Friday, September 26, 2014

Officials' Review: Tracking the Failed Star Pass

Way back in our Inaugural Post we briefly detailed the positions for the 7 Skating and 12 Non-Skating Officials for a fully staffed game. Each of these Officials has their own tasks and, as we saw with the Penalty Code Telephone drill, they tend to communicate and interact linearly:

  • a Ref calls a skater for a penalty
  • the Penalty Wrangler relays it to the Penalty Tracker
  • the Penalty Tracker records the penalty code and relays it to the Inside Whiteboard

There are occasions though, when an action (affectionately referred to as “breaking derby”) will take place that will affect multiple positions at once, and even cause the NSOs to have backtrack what they have recorded on their portion of the Interleague Game Reporting Form (IGRF) paperwork. These are the moments where an official’s training, communication, and awareness are really tested. They can be confusing and stressful, but for many of rules/procedure nerds among us they are like candy.

One of the most infamous of these occasions is when a Jammer illegally passes their helmet cover (the “star”) to the Pivot. Passing the Star is covered in section 2.5 of the rules, it explains how the Jammer position may be legal transferred, as well as the ways the Jammer or Pivot may be assigned an Illegal Procedure, specifically a “Star Pass Violation” penalty.

Tracking the Failed Star Pass (based on a true story, kinda)

Before Jam 1 the WHITE and BLACK teams send out their skaters, and the Line Up Trackers and Score Keepers record their info.

The Jam begins, the BLACK Jammer (58) makes it through the pack and earns Lead Jammer status. The WHITE Jammer (31) is unable to make it through the pack. Realizing this her Pivot, WHITE (41), reaches over the BLACK Blockers and removes the jammer’s star helmet cover, skates out of bounds, puts the star on over her striped helmet cover, and skates off as if she were the Active Jammer. Even in the shuffle of the pack it is clear to the NSOs that a Star Pass has occurred, although due to the layout of the venue they do not all realize that it was an illegal pass, and so they record it on their respective paperwork.

The Jammer Ref calls WHITE 41 for a Star Pass Violation, she exits the track, and begins making her way to the Penalty Box. At this point the NSOs realize the pass was illegal, and know they have to modify their paperwork appropriately.

As WHITE 41 approaches the Penalty Box she is directed to a Blocker seat, even though she is still wearing the star helmet cover.

While it might not seem too intimidating written out in slow motion, when you fill the picture in with skaters, announcers, a crowd, and set it in motion… keeping track of shenanigans starts to feel like a skill for your professional resume. In scenarios like this effective communication between the officials can be the difference between a smooth exchange, like the one above, or an Official Timeout trying to figure out “what just happened.”

If you’ve had a wacky situation like this let us know in the Comments section below.

Duck N. Shover - POD’s Head of Officials & Interleague Liaison

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Highlights from the Sept. 7, 2014 Bout - Pair O' Dice City Rollers vs. Elm City Derby Damez

Jammer Donny Brook races out of the pack!

Last Sunday, we played our second game of the season against the Elm City Derby Damez. This home game went really well, and though we lost, it wasn't by too much, and we played really strongly as a team!  Here are some of the highlights:

Final Score: POD 173 to EC 219

Jammer Donny Brook working her way through the pack!
A solid POD wall holding off EC's jammer.
MoJo and Donny Brook take on EC's jammer.
Working both offense and defense in the pack!
POD blockers working together to hold off the EC jammer.
Jammer Von Wolfe looks ahead for a clear path.
The game MVPs.
Congrats Meryl Creep and Pandora's Squeezebox from POD
and Mongol and Don't Care Bear from Elm City! 

In this game, POD's jammers, pivots, and blockers alike could all feel the difference in how much more easily we worked as a team.  In the three months since our away game with Elm City, the team worked hard on strategy, communication, and endurance...and it showed.  If you weren't at the game, you'll have to come see the next home game on October 26th to experience it for yourself!

Special thanks to Eric Wallis Photography
one of our fabulous sponsors, for all the above photos!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Officials' Review: Penalty Code Telephone

As our friend Ian Fluenza is fond of saying when he is Head Reffing games, "Officials crews live and die by their communication."  The intensity of play may vary, the sound quality of venues may vary, but when Refs and NSOs are not communicating well, a game will derail very quickly. Knowing this, we created the following drill to help us train and understand the full process for communicating penalties.

Penalty Code Telephone

Objective: Training Refs, NSOs, and rules-loving-skaters on the procedures for calling and communicating penalties.

Length of drill: Can vary depending on the number of officials being trained.

Participants: 3 or more.

Materials needed: Index cards or scrap paper; a whiteboard and marker; copies of the Penalties from the WFTDA Rulebook, the WFTDA Official Hand Signals, and the WFTDA Official Verbal Cues.

Skill level: The skill level can be varied for everyone from beginners to seasoned officials.

Preparations: On each of the index cards or pieces of scrap paper, write out the names of three or four different penalties, creating penalty-cards. Arrange the participating officials according to the diagram below:

How it works:
  1. Official A picks a random penalty-card and makes the corresponding hand signal for the first penalty on the card.
  2. Official B calls out the penalty being signaled by official A.
  3. Official C writes the code for the penalty being called by official B on the whiteboard.
  4. The process repeats until all of the penalties from the penalty-card have been communicated.
    1. The officials gather to check if they had the corresponding response to the signal passed to them correctly.
  5. The officials rotate positions and repeat with a new penalty-card.

Next Steps: the Verbal Cue variant
Prep: Make penalty-cards with the Verbal Cues for three or four different penalties, of different penalty types.

  1. Official B picks a random penalty-card and calls out the first penalty on the card.
  2. Official A makes the corresponding hand signal being called by official B.
  3. Official C writes the code for the penalty being called by official B on the whiteboard.
  4. The process repeats until all of the penalties from the penalty-card have been communicated.
    1. The officials gather to check if they had the corresponding response to the signal passed to them correctly.
  5. The officials rotate positions and repeat with a new penalty-card.

Extra Fun: run this drill while skaters are doing laps.

If you can think of any other variations or scenarios share them in the Comments section below.

Duck N. Shover - POD’s Head of Officials & Interleague Liaison

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

From Freshmeat to Team Mate: Where Your Balance Can Take You

So, in previous posts I've talked about how the Derby Stance is important because the lower a skater can stay, the lower they can keep their center of gravity, the easier it is to maintain their balance. Derby girls work out a ton to get their legs in shape, not just so that we can all rock a skirt whenever we choose, but to become better, tougher skaters.  So many things that you do while playing not only involve hitting or blocking or skating at high speed, but being able to maneuver yourself into the proper positions on the track so that you can DO those things! If you have poor balance, (and even at six months in, I know I STILL need to work harder to improve my leg strength and balance) you won't be able to turn, avoid a block, or weave between players effectively.

As a freshmeat player, how do you start to learn proper balance and the skills that build on it?  One step a time.

Consistently and constantly trying to deepen and strengthen your Derby Stance is step one.

Photo from
Learning to be able to balance on one skate at a time is step two.  As part of the Level One test, I had to be able to Balance on One Foot for thirty seconds on each side.  Now, trust me, you don't have to be able to do what that skater on the left pictured is doing, but you do have to keep one foot off the floor for that half a minute.  It's funny, I've done yoga - sometimes I can hold a mean tree pose - and I felt as if I had decent enough balance, until you put wheels under my feet.  I had to work really hard to engage my core and focus on an unmoving point at a decent distance away from me in order to maintain the strength to keep that one foot off the floor, for what should be a relatively short period of time. Especially on my weaker leg.

Fresh meat skaters at Chinook City Roller Derby
working on their balance.
Step three is taking that one foot balance and moving.  You'll see a lot of more veteran Derby skaters using a One Foot Glide to stay on the track after taking a hit from another player, to maneuver around a fallen player, or to sneak past the pack really quickly.  During Freshmeat training, though, the object is just to be able to glide for a decent distance (usually about 1/4 - 1/2 of the track) solely on either foot.  Starting out, it was disconcerting to have to pick one foot up and pray as I rolled along. Soon, though, I found myself remembering how much I had loved to do just that skill as a kid, skating through my neighborhood.  I discovered that not only do I feel confident rolling along a straight path on one skate, but that with enough oomph and the proper lean (again like on a motorcycle - leaning so that your shoulders and hips point in the direction you want to turn) that I even feel great doing a One Foot Glide on a Turn! Slowly over the last few months, I've embraced this as one of my favorite warm up activities.

Once you've developed the strength and honed your balance so that you can effectively tackle these beginning steps, these become the building blocks for so many other skating skills used in Derby. Even some of the more difficult Level One skills like stationary stepping, turning 180 degrees while skating, and developing good crossover strides require the basics of being able to balance and skate on only one foot for at least a few seconds.  Next time, I'll talk about how these helped me to do some of the more advanced skills and little tricks I picked up along the way.

Until next time...
Nikki Tesla #134