Wednesday, August 21, 2013

6.12.9 Skating across the track infield in a manner which substantially cuts short the lap distance. It is not necessary to pass an in-bounds skater to commit a skating out of bounds penalty.

Today’s rule is a Skating Out Of Bounds major penalty. Prior to the 2013 version of the rules, this was the only major penalty in the Skating Out Of Bounds section. This is a rare penalty to see, but it does happen. While most of the time a skater performing this action will receive a Cutting penalty, as they are typically blocked into the infield without time to stop before returning to the track, at times skaters will lose control - either due to speed, fatigue, and a multitude of other reasons - and skate across the infield, shortening the lap distance. The SOOB rules are designed to keep a skater on the track, even if it means the skater has to lessen their speed to do so. This force a skater to have more control of their actions. If a skater loses control and cuts across the infield, or does so simply by error, they will receive a major penalty.

This rule has brought forth an interesting discussion among officials over the course of a few years now. At what point has a skater significantly shortened the distance of a lap rather than made their lap longer. Basically, because there is no beginning or end to a round roller derby track, a skater can be ahead of way they were, or behind where they were, based on interpretation. This is evident in the jammer line false start rules for blockers. If a blocker starts a jam with any part of their body or equipment on or behind the jammer line, then even though they appear to be in the pack, they are considered to be an entire lap ahead of everyone else on the track. Going by that logic, at some point on the track, if a skater cuts through the infield, then they are no longer cutting their lap short, but are instead making their lap longer. We see this happen when a skater gets blocked into the infield and skates clockwise to get behind an opposing skater who is drawing the jammer back. They have made their lap longer by re-skating on a portion of the track they had already skated on in that lap. To push this thought even further, if a skater were to cut through the infield and end up exactly halfway across the track, are they ahead of the pack, or are they behind where they started? While there is no universal interpretation on this topic, what I have found by talking with many officials about this is that the difference between cutting short a lap and extending it that much more happens at the halfway point around the track. If a skater goes into the infield and returns to the track less than half of a lap behind where they exited the track, then they have made their lap longer, and will not receive this penalty. If they return less than half of a lap ahead of where they exited the track, then they will have cut short the distance of the lap and will receive a major penalty. Again, this is not a universal interpretation by any means, but rather something for officials and skaters to think of.