Just ask anybody who saw "Whip It" and wanted to play derby, but was unlucky enough to live in a city with a top-10 team.) On one hand, it's sad to see a degree of DIY-ness disappearing; on the other hand, nobody complains about how you can't just up and join the NBA—the whole point is to see athletes pushing themselves to do amazing things.
posted by pts at 3:13 PM on October 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Just ask anybody who saw "Whip It" and wanted to play derby, but was unlucky enough to live in a city with a top-10 team.

Which reminds me -- I've heard some murmurings about a "rec" team for the Gotham Girls, which I assume would be a more casual branch of the organization for girls who want to play some derby but aren't interested in fighting for a spot on the competitive teams. I hope it materializes -- I think it would really round out the derby community here in the city.

I also dream of teen and tween after-school derby programs, but that's a whole other pony.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 3:27 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I also dream of teen and tween after-school derby programs, but that's a whole other pony.

Toronto has a junior league.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:02 PM on October 25, 2010


So does Ithaca.
posted by Lucinda at 8:25 PM on October 25, 2010


So do LA, Indianapolis, Atlanta, Tampa Bay, San Diego, etc.
posted by contraption at 9:10 PM on October 25, 2010


sorry, Atlanta.
posted by contraption at 9:11 PM on October 25, 2010


Oh ffs. Tampa Bay.
posted by contraption at 9:12 PM on October 25, 2010


I am genuinely starry eyed at this news.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 9:49 PM on October 25, 2010


and seattle!
posted by palegirl at 12:57 AM on October 26, 2010


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