Sunday, August 24, 2014 Proximity is defined as not more than 10 feet (3 m) (as measured from the hips) in front or behind the nearest pack skater.

Today we continue our discussion of “Pack Definition” under Rule 3, “The Pack”

Remember in 3.1.1 that to be in a pack, blockers must be “in proximity”. Today’s rule specifies what it means to be “in proximity”.

To be in proximity, pack skaters (which we learned in can only be blockers) must be within 10 feet of each other. It can be in front or behind. If a blocker is not within 10 feet of another blocker, those blockers cannot be a part of the same group of skaters that will form the pack. One skater might be in the pack, but the other one definitely isn’t. Which one is a part of the pack? Well that would be the skater that is within 10 feet of another blocker that happens to be in a group that has the most blockers from both teams. (See how I just combined the past few rules into one scenario?) Also note that the 10 feet is measured from the hips of each skater. So to determine the distance between skaters, the hips are always the reference point, no matter which direction they are facing.

Rules can be a maze of complex language, the important thing to remember is to break each segment of the rules down and make sure you understand each component in a way that makes sense to you. Everyone has different learning styles, so its ok if you use one technique to help you understand, while another teammate takes a different approach. As long as you begin to learn the concepts and applications of the rules, you will be a much better player.

Friday, August 22, 2014 The pack is comprised of the blockers. The Jammers are not part of the pack.

Today's Rule continues our discussion of "Pack Definition" under rule 3, "The Pack"

Today’s rule clearly defines which skaters can be a part of a pack. There are two basic positions in derby, blockers and jammers. When defining a pack, only blockers are taken into consideration. This rule makes it very clear and direct who is in the pack and has no confusing elements.

So when officials are defining a pack, or players are trying to adjust to where the pack is, you have to remember who the jammer is. Many teams nowadays are having their jammer remove their cover in order to confuse the opposing team once that opposing team has gained lead jammer status. Both officials and teams need to be aware that even if they are not wearing the star, they are still the jammer and cannot factor into pack definition.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

3.1.1 The pack is defined by the largest group of in-bounds and upright Blockers in proximity and containing members from both teams.

Today’s rule comes from “Pack Definition” under rule 3, “The Pack”.

Today’s rule is going back to the basics in terms of rules and game-play. I am going to also use this rule to demonstrate how to break down a rule to its elements in order to better understand them.

The first part of this rule says “The pack is defined by the largest group of in-bounds and upright Blockers...” So first, we know we are talking about “The Pack” because it’s clearly written out. Second, we know that we are talking about Blockers, as opposed to other skater positions. Next, we learn that in order to define what one is, there must be a group of blockers who are both in-bounds and upright. It also further defines this group as the largest. This means that not just any group of in play and upright Blockers can be a pack; it must be the largest group that meets that criteria.

The next element further defines how this group of in play blockers must be constructed. By using the words “in proximity”, the rule is saying that this group must be somewhat close together (Proximity is defined later in this section of the rules, so we will hold off on that for now). So now we know that a “pack” must have Blockers who are in play and upright and also close together.

The last element is that the must have “members from both teams”. That seems pretty straightforward. A pack cannot be all of one team; it must have Blockers from both teams.

The pack is the most basic element of derby. Without a pack, under this set of rules, there can not be any real engagement between blockers or even between a blocker and a jammer. This is why it’s really important to fully understand the elements of a pack that are required by the rules.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

1.5.5 Jammers and Pivots are permitted to put on their helmet covers after the jam has started. They must, however, have their helmet cover on their head or in hand before the jam-starting whistle. A helmet cover cannot enter a jam in progress.

Today’s rule comes from the Game Parameters section of the rules. Specifically, it states where helmet covers must be located at the start of a jam.

At jam start whistle, each team’s jammer and pivot must be holding their team’s respective helmet cover in their hand or wearing it on their head. It is not permissible for a pivot or jammer to be hiding the cover up their shirt, down their pants, or wherever (unless, of course, the player is also holding the cover in their hand while hidden in that location).

If the cover is not on the player’s head or in their hand, then the cover is considered to be outside of the jam in progress and is not allowed to enter. If the player dons a helmet cover that was not present at the start of the jam, they should be instructed to remove the cover. Failure to remove the cover warrants an insubordination penalty.

Should a cover not allowed in a jam land on the skating surface due to being dropped by a player, a missed throw at jam start, etc., it should be considered debris on the track and can be legally removed from the track by players, referees, NSOs, or even people not participating in a jam. (They cannot interfere with the actual jam, of course.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

1.5.4 Any skaters who are not completely in bounds at the jam-starting whistle will not be permitted to join the jam in progress. No penalty will be issued.

Today’s rule comes from the Game Parameters section of the rules. It is one of the limitations defining who is and is not allowed to participate in a jam.

Under this rule, a player must be completely in bounds at the jam-start whistle in order to join in the jam. In bounds should be interpreted as not having an out of bounds status, which is defined as touching beyond the track boundary with any part of your body, skate, or gear (exception: one hand/arm is permissible).

There is a notable exception to today’s rule. 5.13.1 states that a player who is established a legal starting position and is then blocked out of bounds before the jam begins may return to the track and rejoin the jam in progress.

Referees may use their discretion for rare and unexpected events as well. For example, if an opposing player grabbed the jammer’s helmet cover, threw it off the track, and the jammer stepped out of bounds to retrieve the cover then the jammer would be allowed to participate in the jam.

Assuming that exceptions apply, any player on the track in an out of bounds state at jam start will be instructed to return to the bench. No penalty will be issued for this offense, although failure to comply can result in an insubordination penalty or even a gross misconduct expulsion (“5.16.13 - “Illegal interference in game play by skaters or support staff not involved in the jam.”).

Monday, August 18, 2014 Number: If a referee chooses to wear a number, that number must be a numeral of no more than four digits (i.e., it may not contain letters and symbols, regardless of their size).

Today’s rule comes from the Officials section of the rules. It sets the legal standard for the characters allowed in a “referee number” on the back of a referee jersey.

In the prior (June 15, 2013) rule set, a referee number was restricted to up to four digits if the jersey did not display the referee’s name. If the jersey did have a name, the number could be any number of digits, letters, and/or symbols.

This has now changed. Whether or not a referee’s jersey displays a name, any “referee number” may only contain up to four digits with no letters or symbols. This is a stricter set of limitations than skaters have for their numbers.

The change in today’s rule is meaningless for skaters and does not impact the vast majority of referees, but for a small subset of referees it has significance. As many skaters will attest, one can develop a strong affection for their number. Affected referees in this rule set were required to either eliminate or change their skater number, quite possibly replacing their jersey in the process. Until they do so, their outdated jerseys are not a legal referee uniform under the rule set.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

8.2.5 Safety is the number one priority for referees. Illegal game play that causes an unsafe environment is not to be tolerated. The referees are to assess and enforce penalties and expulsions as described in Section 5 Penalties and Section 6 Penalty Enforcement. Referees will use their discretion and their decisions are binding.

Today’s Rule comes from “Duties” under Rule 8, Officials.

This rule is often cited by referees and skaters alike. Sometimes without its proper context. Yes, safe game play is the first priority of the referees. Its why the rules are written the way they are. The rules stipulate what is considered safe game play as opposed to what is unsafe game play. Roller derby is a full contact sport played by people wearing quad roller skates. Think about that for a second. A full contact sport played by people on skates.The sport has inherent dangers and risks.

It is with those risks in mind that the rules regarding legal and illegal contact have been formed by the members of the WFTDA. I have worked with officials that have seen hard contact between skaters and has called a penalty. When I ask them what they saw, the answer has been “That was just a really ugly hit”, so I follow up with this question, “Was the contact illegal?”
Referees need to be able to answer that question. If the contact was legal, then there is no penalty, its the result of a full contact sport. If the contact was illegal, the referee must be able to identify that illegal contact based on the rules set forth in section 5 of the rule book, then assess the penalty based on section 6 of the rule book. It is that simple.

Finally when it comes to discretion, we have discussed that in previous Rule of the Day posts. There is a limited amount of discretion a referee has and referees cannot simply make up rules in the name of safety.

The main idea I would like all skaters and officials to take from this is that Roller Derby is a full contact sport. Yes, safety is a priority. However safety does not supersede the rules that the teams choose to play under. Everyone remembers the line about “Safety is the number one priority..”. Lets also remember that what referees call MUST be based on the Rules of Flat Track Roller Derby.

Friday, August 15, 2014 Jam Timer: A game will have one Jam Timer. The Jam Timer is responsible for starting jams and for timing 30 seconds between jams. The Jam Timer is also responsible for ending jams that run the full two minutes.

Today’s “Rule” is the last in our “NSO” week. (And boy is this a good one!)

The Jam Timer is probably the most visible NSO position since every jam starts with the Jam Timer signaling the start of the jam with one long whistle blast. There is also a little confusion at times about the role of the jam timer in maintaining the game time and jam time clocks. Hopefully this can help clear up that confusion.

Let me say that what follows comes from my experience as a jam timer during sanctioned games. While other games might follow a different protocol, I believe in training all officials to the standard used at tournaments and high level sanctioned play. Train your staff to try and meet the highest standard, and you will be surprised how quickly they can get there.

Ok back to the Jam Timer, here are the responsibilities and expectations.

-JT will start each jam by first saying “Five Seconds” (when 5 seconds remain on the 30 second clock) and then blowing the whistle and pointing at the pivot line when the 30 second clock gets to “0”.

-JT will blow 4 rapid whistles to call off the jam and use the appropriate hand signal to end the jam. The JT will only use the proper hand signal (Placing the hands on the hips) when they are ending the jam after 2 minutes have elapsed. They will not use a hand signal if they are simply echoing a call off.

-The JT keeps the ACCURATE game time and jam time, while the scoreboard keeps the OFFICIAL game time and jam time. Notice there is a difference. This is where communication between the JT and SO is vital. During a time out, the JT can communicate any adjustments to the game clock and make sure those adjustments are made to the official time. The JT can only do this during a time out.

-Once a Jam has started, the JT will take a position in the infield where they can see the official time and official jam time. JT will use the visible jam time to end the jam at 2 minutes. The JT can look at their clock to make sure it is accurate, but unless there is a major malfunction of the clock, the visible jam time is the one used to determine when the two minutes have elapsed.

-If there is an official time out, the JT will take a position on the Pivot line and give the appropriate hand signal for an OTO. Please notice that the signal is “The fingertips of both hands touch the top of their respective shoulder”. There are no thumbs used in this signal. You are not pointing with your thumbs to your back. Also there is no “up and down” of the arms. You touch the tops of your shoulders and leave them there. If there is a long OTO, you may “flex” the signal to stretch out your arms, but then you return to the OTO signal.

-If there is a team time out, the JT will take a position on the Pivot line and give the appropriate hand signal for a time out and then point to the team bench of the team who requested the time out.

-If there is an official review, the JT will take a position at the Pivot line and give the OTO hand signal, then point with both hands towards the bench of the team that requested the official review.

-If a jam is called due to injury, and more time than the 30 seconds between jams is needed, the JT will take a position on the pivot line and give the OTO hand signal. Even if everyone else on the floor is taking a knee, the JT will be standing and giving the OTO hand signal.

-Communicate with the HR about how they want to handle Delay of game penalties and make sure to follow those directions.

-Before starting a jam, make sure all officials are in position, and get one last look at the head ref. Sometimes a head ref will want a jam to start even if they aren’t in the starting position right away. Most head refs can get back into position quickly and do not want to interrupt game flow. Again, communication with the other officials is crucial for a JT.

I’m sure I missed a few things, but you get a good idea of what is required. To reference the discussion yesterday of the scoreboard operator, a JT cannot be tied to their watches. Keeping the time on the watches is very important, as it is the accurate game time and back up if the scoreboard malfunctions. However a JT must pay attention to the official game clock and make sure game play is based on that clock. The official clock is the one the skaters and fans see, and if the 2 minute clock has expired on that clock, the jam should end. If a malfunction has occurred, then refer to your watch and call an OTO once the jam has ended.

I have seen a few JTs that are always looking at their watches and not looking at the game clock. This is not a good practice. Remember you are the back up to the official time, not the true official time. Yes you make sure the time is accurate, and yes you communicate when adjustments are needed. Just don’t forget that there is a visible clock that everyone else in the game, and in the building, uses as the official time for the game. Strategy and other decisions are based on the time on the clock and the time left in the jam, so as a JT we need to make sure we are following it and adjusting it when the opportunity arises and is needed.

Thank you for participating with AoS and I in this week of celebrating our NSOs! We will return to our daily rule discussions tomorrow.

Thursday, August 14, 2014 Scoreboard Operator: A game will have one Scoreboard Operator. The Scoreboard Operator posts the score from the Scorekeeper and keeps the official period and jam clocks up-to-date.

Today, we continue our celebration of NSO week with the Scoreboard Operator (SO) position. The scoreboard operator is extremely important in any game. Remember that the SO is responsible for maintaining the visual score of the game as well as the Official Period Clock and Official Jam Clock. Please note that the visible clocks are the official time for the game and the jam, since they are the clocks visible to both teams. ( and

The first thing a SO needs to do is become familiar with the scoreboard program that will be used for the game. The most common scoreboard (and the one used at WFTDA tournaments) is the Carolina Scoreboard. There are a few others out there (Ultimate Derby Scoreboard, etc.), so make sure you become familiar with the program being used as to eliminate some possible issues that might come up before the game.

Elements needed in a good SO:
-Communication with both the scorekeepers and jam timer in order to keep the information on the scoreboard as accurate as possible.

-Making sure to have your eyes on the jam timer between jams, especially when they say “Five Seconds”, in order to start the jam clock (and period clock) accurately.

-Making sure to know your “Hot Keys” Hot Keys are optional shortcut keys to help with ease of use for the scoreboard system.

-Making sure to communicate with the head referee if there are any issues with the scoreboard that need to be addressed before resuming the game.

-Being calm under pressure. Being an SO is an important job, and you need to be able to communicate effectively and remain calm during any situation.

-Do not input any points until the scorekeeper gives you the information. We may all see the points the Jam ref has awarded, however they do not go on the scoreboard until the scorekeeper has recorded the points and relayed that information to the SO. Constantly verify the total on the scoreboard with your scorekeepers to ensure accuracy.

-Adjusting the time as necessary during a timeout when the jam timer communicates that an adjustment is necessary. You must adjust the game clock during a stoppage in time. You cannot adjust the clock while it is running. (

A really good SO can make a huge impact on the game by not creating the need for additional official time outs to make corrections. Tomorrow we will end our celebration of NSOs by looking at the job of a Jam Timer, who backs up the Scoreboard Operator.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014 Penalty Timing Officials: A game will have at least two Officials to oversee the Penalty Box. The Penalty Timing Officials time penalties and assist referees in ensuring a team skates short when they ought.

Today’s rule continues NSO week, wherein we’re saluting the non-skating officials who make roller derby possible. Today’s rule describes the third of the five NSO positions that must be filled in a regulation game: penalty timing officials, or more informally, “penalty timers”.

As stated in today’s rule, two penalty timers will oversee the penalty box. They are sometimes accompanied by an optional position, the “Penalty Box Manager”, who times the jammers and supervising the penalty box. Absent this position, the penalty times are each responsible for a specific team in the penalty box and overseeing the box as a whole. The jobs can be either quiet or chaotic depending on whether the game is light or heavy on penalties, and whether the referee crew is able to quickly and accurately address unexpected situations that arise.

Meany’s NSO Survival Guide outlines a number of tasks for the Penalty Timers:

- Instruct the skaters where to stand, when to stand, and when their penalty time has expired.
- Time the skaters’ penalties (stopping if they stand early or fail to stand at <10 seconds) for as many as four skaters as once. - Monitor the Point of No Return line for legal entry into the penalty box. - Monitor the players for legal safety gear usage (ie; only removing their mouthguard while in the box). - Manage double penalties on skaters (ie; serving two or more consecutive penalties) - Communicate unusual situations and penalty box-related penalties to referees. - Monitor the box for non-penalized individuals communicating with penalized skaters. As O.N. Meany also points out, a skilled penalty timer an excellent working knowledge of penalty box rules, good communication skills with skaters, refs, and NSOs; practice timing penalties with a stopwatch / penalty timing app, and a strong ability to focus and work amid noise and chaos. For more information read Meany’s NSO Survival Guide: Penalty Timer. Also, talk to your league’s resident NSO expert on the penalty box. Link:

If you have any tips on working the penalty box or want to shout out the name of your favorite Penalty Box Timer/Manager, please feel free to do so in the comments.