I think there is a good reason….

It seems that the rapid worldwide growth of Roller Derby has really slowed down…….probably not more than 10 new leagues in November.

That may be a good thing.

Everyone has been excited about the rapid growth, the new skaters and all of the benefits.  But I think we are all aware that there is a lot of work to do on the underpinnings of the game…..Obviously, I am speaking generally, because no one voice can address 1100 plus leagues.

Image from stockxchng.com by rore_d.

The following is what I (the uber fan) see as what is needed for cleaning up:

1.  WFTDA had done a good job of setting up rules and conditions for safety, but not everyone skates WFTDA.  It has become obvious that there are a number of skaters who would prefer to skate OSDA, MADE, Renegades and other forms of the game.  I was amazed to find out that MADE is now in 40 leagues and is not only skating their version of the original rules, but also has co-ed skating (optional).  This is a good time for all to look at their game and see what can be done to make it easier on the officials and skaters, and certainly more easily watched by the spectators.

Spectator growth is essential to the prosperity of all leagues; not only ticket sales, but merchandise, concessions, sponsorships (the more fans and awareness of the league, the more dollars) etc.

2.  All leagues are anxious to get teams going as fast as possible.  This is a very dangerous practice.  If you have people skating who are not proficient, they not only will get hurt but will also hurt others.  And it is important to figure how to get teams to play others of equal ability.  There must be a way to take or change rankings so that not every match becomes necessary to beat up on a less powerful team.  As I have stated before, it would be a good thing if leagues not affiliated with each other were allowed to play.  Right now each game has no standing in importance to the fan (LA versus San Francisco, Denver vs Denver) and normal rivalries with more than one game against each other would be great.  Skaters who are paying to skate would be able to get more games for their money.

3.  National PR sucks.  That is so clearly shown when no major US media or newspaper to date has focused on the World Cup.  I would like to see each month some topic that is included in every league’s press release that doesn’t pertain to who scored how many points in the game, etc.  For example, The World Cup, Derby for Change (against domestic violence), Suzy Hotrod in ESPN magazine.  You can make your market and league bigger by bringing in the outside world.

4.  Presentation.  I have covered this before.  It is so important that your rink, Arena, or Hall be an exciting place when the fans arrive.  Banners, music, people greeting them……a specified autograph time…..and most important, give your track area a feeling of an arena….extra light, good sound, (can you dim the other lights when game starts?), etc.  And the announcers must make the fans feel they are part of it, explain the game, tout the great plays and skaters.

5.  oh yes, get rid of slow play and no play, minor penalties, have jammers on every jam, shorten jams, eliminate power jams.

I am sure you agree with all of the above.

Even if you don’t, please concentrate on getting your league’s act together….Let growth be slower and much more consistent.

Derby Love……..The Commissioner.

15 comments on “I think there is a good reason….

  1. As a derby referee I agree with most everything in this article except for a few things. First of all, there are jammers in every jam. In WFTDA at least, you can’t have have a jammerless jam. Also, shorten the jams? Are you serious? That’s the responsibility of the lead jammer. If there is no lead jammer then it’s 2 minutes of scoring and that is what I as a fan of roller derby want to see. Also, eliminate power jams? How would you propose to do that? The only way to do that is to not penalize jammers and that would just lead to an open invitation for jammers to commit penalties. Have you thought any of these things through? I’m thinking you haven’t.

    • thanks Kid rock…..shorten the jam time to 60 seconds and that will pretty much eliminate the endless circling of the jammer to pass and repass blockers who are virtually standing still. Any jammer who is penalized during a jam and sent to the box would remain there until the jam time is done…..but no subsequent jams should start without a jammer.

      I think the USARS rules may solve some problems, but OSDA and MADE have no minors and don’t really have the 50 point jams.

      • Neither MADE, OSDA or USARS has 60 second jams for flat track derby (MADE and OSDA skate 90 second jams). Thing to know: BGGW tried 60 second jams when they were skating flat track, they went with two minutes instead because none of their jammers could score any points in a minute. While skating has come a long way since then, that’s the level of skill/fitness that is likely prevalent in many leagues that are newer to the sport.

        WORD and some also-rans in banked track derby use 60 second jams because it works at those speeds.

        Perhaps you should pressure MADE and OSDA to shorten their flat track jams to 60 seconds. Or use your influence with USARS to do the same there?

        Honestly, I see the idea as half-baked. 90 seconds works well enough with WFTDA rules, there’s one league in Australia that’s been doing it successfully in their intraleague games for several years.

      I agree with Jerry. I feel that each team should have a point scorer on the track at all times. This will make the games closer and more exciting to attract media coverage. OSDA has rules that change the point scorer to the pivot during penalties. My proposal on jammer penalties is different though. I feel that jammer penalties (as well as other penalties) should not be called until the end of the jam such as what is done in banked track. This will reduce the on-track confusion of when someone is actually being whistled off as well as it gives a chance for the penalties to be announced during stop in play so the fans can understand exactly why their favorite skater is being taken out. If a jammer gets penalized, the skater and not the position should be penalized. In the next jam, the team will skate short and the jammer who was penalized would sit in the box as a blocker.

      For flat track, I feel that 2 minutes is too long for a jam. I am concerned that 1 minute is not enough. I speak from experience covering the Arizona Derby Dames, a league that was once flat track and is now banked. When they were flat track, they played 90 second jams and it was just enough. In a game where a “no lead jammer” situation is possible, the two minute jam just draws things out and burns the clock.

    • Eliminating power jams is simply a matter of making the pivot matter – a situation that existed for the first 75 years or so and exists in every other flat track rule set except WFTDA.

      By having two skaters on each team that could become an active jammer, teams are forced to play both offense and defense at th same time.

      The game becomes one of not running up the score when you got a power jam and the other team has most of its skaters in the box, but one of trying to battle for a handfull of points each and every jam – calling the jam off when an advantage is gained.

      I think fans would like to see two minutes of scoring when it’s two jammers battling for points the whole time. If you think the maority of fans like to see one skater do uncontested laps around a non-moving pacck for two minutes, then you really oughta’ stop drinking the cool aide…

  2. “As I have stated before, it would be a good thing if leagues not affiliated with each other were allowed to play. ”

    Jerry, they are allowed to play anyone they wish. I recall reminding you of that every time you’ve trotted out that one. One hopes you’re not intentionally trying to mislead folks with it. Should I send you a tinfoil helmet the next time?

    As recently as two weeks ago, L.A. Derby Dolls played Gotham Girls, Rocky Mountain Rollergirls, and Windy City Rollers on a banked track. Two or three months back, a WFTDA home team played against a MADE league’s travel team. My WFTDA league’s B team plays against USARS leagues all of the time, our travel team played a few of them during a tournament, and both of our teams have played against CWRDA leagues.

    Governing bodies really have no way to prevent teams from playing whomever they want. Put simply, the leagues wouldn’t put up with it. And generally the governing bodies don’t have the time or energy to micromanage who their teams are playing when they aren’t playing one another.

    Teams play whomever they want to play, they don’t play teams they don’t want to play. Even the $100 “aggressive sanction” fee USARS forced WFTDA-insured leagues to pay to host their member teams isn’t intended to stop those games from happening. It’s because their insurance provider only allows them to cover their skaters at events they sanction. And probably it helps them maintain their memberships at the same time?

    Games against folks with differing rule sets and surfaces do happen. When they aren’t happening, it’s likely because playing someone who plays your way tends to work out easier? WFTDA at least exists because it was a giant pain in the ass playing interleague games when the 30 different leagues back then had 30 different rule sets, and referees who’d call agreed-upon compromise rules the way they were accustomed to doing it.

    • thanks for the clarification, all-wise Poobah. Now why don’t you leagues work on getting interest built in your area by having the games mean something by playing teams nearby and keeping regional standings which would have more meaning for each game as far as the public is concerned….

      • There’s about four or five travel teams near our area that are close enough to where we’re at to make for a good game. We play ’em when we can, as they cost less to bring in and travel to. I’d imagine most leagues work it out the same way. There’s some in the area that aren’t at our travel team’s level yet. They play our B team.

        Leagues up at the upper strata like you’d see at tournaments tend to play teams from further away because that’s what they have to do to find good enough opponents. To do otherwise would get ’em a bunch of those blowouts you don’t like, that wouldn’t keep their skills and strategic grasp sharp.

        Most states have 10-20 leagues, all at WIDELY different levels of skill. Our travel team against Gotham Girls’ travel team would make for a rather ugly game. We’ve played a close game against their B team at a tournament this year. Long Island and maybe Suburbia? Sure.

        We generally stick with playing teams that are driving distance, eight hours or less, give or take. Neighboring states (and Ontario), with an occasional trip to further-off places like Maryland or Maine.

        Sometimes the reason for not playing a particular opponent is that some folks just aren’t fun or easy to work with.

      • As for standings or a “regional league,” that’s tricky. Every league has a different season length, dependent on their skaters’ wants and venue availability. No easy way to change that stuff. We don’t hold home games during Summer now because the plethora of festivals in the area make those games money-losers. Our Canuck friends usually can’t play during the winter months. We split our season into two halves, for home teams and travel teams, other leagues in the area do it differently according to their own size and needs.

        A number of leagues in Arizona have something going on like you’re talking about. The two WFTDA leagues’ home teams play one another as well as some unaffiliated/USARS type leagues’ travel teams. The older teams tend to beat the newer ones by big margins, but I suppose there’s some learning happening. And I do recall there being one upset along those lines last year.

        For more info on the Arizona State Roller Derby Conference, check their fan page on Facebook:

  3. MADE also lets its Pivots go if a Jammer gets penalized, as long as that team has not scored a point. There are tons of fundamental rules in MADE that stop power jams, keeps the game moving, keeps the scored low and close (last night I reffed a 10-team mix mash invitational that was 1 point the whole time, then ended 27-35). WFTDA has made it too easy to score points (not talking about defense, that they have down, but the way some of the rules have altered their game…ie breaking first to be able to call of a jam).

    You can read about MADE at http://www.viciouscirclemag.com

    All I can say is we’ve been using our ruleset for many years now, and the rules have not really changed in all that time. Not having to rewrite your rules every other month allows us to do more..rank every skater, etc. Everyone feels light and content over here.

    Thanks for the shout out Jerry!

  4. About the 60 sec jams… The 60 seconds starts once the jammed breaks through pack not at the first whistle. This gives them plenty of time to score ( mostly intended for the banked track).

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