March 21, 2014

Does No One Here Care About the Rules?!

Another spring; another rule set.  What's a girl to do?  Alas, it's the sport we play.  The rules seem to change like the weather in March, and if you want to enjoy the sport you love and not spend the entire time in the box, then you have to hit the books! Luckily, I've become somewhat familiar with the new rules using my large brain and will gladly give you a run-down of how these new rules affect you.  So come, join me, we'll walk through the glorious meadow of new rules together.

Now I have to hand it to WFTDA, this new rule set ain't half bad. Some really great changes have been made that really tickle my fancy. First: 30 SECOND GORRAM PENALTIES. 30 seconds! Bask in the delight, people, Christmas just came early.
The Good: Power jams won't be so brutal. With only 30-35 seconds to score points, a jammer will only be able to make around 3-4 passes if they slice through the pack like buttah, which will only result in around 15-20 points; maybe even less than that depending on how great your wall is. This is a game changer. It will definitely make bouts a little more evenly keeled and better represent the distinguishing qualities between teams.
The Bad: When 30 second penalties were announced, there were praises of joy throughout the land! People danced in the streets! Maidens were kissed by strangers! As great as it is to spend less time in the box, skaters failed to realize right away that they'll fail out way faster, and if your jammer isn't disciplined, she can fail out before the first half ends (and then you're out one of your jammers for the entire second half). This means that your team has to be incredibly disciplined and play clean. I think it's even more important to stay out of the box now than it ever was before, and whoever can stay out of the box will take home the win.
Synopsis: You guessed it! It's the same as it's always been. Stay out of the box.

Yielding: Thank GOODNESS this rule got changed. This was by far the most asinine rule of all time. Having to go back a full lap for having a sliver of a wheel behind the line was lame, and frankly a bit dangerous. Now a player can yield (give enough time for the opposing team to gain position) and then re-enter the engagement zone.
The Good: It makes more sense. Being able to yield instead of going back behind the entire pack while staying in bounds is a lot safer. The old rule set caused a lot of necessary run-ins and collisions.
The Bad: Sometimes an opposing skater isn't paying attention to how close she is to the line, and you can draw that penalty.  Now, you can't. She'll just have to wait a few seconds and rejoin the pack.
Synopsis: I like this rule!

Cutting the Track: How many times have you tried to go back to prevent a cut and one little sliver of wheel has thwarted you?! No longer! We are free from the chains of cutting when our true intention was to yield! Well, not totally, you still have to make sure that both wheels don't go back on the track, but this rule is the best rule ever (in my opinion).
The Good: The reason why I like this rule change is because it tried to take into account intent. I intended to yield, and because my intentions were pure, I don't get punished for making a stupid mistake. Now, this rule doesn't actually measure intent per se, but it does give you a break when you're obviously just trying to get to the back of the pack and you're skates just aren't agreeing with you.
The Bad: It's going to be a little harder to draw that track cut penalty now, which can really help a team out. With that, if you manage to draw the track cut penalty, it's a 30 second power jam. Going along with what I said earlier, this will mean less power jams in general and more evenly scored bouts when teams are mostly of the same caliber. Essentially, there will be less bouts where the team has a "bad day" and the score is a blow-out. It's also a lot harder for refs to watch for this, so mistakes will be made, and it might get a little heated because of it.
Synopsis: Hey, don't cut still.

Well that's all I'm going over today, folks.  I know not all of the rules were addressed, but make sure to read them over yourself at Knowledge is power! And knowing the rules will give you an upper hand in any bout. See you on the track!


The Original Skankster

March 14, 2014

Non Skating Officials - Heart and Soul in Roller Derby

For many years I had been interested in roller derby, despite having never attended a bout. It wasn’t until I met two co-workers, Unchained Malady and Mollytov Maguire, who spoke so enthusiastically about their league, FoCo Girls Gone Derby that I finally decided to go to their 2013 Season Opener home team bout. I was sold.

After attending a New Recruit Informational Meeting shortly thereafter my derby dreams began to blossom. I was GOING to be a skater and I was GOING to skate in my first bout before the end of the year. I admired and idolized other skaters in my league, listened to their advice and pushed myself to become a better athlete. However, my body had other plans...

Towards the end of my 5th practice as a new recruit I sustained a patellar dislocation to my knee, a common injury amongst female athletes and the 9th I had experienced the same injury. Discouraged, I began the long road back to skating. For those considering skating themselves, I have since found training tips and gear to help prevent knee injuries like this.

Once seeded the love of derby can only continue to grow. Before I even began skating as a new recruit, I was invited by the league to attend scrimmages and learn the rules of Women’s Flat Track Derby as an NSO (thanks to my derby wife, ZZ Stardust.) Team Flamingo (nickname inspired by the pink official’s shirts) became my home as I worked to get back on skates.

For the Non-Derby readers, NSO stands for Non-Skating Official. NSO's are volunteers, sometimes injured skaters like me, who LOVE the game of roller derby and want to be involved. We do a variety of jobs during a bout, including penalty tracking, inside/outside whiteboard, scorekeeper, lineup tracker, penalty box timing, Jam timer, and collecting/submitting bout stats as Head NSO.

 It may not sound as glorious as being a skater, but it’s also a lot less work. It can also make for an awkward vibe when players with your league try to talk to you in the penalty box and you have to ignore them. Or maintaining neutrality by not cheering for your friends or gasping at a hard hit. Oh, also there is 100% less dancing...

But for a Bout to be a Bout, we NEED NSOs. Imagine the chaos were there no one to keep score and determine the victor? Or make sure that players serve their penalties for unsafe play? Or keep time to determine the end of a jam? Collectively, NSOs make roller derby happen!

Luckily for me, if there ever was a perfect league to learn NSOing positions, FoCo Girls Gone Derby is the place. FCGGD boasts four dedicated WFTDA Level 2 Certified NSOs: Bladeybug, JewJew Bee, Shake n Break &Whistle Blower (also a skating official.) All of which are happy to teach, share WFTDA knowledge and advice.

The more time I spent learning various NSO positions, saturating myself in numbers and statistics, the shape of my derby dreams shifted. The aspiration to join the Micro Bruisers travel A team was replaced with the desire to travel MORE by officiating tournaments, and someday gain the knowledge and experience to officiate a championship tournament. I’m already looking forward to NSOing at Slaughterhouse Derby GirlsMayday Mayhem tournament, and hope to go to Casper, Wyoming for the Wyoming Roller Derby Cup. These opportunities allow NSOs to develop their skills and meet officials and skater from all over the country.

Mind you, not every NSO gets certified or seeks to travel, just as bout after parties aren’t for everyone in the league. Many NSOs love the league and devote what time they can to volunteer wherever they're needed. It’s an easy sport and community to love. Everyone’s experience with roller derby is different and there’s a spot for all.

This month I’ll be celebrating my one year derby anniversary. Looking back, it wasn’t the year I thought I’d have, but I wouldn’t trade my experiences for anything. I look forward to what the future holds, and should my knee hold up I plan to get back on skates for Team Zebra as a skating official. Yay, roller derby!

Derby Love,
Danger A-Gogo

P.S. Hello reader, thanks for stickin’ with me so far. Perhaps you’re interested in officiating yourself, either an NSO or skating referee? Well we’d LOVE to have you! Email us at

March 6, 2014

The Showdown

The first week in March is designated each year for the Wild West Showdown, a round-robin style tournament that features a ton of hungry leagues looking to rise in rankings, and "showdown" is the perfect word to describe it.  We all show up, angry that the TSA confiscated our skate tools, wet (because in Bremerton, WA apparently 'sun' is an abstract concept), and freaking out because someone forgot something essential like a WFTDA patch or their uniform.  Somehow, someway, we all manage to make it to a very large steel building that smells like hot dogs and derby pads and we get ready to bout like we've never bouted before.

Now the WWS has always been bittersweet for Foco; it giveth and it taketh away.  We always manage to win a sweet one, lose one that we totally should have won, and lose one by not as much as we were predicted to lose by which good for rankings but feels just yucky.  We started out our three-bout in three days schedule by watching Coach's favorite movie of all time that he quotes on the daily, Remember The Titans (and then we were super grateful that coach doesn't make us do up-downs in 90 degree weather).  Our first bout was against the Slaughterhouse Derby Girls, our local rival that we have a standing competitive score with.  Don't ask me why we traveled 700 miles to play a team that lives 40 minutes away, but the Wild West Showdown gods had decided that this was where we would make our stand against Slaughterhouse.  It was neck and neck for a while, until a few power jams got the best of us, and by halftime we were 75 (Foco) and 109 (SDG).  We weren't far behind, but we knew we had to take back the bout.  This was our win and we knew it.  We had been busting our little behinds for months; doing cross-training, running new strategy, and practicing worst-case scenarios so we could take home that sweet NoCo Trophy.  With hard work and some great strategy implementation we took that bout with 205 points with SDG at 161.  It felt awesome.  Both teams played with amazing talent, and heart, and SDG remains one of our most favorite teams to play. And because we won, coach had to wear Hammer Pants!

Our second bout was against Sicktown, a tough team that Flat Track Stats gave us an 11% chance of winning.  We knew we would have to fight hard, but we trusted in ourselves and in our teammates.  At half-time we were far behind.  They're pack was very good at recycling to keep our jammers at bay, and they did a very good job at thwarting our offense.  The referees were trying their best, bur unfortunately their calls made no sense, and it's really hard to fix penalties when you don't understand why you're getting them.  Coach brought us to a corner and gave us a pep-talk!  We talked about what we needed to change and how we needed to play in order to win.  In the second half, we really played some great derby.  Our packs were tight, our hits were well-timed and hard, and we were putting points up on the board.  We lost the bout, but only by 18 points.  It was a devastating loss because we felt like we should have won, and that we lost the the referees.  Sicktown was definitely a formidable opponent and hopefully we can get a rematch in the future.

Our last bout was with Port Scandalous, which we had a 1% chance of winning against.  Spoiler alert!  We didn't win.  As a team, we felt like we played incredibly for the first 45 minutes of the bout, but we felt like we fell apart in the last 15 minutes.  At our team meeting afterwards the conversation turned from the bout we had just played to how we've grown as a team.  Last year we felt like a team of individuals and this year we feel more like an actual team that supports and encourages each other.  This meeting, after the loss, was actually my favorite part of the whole trip.  We realized how much we all appreciate each other.  We admitted secrets, insecurities, and had some great laughs.  Altogether, I would say that Wild West was a success, with the exception that half of us got the derby flu on the way home and now we're all sick in bed.  Alas, the things we suffer through for this sport.


The Original Skankster