Tuesday, January 31, 2012

6.3.7 Flailing and sprawling skaters that trip an opponent, regardless of intent.

This is a rule that is used to answer many skater questions. It is also one that annoys many skaters. What today’s rule means is that if a skater is flailing or sprawling, and trip an opponent, they are getting a Low Block major. Why this rule includes the part about intent means that whether the initiator intended to trip the opponent does not come into play. How does this normally happen? When a skater is blocked, falls, and trips an opponent. Even if a skater has no control over the action, if they get blocked to the floor and while going down trip an opponent while sprawling, they will get a Low Block major. In fact, flailing and sprawling is pretty much the exact opposite of falling small, which is defined in the rules as “falling with the arms and legs controlled, tucked in to the body, and not flailing”. So if a skater is blocked and falls, but not small, her actions even while falling are still her responsibility. This rule is unfortunate for those skaters who commonly get used by their teammates as a “bowling ball”, where the teammate will push them into opponents to make a block. If the “bowling ball” skater falls and trips the opponent, they get the penalty even though the action was completely of their teammate’s doing.


Monday, January 30, 2012

‎6.3.6 Any contact outside of the normal skating motion which lands below the legal target zone that causes an opposing skater to fall or lose her relative position.

Today’s rule is a Low Block major penalty. It penalizes for blocks that land below the mid thigh and cause a skater to fall or lose her position relative to the initiator, which includes the receiving skater going out of bounds. Note that this rule reference the “normal skating motion”. In previous rules I’ve covered what the normal skating motion is. This doesn’t mean each individual’s normal. If a skater has a stride that continuously contacts other skaters with her skates, that is not normal, even if it is her normal. In fact, it is rather unsafe. What normal skating position means is normal for that position. If a Blocker is striding as a Blocker need stride, that is normal. If a Jammer happens to take a little bit longer of a stride, that will most likely be seen as normal. So if a skater happens to take a long stride that is not normal, and trips up an opponent causing them to fall or lose relative position, that’s a major Low Block. Same with a skater who falls, but not small, and low blocks an opponent.


Friday, January 27, 2012

6.2.5 Intentional, negligent, or reckless contact above the shoulders.

Today’s rule is from the High Block or Blocking to the Head expulsion section. This is one of those rules that is easily explained as “you’ll know it when you see it” but there’s certainly some factors that would make it easy to identify an expulsion under this rule. If a skater is upright and another skater’s arm swings up and makes contact with her head, knocking the receiving skater down, or into the path of another skater, that would most likely be intentional. This is because skaters tend to skate with their arms down to avoid forearms penalties. Contact to the head in this type of case would likely require a skater to swing her arm up out of its normal position, which would likely signify intent. An example of reckless may include a skater trying a dangerous maneuver around a downed skater and kicking her in the head. In fact, that could possibly negligent as well. The point is that contact above the shoulders is illegal, but there is a difference between a High Block major, and a High Block expulsion.

You may notice that I have used some noncommittal words in this explanation, such as “likely” and “possibly”. This is because when it comes to expulsion a referee needs to be sure in the situation, and it becomes difficult to discuss absolutes without being there in the moment. Of course, this applies to any rule, however expulsion have a much greater effect on a game than a minor or a major, and so it is irresponsible to apply an absolute in situations where it may not be warranted, such as with this rule.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

‎6.2.4 Any contact with the head of a skater not wearing a helmet.

Today’s rule also comes from the High Blocking or Blocking to the Head section. It is a High Block expulsion. Prior to this rule, there is this paragraph:

The following egregious acts making contact with the head of an opponent or above her shoulders will be automatic game expulsions, and can be punished as a multi-game suspension (see Section Expulsions will be issued for a conscious, forceful attempt to commit any of the following egregious acts, whether or not the attempt was successful (e.g., a swing-and-a-miss).

Expulsions are penalties issued due to extremely unsafe game play. I don’t think it requires convincing anyone that a block to the head of a skater not wearing a helmet is extremely unsafe. Helmets are required safety equipment for a reason, therefore a block to the head of a skater not wearing one is inherently unsafe. You might be asking yourself when there might be a chance that a skater isn’t wearing a helmet. Although incredibly rare, a situation where a skater may be contacted while not wearing a helmet is possible. This could be a skater who gets blocked to the ground and her helmet comes off. Another possibility is a skater who has been hurt but crawled out of the way to the infield to prevent the jam being called, and who removes her helmet. A very distinct possibility is a skater who is lining up for the next jam and removes her helmet to adjust it. A distinct yet unfortunate situation is a fight with a skater not wearing a helmet. Regardless of how a skater’s helmet comes off, contact with her head while she isn’t wearing one is incredibly unsafe, and is thus worthy of an expulsion. In situations such as a fight, a suspension might be appropriate. Within the WFTDA suspensions are dealt with officially, with regards to sanctioned bouts. Outside of the WFTDA suspensions can really only be upheld by the skater’s league, should they choose to issue one.


Monday, January 23, 2012

3.2.2 Pivot identification: Pivots wear a striped helmet cover, as specified in Section 3.6 Helmet Covers.

Very basic rule today. The Pivot wears a striped helmet cover. Like the Jammer, the Pivot may begin a jam with the striped helmet cover in her hand and still be considered the Pivot. Unlike the Jammer helmet cover, the Pivot helmet cover may not be passed.


Friday, January 20, 2012

Lineup Clock is the term typically used for the 30 second count between jams.

Today’s Rule isn’t actually a rule. In fact, the term “lineup clock” doesn’t exist within the rules at all. It is the term that is most often used for the count of 30 seconds between jams. The required 30 seconds lineup time, and the rules regarding when that time stops and begins again is covered in several areas of the rules.

2.4.3 There are thirty (30) seconds between jams. At the conclusion of the timeout, the Referees will direct the skaters to return to the track and start the next jam as soon as possible. The next jam can start as soon as skaters are lined up, but no more than 30 seconds should elapse after a timeout. Officials must stop the official period clock between jams when time exceeds thirty (30) seconds.

All of these rules refer to the lineup clock, but never call it that. The terms lineup clock and lineup are used because it is easier than saying “30 seconds between jams”. What is important about the fact that the lineup clock is not actually in the rules is that there is no rule which requires it to be visible, or official, etc. There are many computer based scoreboards available on the internet that show a visible 30 second lineup clock once a jam is stopped, but for those league who use an arena scoreboard, or even an LED scoreboard, they usually don’t have the option of displaying a lineup clock due to the limitations of their technology. In those cases the jam timer begins timing as soon as the jam ends (on the 4th whistle blast of the jam ending whistle) and then whistles the jam start whistle for the next jam when their clock reaches 30 seconds, unless a timeout is called. Of course, knowing how long their is left until the next jam starts is great for teams to know, but it is not mandated by the rules.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

‎ Penalty clocks are not required to be visible to referees, teams and fans. While in the Penalty Box, players may request knowledge of how much penalty time they have remaining.

While I covered the rules regarding the official period and jam clocks being visible, and made clear the importance of them, today’s rule explains that the penalty clocks do not need to be visible. Of course, it would be nice if the penalty clocks were visible so teams and fans would know how long penalized skaters have left in the box, and referees know if skaters left box early. However, some leagues already have enough difficulty making sure that two clocks are visible, let alone another half dozen. However, because the penalty clocks may be held in the hands of the penalty timers, the rules allow skaters to request how much time is left in their penalty. I have seen it argued that just because the rules say skaters may request, the rules don’t say the penalty timers must tell them. I absolutely don’t agree with that. Unless a skater is consistently asking over and over and over again, there is no reason why a skater should not be told how much time they have left in their penalty.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012 The official jam clock must be highly visible to referees, teams and fans.

Just like the rule for the official period clock, which I covered last week, the official jam clock must be highly visible. As well, just like with the period clock, the jam clock that is visible is the official jam clock. This means that if a jam timer is timing jams on their own stopwatch, assuming it isn't called off by a Lead Jammer, the jam is over when the visible jam clock reaches zero, not when the jam timer's stopwatch reaches zero. The reasoning behind this because nobody else can see the jam timer's stopwatch, yet a team may rely on there being time left in a jam to score points. Even if the visible jam clock began three seconds after the jam start whistle, if a Jammer see three seconds left in a jam but hears the jam end, that's a problem. So the visible jam clock must start on the jam timer's jam start whistle, and the jam timer must end two minute jams only when the visible jam clock reaches zero.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

‎ The official jam clock stops at the end of each jam (on the fourth whistle).

While the period clock keeps running between jams, the jam clock stops. This is because it starts again reset to two minutes at the start of the next jam. This makes a lot of sense. However, it is important that the jam clock continue to run until the 4th whistle blast of the jam ending whistle signal. The jam is still on until the 4th whistle blast, and skaters are eligible for points and penalties while the jam is still on.


Monday, January 16, 2012

‎ Jam Clock The official jam clock starts on the first whistle of the jam.

Jumping to the jam clock this week. Today's rule is pretty simple. The jam clock, which is stopped between jams, starts again on the first whistle of each jam. Hence, the first whistle of each jam is called the jam start whistle.


Friday, January 13, 2012

‎ The official period clock must be highly visible to referees, teams and fans.

Today's rules is one that very commonly tends to get misunderstood, misinterpreted, and incorrectly put into practice. I'm going to explain how this rule works but I'm going to start with the simple part of it.

The period clock must be highly visible to referees, teams and fans. It must be visible to referees because refs need to know the game time. The most important time for a referee to see the clock is the last 30 seconds of a period, so that they don't call an Official Timeout with 30 seconds left on the period clock. Teams obviously need to know the game time because even though are competing against each other, ultimately they are also competing against the clock. Fans need to know the game time because otherwise it is just a seemingly endless period. Without context (a 30 minute period/half) then each jam loses its importance. So there is no question, the period clock MUSt be highly visible to all these people. It may be a scoreboard in the venue, such as a lighted scoreboard in a hokey or basketball arena. It may be on a projected scoreboard, or even projected on its own. It may even be a small LED scoreboard on the sidelines. So long as it his highly visible to all the listed people then it is in accordance with the rules. There is actually no official NSO position listed in the rules for the period clock operator. I can only imagine that this is to allow leagues the latitude of having whichever type of visible clock as works for them, and allowing it to operated appropriately. Certainly a scoreboard operator can run the period clock if the scoreboard includes it, whereas a separate clock operator would be required for a projected clock.

Now, about the "official" status. What this rule means by saying the "official period clock" must be highly visible means that the clock that is visible is the official period clock. That means that if there is any question about the game time, or any discrepancy with any other clock, the time on the visible period clock is what is official, and supersedes all other clocks. If the jam timer also happens to be timing the period time on a stopwatch and their clock says that a jam ended with 32 seconds left in the period, but the official clock says that there are only 29 seconds left, then the referees may not call an Official Timeout, as the official clock has less than 30 seconds on it. In a situation like that the jam timer would need to alter the time left on their own stopwatch to be synchronized with the official period clock. About the only time that the official period clock is adjusted is when a timeout is signaled and the period clock operator takes time to actually stop the clock. Usually this is noticed by the jam timer or a referee and will result in a few seconds being out back on the clock. Although there is no actual rule that explains to correct the clock time, the rules do mention that once a timeout is signaled by a team, or for an Official Timeout, the officials signal for the clock to stop. Therefore, if the clock does not actually stop it is not contrary to the rules to adjust the clock time back to when the signal was given for it to stop.

The official nature of the visible period clock must be understood and respected. If the clock being used has a malfunction that may affect the game then an alternate clock should be used. I have heard of venue scoreboards being used for the period clock but stopping just before hitting zero so as to avoid the buzzer that usually accompanies these scoreboards counting down to zero (as derby is unique in that the game keeps going past the period clock reaching zero). In a situation like that if the period clock was stopped with even a few tenths of a second still on it and after the jam ended a team called a timeout, then another jam would have to be run since there was technically still time on the official period clock.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

‎ Officials must stop the official period clock between jams when time exceeds thirty (30) seconds.

This rule exists because sometimes referees try to work out an issue in the game between jams and don't pay attention to the clock. If they aren't ready to start the jam, haven't called an Official Timeout, and 30 seconds between jams has elapsed, the period clock must be stopped. Typically the referees are involved in whatever issue is happening, therefore the jam timer will usually be the one to signal the period clock to stop. The rule says "officials" not "referees" so this is permitted. The jam timer, or whomever signals the clock to stop, does so by calling an Official Timeout.

The clock MUST be stopped because of an earlier rule in Section 2:

2.4.3 There are thirty (30) seconds between jams.

If the period clock were to continue running after 30 seconds had elapsed and the next jam hadn't started then it would be a violation of 2.4.3 by the officials.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

‎ The official period clock does not stop between jams unless a timeout is called. The period clock stops during a timeout.

Per yesterday's rule, the period clock starts counting down from 30:00 (or whatever length of time the period is for shorter games) at the first whistle of the first jam. The period clock continues to count down even between jams. The only reason the period clock may stop is because of a timeout, either a team timeout or an official timeout (OTO). A team timeout is requested by the captain or designated alternate by hand signal. As soon as the timeout is signaled, the referees signal the period clock operator to stop the clock. There is no rule specifying which referee must signal the timeout to the clock operator, or which may not. Some head referees prefer that only they signal it as they keep a mental note of team timeouts left, and ask the other referees to notify them. Mostly head referees seem to be fine with letting any referee signal the timeout to the clock operator but tend to remind refs pre-bout to make sure that the person signaling the timeout is a captain or DA, and that they do in fact have a timeout available to use. An official timeout is a timeout taken by the referees. They signal the clock operator with the OTO signal and the period clock is stopped. OTOs are used when officials need to solve an issue that will take longer than the 30 seconds between jams, such as score discrepancies, debris on the track, and the like.

There is a recent trend going on in the derby world regarding OTOs. It is becoming a standard practice for referees to not actually signal an OTO until the 30 seconds between jams runs down. The reason this is done is because when officials call an OTO before the 30 seconds of lineup time is finished it disrupts the normal course of a jam running and then 30 seconds counting down, followed by the next jam starting. In effect, if an OTO is called 5 second after a jam ends, then 25 seconds of play time is "added" to the game because the period clock doesn't begin again until the next jam starts. To reduce the impact referees have on the game many crews have adopted this practice of waiting 30 seconds. Of course, there are cases where an OTO must be called before the 30 seconds has elapsed. For example, an injury that requires medical attention. In cases such as that the OTO is called immediately and ends the jam, thus the 30 seconds does not count down between jams. This is not a required practice, but something that referees are adopting all over the derbyverse.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012 The official period clock starts on the first whistle of the first jam.

This one is simple. The period clock does not start until the game starts. The first (jam start) whistle of the first jam of each period is what starts the period. Thus, when the period starts, the period clock starts. Although the period clock may stop at points throughout the period, it starts initially when the first jam of each period starts.


Monday, January 9, 2012

‎2.8.1 Each game will have separate penalty clocks, jam clocks and period clocks.

It is important to have each of these clocks separate, as they start and stop and get reset at all different times. The period clock stops the least, while the jam and penalty clocks start and stop at the same time. However, the penalty clocks are reset as skaters start and finish penalties while the jam clock gets reset as the jams start and finish.


Friday, January 6, 2012

‎ At the end of a period, the Jammer Referees switch the team they are responsible for and the identifier corresponding to each team.

Switching Jammer Referees between periods has always been looked at as a matter of fairness. Some people would say that if one of the Jammer Referees is affiliated with one of the teams playing and is fixing the score, then switching them to the other team at the half will even it out. Frankly, in my years of reffing I have yet to see a JR fix the score. Rather, I look at it as both teams having the opportunity to be Jammer Refereed by each in case one or both are making consistent errors. That way the error is made for both teams and only one team isn't disadvantaged. Whatever way one looks at it, switching teams is only fair.

Of course, when they switch teams they also switch their indentifier, which, according to the WFTDA Officiating Standard Practices, says must be at minimum an arm band, but may also be a sash and/or helmet cover accompanying the arm band.


Thursday, January 5, 2012

‎9.1.4 Pack Referees: The remaining referees observe the pack. The primary responsibility for Pack Referees is to call penalties. Pack Referee assignments and specifics regarding Pack Referee positioning can be found in the WFTDA Referee and Officiating Standard Practices document.

Per yesterday's rule, regardless of how many referees are officiating a game, between the minimum three and maximum seven, two of them must be Jammer Referees. The rest of the refs will be Pack Referees. As clearly stated, the primary responsibility of a Pack Ref is to call penalties. This is in contrast to the Jammer Referees who follow the Jammer, count points, etc, as well as call penalties. Pack Refs don't follow the Jammers, or any one skater in particular. They watch the pack. Pack Refs are split into two types: Inside Pack Refs (IPRs) and Outside Pack Refs (OPRs). IPRs skate on the infield of the track while OPRs skate outside the track in the safety clearance. According to there may be up to two IPRs. This means a full crew has two JRs and two IPRs in the infield and three OPRs on the outside. The OPRs generally skate in a relay type fashion, skating part of a lap at a time. The referenced WFTDA Officiating Standard Practices suggests that OPRs skate this rotation, referred to as the "half lap skate and wait". Lately the "half lap" and "wait" parts have been replaced with "about 3/4 of a lap" and "get back in position". If this confuses you, don't worry. There are plenty of referee resources to research good skating rotations and techniques. According to the Standard Practices, the head ref of a roller derby bout ought to be one of the IPRs.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

9.1.3 Jammer Referees: Two referees are responsible for observing Jammers, one per team.

Two Jammer Referees. It's not something we do just because it makes sense. It's also in the rules. Of course, it's in the rules because it makes sense.

Jammer Referees are tasked with following their Jammer, counting her points and issuing her penalties. While the rules say nothing about it, the standardized practice is for Jammer Referees only to call minor penalties on the Jammers. This is because the Jammer Referees (JRs) are focusing on the Jammers and tend to have the best viewing angle of the Jammer. In cases where another referee sees a minor committed by the Jammer that the JR was unable to see, they report it to the JR instead of to the penalty tracker. This is practice of efficiency. After all, JRs know how many minors their Jammer has at the beginning of each jam (and if they don't, they should). If a pack referee were to issue a minor and it was the Jammer's 4th, it may take an amount of time to get related trough the wrangler, to the penalty tracker, then to the JR so they may send the Jammer to the box. In that time the Jammer may score some points. So in the interest of efficiency and fairness the practice has evolved to let the Jammer Referees make the minor calls and for other refs to report straight to the JRs so they can send their Jammers off immediately if they receive a 4th minor. Since major penalties send the Jammer off immediately anyway the practice includes allowing any referee to call major penalties on Jammers. Although, again since the JR usually has the best viewing angle, or is concentrating on the Jammer most closely, pack referees are cautioned to not call majors on Jammer unless they are absolutely sure about them. Certainly, this is a practice that should be followed when giving a penalty to any skater on the track, but sending a Jammer to the box in error may have a greater effect on the game than sending a Blocker.


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

‎9.1.2 One referee is designated Head Referee; the Head Referee is the ultimate authority in the game. The Head Referee will assign positions and duties to the other referees and non-skating officials.

Today's rule discusses the role of the Head Referee. The Head Referee (HR) is an important position. HRs need to know the rules better than any other referee on their squad in case of disputes and official reviews; they need to be more aware of what is going in the entirety of the game, including skaters in the penalty queue, skaters who have quit the jam, etc; they need to maintain their own professional demeanor and inspire the other referees to do the same; most importantly they need to make sure that the rules of the game are followed so as to ensure a safe and fair game for both teams.

Certainly there will be times when the HR is not the most experienced ref on the floor, but that's ok. Every HR needs to start somewhere. When I work with HRs less experienced than myself I always let them know that I'm right behind if they need some advice, but I make sure not to be over their shoulder.

Something from this rule that has been misconstrued, as evidenced by a few comments from past rule discussions here, is the part about the HR being the ultimate authority of the game. While this is true, that the decision of the HR is final, it is important for the HR not to overstep the bounds of their position. Every sport has an ultimate authority so as to make sure decisions get made. However, being the ultimate authority does not grant an HR the ability to either make up rules or ignore existing ones. Several anecdotes include HRs penalizing skaters in the penalty box for communicating across to their bench, non-captains talking to the referees, and other such activities. These things are not enumerated in the rules as penalties, nor do the rules say anywhere that they are illegal. Other anecdotes include HRs always penalizing the back or front group for destruction, issuing majors for cutting the foremost Blocker always, and other such errors. These are situations where the HR has altered a rule that is clearly written. Both making up rules and altering existing ones is not something a Head Referee, not any referee, may do. I have heard it said that in situations where the HR was clearly violating the rules that the other referees went with it because the HR is the ultimate authority. Again, although their decision is final, refs are only allowed to use discretion in situations where the rules are not clearly spelled out. If an HR is violating the rules they need to confronted by the other referees, not obeyed simply because they are the ultimate authority. After all, the teams playing have entrusted the HR with making sure the rules are followed, not granted them with the license to do with the rules as they wish. A confrontation of the HR should be done so respectfully, as all communication to and from officials should be.

Another aspect of this rule is that the HR assigns the positions to the other refs and NSOs. While the rule may say this, it is not exactly the practice, in my experience, that the HR assigns every position. In many cases the HR is Not affiliated with the host league and comes in knowing their own position and entrusting the assignments to other people. So while the rule puts the responsibility of assignments to the HR, it is in the best interest of the game to make sure the most qualified individuals are put in the appropriate positions. That being said, as the ultimate authority, if the HR chooses to change the assignments they certainly may do so. I have been in such a situation myself as a visiting HR in the past.

The Head Referee is a designation given to one of the referees officiating the game. Head Referee is not a position unto itself. In the past leagues have had a floating or standing HR, either on or off skates, in addition to the other seven referees. Doing this would violate the maximum seven referees (9.1.1) and also the requirement for all refs to be on skates ( Some leagues have had a Jammer referee be the HR. This is not technically against the rules, but generally frowned upon, as both the HR and Jammer referee are positions of great importance and responsibility, and shirking one for the other is not a good idea. There's a reason why the WFTDA Officiating Standard Practices suggest that the HR be one of the inside pack refs.


Monday, January 2, 2012

‎9.1.1 Each bout will have no less than three skating referees and no more than seven referees total. It is strongly encouraged that at least one referee be WFTDA Certified.

There’s a couple points in today’s rule to look at. The first point is the number of referees. This rule has remained the same since version 1.0 of the WFTDA rules, with the addition of the encouragement of a certified referee when certification began. Ever since the WFTDA standardized the rules of roller derby there has been a requirement for at least three skating referees and a maximum of seven referees. The rules used to allow for outside pack referees to be off skates. In the most recent version of the rules a subrule to 9.1.1 was added: All referees must be on skates.

This removed the possibility for off skates referees. So, now there is a requirement of at least three skating referees, and a maximum of seven skating referees.

The second point in this rule is the encouragement of having at least one WFTDA Certified referee in each game. This encouragement really seems to be an encouragement to staff all bouts with the best referees possible. From the standpoint of the WFTDA, certified referees are the best. Therefore, it makes sense for them to encourage certified referees to be staffed in games, although it makes more sense to encourage only one at least, since they do understand that certification may be hard to accomplish for many referees due to location and lack of proximity to WFTDA leagues.