Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Established Position - Where a skater is physically, an area of the track where the skater has secured their place. Examples: up, in bounds, down, out of bounds, in play, and/or out of play.

Today's rule is the Glossary definition of "Established Position". I decided it was important to discuss this phrase, as it plays an important role in several rules. Established position is something that has existed in the rules for some time. Up until the previous rule set, this phrase was only used in the Back Blocking section, but was then added to Direction of Gameplay and Out Of Play rules. However, there was no explanation of what established position meant. Instead, the derby community was left to common interpretations. Thankfully, this Glossary entry was added in this rules version, and makes very clear and official just what established position means.

At first look, it appears as if established position is very similar to relative position, and that's because they are similar. They both involve a skater's position on the track, with relation to other skater, in/out of bounds, in/out of play, etc. The major difference is that established position specifically notes that "the skater has secured their place". Relative position does not include this qualifier. That means a skater must have secured their place on a track for their position to be considered established. If they have not secured their place, and are forced out of position, it may be considered just a loss of relative position, not of established position. Although "secured their place" is not defined in the rules (of course, not everything can be), it helps us understand the difference between established and no established. A quick movement from one area of the track to another does not establish a skater's position. Simply being on a new area of the track does not secure a skater's place. They need to be on that area of the track long enough to not be considered there only temporarily. As well, even if they are on that area of the track long enough to not be considered temporarily, if they have not maintained balance on that area of the track, they may not have secured their place. For example, if a skater is skating along the outside track boundary and then cuts to skate towards the inside boundary, they will not have established any position in the middle of the track, even though they skated over it. To secure their place along the inside boundary, they would need to be there for a period of time and have balance there. There is not set period of time, and judgment will be used by referees to determine it. It is important to understand how established position has an effect on certain rules within the rule book.

For starters, the Back Blocking section has long used a loss of established position as part of the criteria for a major penalty, rather than a loss of relative position. This is because even though Back Blocking is a contact penalty, it is one that typically also requires an associated action - a block to the back. In other words, back blocking is not penalized merely for contact to an opponent's back. The skater being penalized must have initiated the illegal contact to the opponent's back. Established position comes into play because the back is a legal blocking zone and may be used to initiate a block to an opponent behind a skater. Now, if a skater is ahead of an opponent and leans back to initiate a block, and the opponent counterblocks into the initiator's back, knocking the initiator down, that will likely be a major penalty. To be able to lean back and initiate, the initiator would have had to have established a position in front of the opponent. Now, if a skater is skating forwards and an opponent swoops in from the side, and the skater ends up contacting the opponent in the back, knocking them down, this will not be considered a loss of established position. The swooping skater would not have had time to secure their place on the track. Regardless of who might be considered the initiator (considered a counterblock to the back is illegal anyway), this would not be a loss of established position, which is what is called out in rule 6.1.2. Effectively, what this does is prevent skaters from diving out in front of opponent's to try and draw a Back Blocking penalty.

The same logic applies to both Direction of Gameplay and Out Of Play penalties. With regards to Direction of Gameplay, if a skater is skating clockwise on the track, attempting to not initiate contact with any opponents, established position prevents an opponent from diving in front of the clockwise skating skater to draw a clockwise block major. It is the same with Out Of Play. If a skater is out of play, established position prevents an opponent from jumping out right in front (or behind) the skater to draw an Out Of Play major. Established position is also used to determine the legality of mid-air contact, preventing a skater from jumping in front of an airborne opponent to draw a Misconduct major. You can see the common theme here. Established position helps prevent skaters from drawing penalties on helpless opponents for contact that involves an action, when the initiator is not control of the action of the receiver.

I apologize for the length of this particular explanation. It is an important concept and I didn't want to skimp on words.

(While I am confident in the entire explanation above, I have noticed that, while established position is part of the criteria for a clockwise block major per rule 6.9.19, it is not included in rule 6.9.15, which is also a major penalty that was previously a minor. Therefore, it appears as if a skater may be able to unfairly draw a major Direction of Gameplay penalty even without having established position on the track. I have reported this as an issue to the WFTDA.)