The Women's Flat Track Derby Association in April announced the league would be testing a new beta rule set in which minors were eliminated from the game.
As both a coach and referee, I wanted to reserve judgment until I had an opportunity to watch a test bout. Thank god for DVDs.
I just got my package of East Coast Extravaganza 2011 DVDs from Blaze Streaming Media
I finished watching the WCR-MTL bout last night, which was under the standard rule set.
Upon starting the WCR-Charm bout, I realized it was under the Beta Test rules with no minors and it's definitely interesting.
The obvious impact is minor elbows, back blocks, etc., that have low impact to gameplay aren't called.
This gives jammers a lot more freedom to skate without worrying about picking up her fourth minor. The jammer rotations remain set, unless a short rotation needs a rest.
The second major impact is what constitutes a cutting penalty.
Under the standard rule set if a skater passes two or more skaters, or the fore-most blocker, (regardless of color) the offending player will be assessed a major penalty and directed to the box.
Only cutting one player, regardless of team, will earn a skater a minor penalty.
Under the No Minors Beta Test, a player may pass one friendly player while skating out of bounds without being assessed a penalty. However passing two players of any color, or one player of the opposing team, will result in a major penalty.
In the WCR-Charm bout, jammers are constantly forced to recycle to the back of the pack, to keep from taking a major penalty.
As a coach, it would be nice to not have to worry about minor penalties. I'm usually the point person for checking minors and deciding whether to draw an intentional fourth minor or bench a player because of minors.
From a ref's perspective, not having the extra whiteboard and personnel in the center would free up lots of space in the middle. Also WFTDA rules are generally designed to promote the safety of the sport. Misconduct, Blocking to the Head and Direction of Gameplay are all rules designed to keep skaters safe.
If WFTDA was to remove minors from the rules then it would allow the higher-level teams would be allowed to play without worrying about picking up penalties that minimally affect gameplay.
I do think the minors help keep lower-level players safe, holding skaters to a high accountability for things that could escalate into grosser penalties.
The Beta Test isn't necessarily a guarantee WFTDA will remove minors from the rule set. Instead, these games give the organization a greater awareness of the play level and impact certain rules and sub-rules have on the game.
They could as easily Beta Test a clockwise-skating rules set.