Sunday, May 17, 2015

An Easy Fix for a Huge Derby Problem

Skaters don't want to admit it (half the time all these new skaters don't even know there was another way), but the current style of play sucks to watch.  Fucking sucks.  Deal with it.  Attendance around the country has been reflecting how poorly received this newer style of derby has been received and yet nothing has been done to fix it.  And I don't give a single fuck about what's been "discussed" in committee derby.  Fact is nothing has changed in years and that's a bad thing in this case.  If WFTDA doesn't care about fans, that's fine I suppose, but at some point, one can only fall so far back down the mountain before they are back where they started at ground level.

This type of derby removes  a tremendous amount of skill and excludes smaller, faster players more often than not.  Every year sees more and more of the skill players retiring and moving on to something else rather than play this boring, toilsome style of play.  Now I'll step off that soapbox because I assume you know that I think this style of play can eat a bag of dicks.

Here's the fix.  It's all pre-jam positioning.  90% of skaters can't make even a two-wall off the start unless they get to line-up next to each other.  So change this and the game changes significantly and for the better.  One whistle start has always made sense so that stays.  But assign starting positions to each team as crudely drawn below:

WP is White Pivot, BP is Black Pivot, W1 White Blocker #1, B1 Black Blocker #2, etc.  By forcing packs to line up like this, you will remove all of the stupidity that occurs on the 1st whistle. It's gone guaranteed.  It'll require smart and agile skaters to put together a wall of even two people in this set-up.  This will also reward the average jammer by allowing them to have some speed upon pack entry and that is more likely to bring fans back and for leagues to retain skaters.

Additionally, I think a blocker that starts in the box is considered #3 for positioning purposes.  Two blockers in the box means that team has no one starting in positions #2 or #3.

To summarize, same one-whistle start.  Add set jam start positioning for every blocker.  Pretty much done.  Game will be faster, have a lot more skill, and the strategy will be far more interesting when two relatively equal teams match up with each other.  And it will be more fun again; so, you may even get some casual fans back.


  1. You need to watch the seminar I presented at RollerCon 2013, on roller derby history and game theory. The reason why your idea makes so much sense is because "the fair and equal jam start" is a concept that has existed in every single form of roller derby—past, present, real, fake—since the inception of the game 80 years ago. Except for WFTDA, of course.

    Here's the section on jam starts, which I did at the end. But you'll want to watch the whole thing.

    1. Honestly, I've had this opinion for years now back when rule changes were last being discussed. The 4 wall "scrum" starts right on top of the jam line was and is stupid. I'm tired of hearing how it takes skill to play that way. It really doesn't. It's how can I best multi-player block a jammer with my 3 other teammates while ignoring the fans leaving it. People don't want to watch that shit just like people didn't want to watch passive offense (ie sorry-assed Gotham derby). Skaters think it's not a piece of shit because when they skate in it, it doesn't feel like a piece of shit. But yeah, it's a piece of shit.

      But I'm not all that popular with the WFTDA ilk; so, my ideas were always considered the fringe. But at the end of the day, I didn't fuck up the small amount of fans derby had; derby did that on their own.

  2. I also fully believe the change in tactics was an intentional mechanism to push out the highly skilled, well-trained speed skaters that were attracted to the sport. The vast majority of derby didn't have the background of the high-level speed skaters and were mostly self-taught. When you have the likes of Oly and the sisters with Rocky taking out Gotham in consecutive years, rule manipulation had to be used to "level the playing field" as it were. By finding ways to use rules to negate skill, derby lost its way apparently for good. It is and was a travesty.