Thursday, June 6, 2013

6.9.21 A stopped skater giving an assist that improves the recipient’s relative position.

Today's rule is a Direction of Gameplay major penalty. While most people tend to concentrate on the penalties for illegal clockwise and stopped blocks, it is important to remember that both blocks AND assists must be made while moving in the counterclockwise position. This rule penalizes a skater that initiates an assist while stopped, that improves their teammate's relative position. There used to be a WFTDA Publication that explained which skaters on the track relative position would apply to, but it is no longer published, which means that the Glossary definition is the place to go to find out how this applies. The definition for relative position has been updated just a bit in this version of the rules. It reads:

Relative Position - A skater’s location in bounds on the track in relation to other skaters when the skater is standing, stepping, and/or skating.

The new language is that part about "when the skater is standing, stepping, and/or skating". I am not going to into detail about the change of this definition. However, it is pretty clear that relative position is the location of a skater on the track relative to other skaters.

To apply this to today's rule, if a skater is stopped and they assist a teammate, and the teammate passes either the initiator of the assist, or any other skater on the track, then the receiver's relative position has been improved, and the initiator will receive a penalty. There isn't a definition for improving relative position, however there is one for bettering relative position, and since "improve" and "better" are pretty much synonymous, it seems appropriate to use the definition for "bettering your position" to understand what it means for a skater to have their relative position improved. That definition includes returning in front of an in bounds skater. Although that refers to Cutting the Track, the part about in front can easily apply to this situation. So, if a skater receives an assist from a stopped teammate, and passes another skater on the track (including the initiator), ending up in front of them, the initiator will receive a penalty.

Now, the argument may be made that since the definition of relative position says "in relation to other skaters" but doesn't specify that the other skaters must be on the track as well, then if a skater receives a whip from a stopped teammate and they pass an out of bounds skater, their relative position has been improved and a penalty should be issued. It is my interpretation that this has not improved the receiver's position relative to the out of bounds skater. After all, in bounds skaters have an advantage over out of bounds skaters, especially out of bounds opponents, because they can engage opponents, while the out of bounds skaters may not engage opponents. If a skater goes out of bounds, they are a disadvantage, which already makes the position of in bounds skaters better than that of the out of bounds skater. Thus, an in bounds skater passing an out of bounds skater isn't an improvement, since their position is already better.