Thursday, June 30, 2011

By the position - An Intro

Every team will have different names and numbers they use when teaching their players the positions in roller derby.

For simplification, I'm just going to use numbers and a general description to the duties of each position. This is not to say how you should run your team and teach people but I'll give us an opportunity to establish shared terms for future By the Position blogs.

At the most teams can field five different players on the track. Some teams make their pivot the No. 1 position, while others make the jammer the No. 1, pivot as No. 2. I'm going to number the positions based on proximity to the pivot line and work my way back. Thus, the player closest to the pivot line will be the No. 1 position.

1 - This player is the last line of defense for your team, and as such she (or he) should maintain a space at the front of pack, or as near to it as possible. The 1 should also hold to the inside of the track as much as possible, to prevent the jammer from taking the A-line gap (the area of the track as close to the inside turn as possible). 

Typically, the Pivot plays in the 1 position, but this is not mandatory. Pivots generally play that position because of their right to establish position on the pivot line before the pack whistle. Any one of your four blockers can be pivot regardless of which numerical position they play.
The No. 1 player probably should prepare to jam if and when necessary if she is the pivot, as the pivot can receive the star pass.

2 - The No. 2 player works directly with the No. 1 player. She may skate directly next to or behind the No. 1 position. The No. 2 serves as the No. 1's right-hand side and eyes, helping her cover twice the track surface without losing the integrity of her A-line defensive position. The No. 2 might also be called upon to assist her team's jammer.

The No. 2 will also work and communicate with her No. 3, but only leaving her position if the No. 1 has firm control of the front-inside.

We sometimes refer the No. 2 as the sacrifice, because the No. 1 will sometimes "throw" or forcifully push the No. 2 into a position to take out the jammer. We certainly have mediocre players at the No. 1 or 2 position, but their willingness to be a sacrifice makes them an asset for a cagey No. 1 player.

Putting newer places in the front two positions can be beneficial, as the duties are relatively simple, but I definitely recommend pairing them with a veteran player in the complementary position, i.e. Veteran No.1, newbie No. 2; or Newbie No.1 with veteran No. 2). This can be the quickest way for a newbie player to learn each position.

3 - Our No. 3s work heavily with the No. 2 and No. 4. 3s look for walls and formations being formed and try to break them up as much as possible. Sometimes the 3s jump up with the 1-2 combination to make a 3-wall in the front. 3s can also help with the offense, by making sure their jammer doesn't get stuck in the pack. She can do this by leading the jammer through a wall by breaking it up and the jammer following through.

It's very important to have a smart and experienced player in the 3 position, as her duties can change depending on whether her team is on offense, defense or both jammers happen to be in the pack. Your 3s should be moderately fast to really quick, agile and be trusted to make decisions on the fly -- All while communicating with the 2 and the 4. With that in mind, the 3 position can be stressful and intimidating for an inexperienced player.

4 - Just as the 1 position is the last line of defense, your 4s are the first line of defense. A good 4 can be the difference between getting your jammer into the pack, keeping their jammer out of the pack and wrecking general havoc in the back of the pack.

The No. 4 position works with the No. 3 in general and also the No. 1 position. Because of the given distance between the 1 and 4 positions, this can be difficult, but incredibly important as they generally control how tight or loose the pack is.

I generally recommend that our No. 4s generally have a lot experience jamming as both require speed, agility and the ability to hit/receive hits.

5 - Possibly the most recognized position on the floor. Jammers serve as the point scorers and primarily serve a wholly offense purpose. While footwork, agility and speed are important, jammers must have a vision for the track to be able to see the holes in the defense -- and have eyes in the back of her head. 

The jammer can also play defense, holding back the other jammer, or jumping into the pack and becoming a fifth blocker (or additional blocker if the pack is short).

Our lines operate under the assumption that the positions need to be filled from the No. 1 spot back since the No. 1 and 2 positions are important defensive positioning. Thusly if a player falls out of her position due to a hit or penalty, the players behind her move up and fill that role. 

When the vacated player returns to the pack, she will fill the open position left by a relieving player first. If the No. 2 position is sent to the box, the No. 3 position moves into the 2 slot, the No. 4 moves into the 3 slot -- Leaving the No. 4 spot open (unless the jammer decides to fill the defensive position). With the original No. 2 player returns to the pack, she'll first assume the duties of the No. 4, eventually moving forward relieving each position as she comes to it and assuming the duties assigned to that skater, until she reaches her original No. 2 position.

Your team may ask that you do the opposite -- that the rear positions are more important -- at which point you should oblige them. Each team will have a different protocol in certain situations, but it is each player's responsibility to know the positions and what is to be asked of them during game play.

You can see why it's important for everyone to play each position, because during a jam or game, anything can and will happen.

I encourage most of our veteran pivots to learn all five positions as much as possible, because at any given moment she may have to fill in a weak or vacated position. This could mean falling back to fill in as a No. 3 or No. 4, or in the event of a star pass, becoming the jammer.