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.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014 Penalty Trackers: A game will have at least one Penalty Tracker. The Penalty Tracker records the penalties reported by referees and keeps track of the official penalty tally.

Today’s rule continues NSO week, wherein we’re saluting the non-skating officials who make roller derby possible. Today’s rule describes the second of the five NSO positions that must be filled in a regulation game.

As stated in today’s rule, a penalty tracker records the penalties that referees assign to each player, and keeps track of the official penalty tally. Doing so is usually a more chaotic process than a scorekeeper endures, as a penalty tracker sometimes needs to track down information from the penalty wrangler, the other penalty tracker, the inside whiteboard NSO, and/or the referees.

Beyond the basic job are a host of other tasks.

- Echoing penalties calls after receiving them,
- Notifying the head referee when a skater earns their 5th and/or 6th penalty,
- Notifying the jam referee when a jammer lines up with 5 or more penalties,
- Avoiding/addressing confusion between similar skater numbers,
- Verifying the correct roster of players before the game begins, and
- Tracking the jam number

All of this is compounded by this fact: most games have two penalty trackers, but the rules only require one. Meaning the penalty tracker may be doing this not just for one team, but for both… sometimes without the help of a penalty wrangler and whiteboard operator.

As O.N. Meany pointed out in his NSO Survival Guide, a skilled penalty tracker needs a good working knowledge of penalty codes and referee hand signals, good communication skills, and the ability to think and react fast in a loud, chaotic environment.

For more information read Meany’s NSO Survival Guide: Penalty Tracker. Also, talk to your league’s resident NSO expert on penalty tracking.


If you have any tips on penalty tracking or want to shout out the name of your favorite Penalty Tracker, please feel free to do so in the comments.

Monday, August 11, 2014 Scorekeepers: A game will have at least two Scorekeepers. The Scorekeepers record the points reported by the Jammer Referees and keep the official score.

Today’s rule continues NSO week, wherein we’re saluting the non-skating officials who make roller derby possible. Today’s rule describes the first of the five NSO positions that must be filled in a regulation game.

In its simplest form, a scorekeeper tracks points reported by a jammer during each scoring pass. A piece of scratch paper that records and summarizes them into an ongoing tally is sufficient to meet the requirements of this rule.

The reality is more complex. WFTDA’s Stats Package features a complex form that tracks not only the score, but also…

- Who is the jammer in each jam?
- Did the jammer complete their lead pass?
- Was the jammer awarded lead jammer?
- Did the jammer lose lead jammer status or the ability to become lead jammer?
- Was there a star pass? If so, to whom?
- Was the jam called off for injury?
- Did the jammer call the jam?

As O.N. Meany pointed out in his excellent NSO Survival Guide, a skilled scorekeeper needs a good working knowledge of scoring and star pass rules, good communication skills, and the ability to work in a loud, chaotic environment. The scorekeeper is the pipeline through which points are communicated between the jam referee and the scoreboard operator.

For more information read Meany’s NSO Survival Guide: Score Keeper. Also, talk to your league’s resident NSO expert on scorekeeping.


Sunday, August 10, 2014

8.1.5 Non-Skating Officials

Today’s rule isn’t really a rule at all, but rather the title of a list of the specific Non-Skating Officials (NSOs) required to play a regulation game of roller derby. We specifically chose today’s rule as a way of kicking off “NSO Week” here at RDRotD. Today’s rule requires no explanation at all, so let us instead say two words to the thousands of NSOs out there:

Thank you.

NSOs are the unsung heroes of the roller derby world. Skaters get the lion’s share of attention with their jukes, flukes*, blocks, knocks, walls, and falls. Referees are flashy in their own way, with their black-and-white striped shirts and tweeting whistles. Yet it’s NSOs who hold the game together in their quiet, unassuming way.

A skilled NSO crew often goes unnoticed - that they’re doing their jobs effectively means that attention stays on the skaters where it belongs. An unskilled NSO crew pressed into service with little training can rapidly bring a game to a screeching halt. More than games, really -- the entire sport. Think I’m exaggerating? Consider what would happen if every game was peppered with three minute jams, incorrect scores, inaccurate penalty counts, penalty boxes that hold skaters too long, and official timeouts every other jam to sort out the mess. Good NSOs work hard to learn their jobs, and it shows if you know what to look for.

So we at Roller Derby Rule of the Day will spend this week saluting the heroes in pink (black, gray, etc.). Whether armed with a clipboard, stopwatch, marker, or keyboard, they are a part of Team Derby and deserve a rousing cheer from all of us.

Over the next five days we will describe the five positions covered in the WFTDA rulebook: Scorekeeper, Penalty Tracker, Penalty Timer, Scoreboard Operator, and Jam Timer. It is our hope that discussing these positions will help everyone develop a greater understanding of an integral part of the derby community.

Small side note: there are other NSO roles as well -- Inside Whiteboard**, Penalty Box Manager, Penalty Wrangler, Lineup Tracker, not to mention the folks in charge of track repair (a nightmare job at some bouts). And, of course, the Head NSO. I may be overlooking a position or two as well -- please make a note of these in the comments. These are optional (if useful) positions, but the rules only address the five we initially listed.

So again, thank you to all of the NSOs out there. The sport wouldn’t exist without you.

* I couldn’t come up with a better word that rhymed with “jukes”. My apologies for the lousy writing.

** A special salute also goes out to all the “old-timers” out there who served as Outside Whiteboard.

Saturday, August 9, 2014 The Jammer will also be awarded points for Blockers on the track and ahead of the Engagement Zone if said Blockers were not previously scored on during that scoring pass.

Today’s rule comes from “Points” under Rule 7, “Scoring”

Today’s rule is important to remember for both skaters and officials. The idea is that if there are blockers on the track, that are ahead of the engagement zone, their”points” are automatically awarded if the jam ends at that point,provided those skaters were not already passed and scored on.

For skaters: be aware of where the other skaters are on the track, if the jam ends and opposing skaters are more than 20 feet in front of the pack, those blockers are points. Make sure they get awarded by the officials. Some teams even use bench personnel to assist with this.

For Officials: please communicate with each other when you see that skaters are ahead of the engagement zone when the jam ends. A good crew will relay to the jam refs if skaters were in play or out of play so the jam ref can award those points. As in anything with officiating, strong communication and constant communication are important to make sure all the rules are being followed.

Also remember that this rule is a sub-rule of how points are awarded at the end of a jam. The jam must end with the skaters ahead of the engagement zone for this rule to be in effect.

Friday, August 8, 2014 Points for opponents who have not yet been scored upon in an incomplete scoring pass by a penalized Jammer, who themselves are penalized while the Jammer is serving penalty time, will be awarded to the penalized jammer upon the Jammer’s legal in-bounds re-entry onto the track in the same jam, or upon passing any opposing blocker (if their re-entry was illegal). If the jam ends before this occurs, points for those opponents will not be awarded. The Jammer may still earn those points by legally passing those opponents in the same jam.

Today’s rule comes from the “points” section, under rule 7, “Scoring”.

Today’s rule is quite a lot of information so I will break it down part by part. The first thing is that this rule is dealing with a very specific situation. The situation is a jammer on a scoring pass, who then gets penalized. While the penalized jammer sits in the box, an opposing blocker (who the Jammer has not legally passed yet) comes in the box to serve a penalty. The question becomes: When does the jammer earn the point for the blocker or blockers who are in the box?

The answer, according to, is when the Jammer legally re-enters the track. The Jammer does not have to pass any blockers in order to score that point or those points. The exception to that is if the re-entry is illegal. The illegal re-entry, that would not result in an immediate penalty, falls into one of the four categories I listed in yesterdays rule. If the Jammer re-enters the track illegally, then they will get the points for the penalized blockers once she legally passes an opposing blocker.

This rule is a very specific situation. Most times you do not earn a NOTT (Not On The Track) point unless you pass an opposing blocker on the track. In this specific scenario, provided you re-enter the track legally, you will earn the points for those blockers once you legally re-enter.

Again, the points awarded are for blockers who serve a penalty while the Jammer is serving a penalty.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

5.13.20 A skater exiting the Penalty Box who re-enters the track in a manner that would constitute a penalty for cutting (see Section 5.11-Cutting the track), given that all in-bounds and upright Blockers are assumed to have superior position to a skater returning from the box.

Today’s rule comes from “Illegal Procedures” under Rule 5, “Penalties”

The main idea behind today’s rule is outlined in the last part of the rule that states “all in bounds and upright skaters are assumed to have superior position to a skater returning from the box.” Notice that the rule refers to 5.11 for the standards of what is a cutting penalty. This is the metric that all officials are to use in determining if the skater re-entered legally or not. The assumption is that if a skater is returning from the box, all skaters on the track have superior position to the skater who is returning to the track. The times where no penalty would be issued are the following (I have adapted the standards from rules to give specific scenarios for not calling illegal re-entry)

-Skater returns in front of a skater who is “in the box”, having been sent off for a penalty
-Skater returns in front of a skater who is out of bounds
-Skater returns in front of a skater who is down
-Skater returns in front of a skater who has exited the engagement zone, or if during a “No pack”, is 20 feet from any member of the last defined pack.

The tricky one is the last one. If a skater is no longer in the engagement zone, they are not factored in to a cutting the track penalty. However with the dynamics of pack movement and judging distances at a particular moment, it is risky to assume a skater is out of the engagement zone unless you clearly see the official giving that blocker an “Out of play” warning. Even then, the pack might dynamically stop and affect where the engagement zone is.

The best course of action is to simply come in behind all the in bounds and upright skaters. Also be aware that some skaters will use techniques to “draw” a cutting penalty just when you think its legal to re-enter.

5.13.27 A skater initiating contact or engaging an opponent after the fourth jam-ending whistle that forces the receiving opponent down or severely off balance, forward, or sideways.

Today’s rule is our final segment in this week’s series on “illegal engagement”. Specifically, it is the threshold to give a penalty for illegally making contact with an opponent after the fourth whistle of the jam-call off signal.

This rule is unique in the entire rule set in that it only requires an opponent to be knocked “severely” off balance. No other rule in the rulebook uses this word. This is as opposed to yesterday’s no impact/no penalty version of this rule which specifies it is legally to knock an opponent “slightly” off balance. What’s the difference? You tell me -- it’s difficult determination to define, which means the rules leave it up to referee discretion.

Please note that today’s rule covers both blocks initiated after the fourth whistle, as well as engaging that continues beyond that point. A block which is initiated before the fourth whistle whose effect does not fully take place before the jam ends is legal provided the blocker ceases engaging once the jam ends.

It’s worth mentioning that the fourth whistle refers to the first set of jam call-off whistles, not the final whistle. Referees should sound three sets of call-off whistles that sounds like this:

tweet-tweet-tweet-tweet (jam ends)
(pause) tweet-tweet-tweet-tweet
(pause) tweet-tweet-tweet-tweet

The jam ends where I marked it above.

So now the kicker: the time between jams is both after a jam ends and before a new jam begins. Meaning BOTH types of illegal engaging (prior to jam start vs. after a jam ends) are in effect during this time. This includes team and official timeouts and official reviews, and the rules make no distinction between players arriving on the track for a new jam and players leaving from the old one. As far as the rules are concerned, any player is allowed to travel on the track and ref lanes between jams so long as they don’t engage. And if they do? That’s potentially illegal engaging. It makes no difference whether they were in the previous jam or not.

Using everything we’ve covered this week allows us to (unofficially) combine all four illegal engaging rules into two rules that read something like this:

Illegal Engaging (combined rule), not a penalty - A skater initiating contact or engaging an opponent after the fourth jam-ending whistle and before the jam-starting whistle that forces the opponent slightly off balance, forward, or sideways, but does not cause the opponent to fall or lose their legal pre-jam position.

Illegal Engaging (combined rule), penalty - A skater initiating contact or engaging an opponent after the fourth jam-ending whistle and before the jam-starting whistle that forces the receiving opponent down; severely off balance, forward, or sideways; or out of their legal pre-jam position (as per section 3.2).

In summary… if a skater makes or continues contact between jams or during any sort of timeout, they should receive a penalty if:

1) the opponent falls down,
2) the opponent is knocked severely off-balance,
3) the opponent is forcibly moved from a legal to an illegal starting position,
4) the player “steals” the opponent’s starting position, or
5) the contact allows the player to improve their starting position from illegal to legal

This concludes this week’s discussion on illegal engaging. For more information on the subject, please read ROTD’s last three posts.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

5.13.7 A skater initiating contact or engaging an opponent after the fourth whistle ending the jam that forces the opponent slightly off balance, forward, or sideways but does not cause the opponent to fall.

Today’s rule continues this week’s series on “illegal engaging”. Specifically, it is a no impact/no penalty rule in the Illegal Procedures section that defines legal contact with an opponent after the fourth whistle of the first set of jam call-off whistles.

Once a jam has officially ended, players are not to engage in contact or block each other. The reality is that opposing players do routinely make contact after the jam ends, usually accidentally but sometimes purposely. So long as the contact does not do more than force the opponent slightly off-balance, forward, or sideways, then no penalty is warranted.

Tomorrow: the penalty-level version of this rule along with a final explanation about how all four illegal engaging rules interact with each other. It’s what you’ve been waiting for.

Monday, August 4, 2014

5.13.26 A skater initiating contact or engaging an opponent before the jam-starting whistle that forces the receiving opponent out of their established starting position. This includes forcing an opponent down or out of bounds.

Today’s rule continues our series on “illegal engaging”, a type of illegal procedure involving contact between opposing players not during a jam. More specifically, today’s rule is the penalty-level version of the topic we brought up yesterday -- contact prior to a jam-start whistle.

When a player lines up for a jam, they establish a starting position on the track. That position is either up or down, and a legal or illegal starting position (as defined by section 3.2). Under today’s rule, contact prior to the jam-starting whistle is illegal if causes an opponent to lose their established starting position by knocking them down or altering their position from legal to illegal. Additionally, a Q&A makes it clear that it is a penalty for the initiator of pre-jam contact to gain an advantage from their action.

The Q&A has five examples on the subject, two of which are legal contact which we covered yesterday. The other three warrant a penalty under today’s rule. Simplifying a bit, these examples are:

1) Red Blocker makes contact with White Blocker causing White Blocker to stumble and put his/her toe on the jammer line. (Penalty for forcing White Blocker into an illegal starting position.)

2) Red Blocker jostles a White Blocker out of a wall and takes his/her starting position. (Penalty for usurping White Blocker’s established position.)

3) From behind the jammer line, Red Blocker makes contact with White Blocker and jostles him/her forward. Red Blocker then moves in front of the jammer line and takes White Blocker’s starting position. (Penalty for the gained advantage of moving from an illegal to legal starting position.)

It is also worth nothing in this rule says the offender must be a skater lining up for the next jam. The offender can easily be a player leaving the prior jam who makes contact with someone legally in place for the next jam.

Of course this is only one type of illegal engaging -- blocking prior to the jam-start whistle. There’s also another type of illegal engaging -- blocking after the fourth whistle. Both are equally in effect for the entire duration between jams (during timeouts, official reviews, etc.).


Sunday, August 3, 2014

5.13.6 A skater initiating contact or engaging an opponent before the jam-starting whistle that forces the receiving opponent off balance, forward, or sideways, but does not cause the opponent to lose the established starting position.

Today’s rule begins a four-day discussion about “illegal engaging”, an illegal procedure penalty for contact between opposing skaters when a jam is not underway. Today’s rule is a “no impact/no penalty” rule, meaning no penalty should be issued for the above action.

Before I begin, it’s important to understand when illegal engagement rules are in effect:

1. Between jams
2. During timeouts, official timeouts, and official reviews.
3. Before the start of the first jam of each half (5.13.6 and 5.13.26 only).
4. After the final jam of each half (5.13.7 and 5.13.27 only).

Under today’s rule it is a legal action if a player makes contact with an opponent before a jam-start whistle so long as the opponent does not lose their “established starting position”. That term is not defined in the rules, but a recent Q&A provides a definition -- a skater’s physical location on the track, their status as up or down, and their status as in or out of a “legal pre-jam position” (as defined by Section 3.2 - “Pre-Jam Positioning”).


The Q&A also provides two examples of legal contact prior to jam start. 1) It is legal if Red Blocker jostles two White Blockers apart to get in front of them and does not take their place in their wall. 2) It is legal if Red Blocker jostles White Blocker, who in turn stumbles and briefly steps behind the jammer line (ie; into an illegal pre-jam position) in the process of returning to their original position. The Q&A points out that it wasn’t the contact from Red Blocker that took White Blocker into an illegal pre-jam position, but rather White Blocker’s own effort to return to her original position.

Illegal engaging rules apply for actions by and against jammers as well, with the caveat that they have a different legal pre-jam position.

So basically, contact between opposing players before the jam-start whistle is allowed so long as it does not cause the opponent to lose their established starting position… sorta. Tomorrow we’ll cover the flip side of this rule by defining the level of “illegal engaging” that merits a penalty. There’s also another major restriction on contact outside of a jam which we’ll discuss on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

8.3.5 If the referee is not sure whether an action warrants an expulsion, an expulsion will not be assessed.

Today’s rule concludes the discussion of “Referee Discretion” under Rule 8, “Officials”

Today’s rule is the last rule of this section and follows the same theme as previous posts about referee discretion. In this case, the decision to be made is whether or not a skater is to be expelled for an action.

If an official is not sure that the action observed meets the standards for expelling a skater, as outlined in the rules (In most cases the action needs to be reckless, negligent, or intentional), then the skater cannot be expelled.

Expulsion is a very serious matter, and referees should make sure they have as much information as possible before recommending to the head referee that a skater should be expelled. Remember that only the head referee may expel a skater, coach, or manager ( If after all the information is presented, the referee’s are not sure the action was worthy of an expulsion, the skater will not be expelled.

This does not mean a penalty is not issued, it means the action did not reach the level of assessing an expulsion.

Friday, August 1, 2014

8.3.4 If the referee is not sure whether an action warrants a penalty, a penalty will not be assessed.

Today’s rule continues the theme of “If you didn’t see it, you can’t call it”.

Officials need to be in the habit of looking for the beginning, middle, and end of an action in order to judge if the action was 1) Illegal and 2) had impact. If you aren’t sure if the action was illegal, or if you aren’t sure that the impact met the standard for a penalty, then no penalty should be assessed.

Sometimes as officials, we are so focused on keeping the game “safe”, that when an official sees something that looks bad, but illegal contact cannot be determined, a penalty is called in the idea that it is keeping the game safe. This is flawed officiating. While we are charged with keeping the game safe, Derby is a high impact, full contact game. There are going to be violent, legal hits. As officials we need to be sure that the contact is illegal and be able to communicate exactly how the contact was illegal in the context of the rules.

So while today's rule is fairly straight forward. It is also very critical to remember.