Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Denver jammers fly high to edge Charm City, 268-141

Denver’s Mile High Roller Dolls and Charm City (Baltimore) Roller Girls kicked off the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association’s Championship Tournament on Friday, Nov. 2, 2012, with the first bout of the weekend. 

Denver posted a 9-3 season heading into the tournament with a loss to Oly in the Western Region Playoff to earn the second seed. Charm’s 8-4 record included losses to East Region rivals Montreal, Philly and 2011 champions, Gotham, and edged London Rollergirls by 24 points to earn the third seed from the East.

Denver jammers Heather Juska (303) and Sandrine Rangeon (24) sprinted to a 24-0 lead after Charm City’s IM Pain (1618) was boxed for a Cut Major, and the Mile High team capitalized by earning lead, gaining points and calling the jam, keeping Pain in the penalty box through the third jam.

The penalty luck looked to swing in Charm’s favor after Julie Adams (19) would be penalized for a Cut Major, as Crowella Devil (101) managed to pick up 14 points before being boxed for a Forearm Major, thanks to Denver’s front three-wall of Suzie Long (831), Ariel Quicley (1982), and Krisana Barrett (28) working hard to counter Charm’s passive offense, to Adams’s 9 points..

Charm’s front wall contained Denver’s Rangeon to 2 points in the 5th jam, utilizing what was called a Ladder, a front-wall that bridged every 9 or 10 feet to allow the blockers to continue blocking the opposing jammer.

Charm and Denver traded 4-point jams, before Charm called a Team Time Out at 21:21, the score 39-18 in favor of Denver.

Adams would earn Lead Jammer quickly in Jam 8, but was boxed on a Cut Major 30 seconds into the jam, while Pain picked up 25 points before Adams would be released from the penalty box, and earned an additional 9 points after Adams’ release, for a 34-8 point swing in Charm’s favor.

An Official Time Out stops the clock at 18:50 in the first half, the score now favoring Charm 47-52 on the back of Pain’s monster jam.

Jam Eight began with Denver players Quicley and Deirdre Sage (5) and Charm players Battery Operated (2AA) and Free Radical (8) in the box, for a two-on-two pack. Charm took the back two-wall defending against Rangeon, as DeVil snuck through to the front to push the No Pack call. DeVil was called for an Illegal Procedure minor at the start of the jam, which was later upgraded to a Major 14 seconds into the jam giving Denver the advantage. Denver’s Rangeon earned 4-5-5-5-5-4 jam before time was called to DeVil’s lone score pass of 4 points, putting Mile High back in the lead, 75-56.

Denver was on a mission to lock the game down before the half, earning Lead Jammer 14 times in 16 jams, with a distinct 78-11 point swing, simply by getting LJ, earning points and calling the jam off.

The scoring drought continued in the second half for Charm, held to 11 points in the first 15 minutes as Mile High stretched their lead to 224-84.

A determined Baltimore team refused to give up and managed to edge point swings in their favor thanks to Denver penalties. Pain scored 24 points in the jam 16 of the second half on a Rangeon penalty. In jam 18 Holden Grudges (63) scored 19 points after Adams was boxed for a Lowblock Major, notching the score at 229-130.

With less than six minutes to go, Charm’s Jam Ref, the Shoveler, makes an unpopular point reporting, awarding Allie B Back (T2) zero points, as the crowd lets him know how they feel with a chorus of boos.

Charm never put up much of a threat against Denver as time wound down, and the mental errors hurt Baltimore. Lining up in the 23rd jam of the second half, Charm’s Battery took an Intentional Fourth Minor, shortening the pack to dangerous proportions after her bench failed to field a blocker, leaving only two defenders against Mile High’s Adams.

With Denver holding a monsterous lead over the team in yellow, Shaina Serelson earned lead, picked up 4-5-5-5 and successfully called the jam after DeVil was boxed for a Cut Major, ending the bout 268-141. The Mile High win pitted Denver against the No. 1 seed from the North Central, Windy City, during the second round bouts on Saturday.

Bay Area sticks it to Teflon Donna, V-Diva; BAD ends Philly’s Championship run

Game Four of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association’s Champion Tournament on Friday paired up the Philly Liberty Belles, the Eastern Region’s No. 2 seed, against the No. 3 seed from the West, Bay Area Derby Girls. 

Bay Area brought a 8-3 2012 record into the tournament, including a 229-point win against Sacred City in a bout during the down time between the Western Region and Championship tournaments. Philly posted a 12-4 record previous to Friday. 

Philly would draw first blood in the second jam with a quick 4 points and a successful call off, however the BAD defense would close down Teflon Donna (85) for subsequent grand slams to swing the lead back in Bay Area’s favor, 10-4.

The Liberty Belles took a team Time Out at 24:12 left in the first half, after Chantilly Mace and Ivy Profane would snag back-to-back 4-point jams, pushing the score to 5-14.

Philly lined up Donna behind the jam line against Nock Nock (32), but BAD managed to get a quick Lead Jammer at 10 seconds into the jam. As Nock Nock spun around the track for a couple grand slams, Philly would swap some blockers in the box and transition straight into the Runaway Kitty, in which the team that isn’t lead gets to the front of the pack and begins skating as fast as they can, with 70 seconds to go in the jam. Nock Nock took her time to free a boxed blocker, as BAD was facing a 3-2 pack disadvantage. With an additional four points, Nock Nock extends the Bay Area lead to 5-18.

V-Diva (1818) got lead and earned the first points in about four jams.

Neither team made significant strides until BAD’s Lulu Lockjaw (21) would gain Lead and capitalize on Philly’s jammer Antidote (100) Cut Major penalty with 1:40 remaining in the jam. BAD transitions to Passive Offense, remaining stationary and allowing the jammer to push the opposition Out of Play, and Lulu would score four grand slams, to score 20 points and put the score at 23-56 in Bay Area’s favor.

In the 15th jam, V-Diva toe-stop side-shuffled through a scrum start to pick up the LJ in 10 seconds, and she would score 2 points by passing one Bay Area blocker and picking up the Ghost Point on a boxed BAD skater.

Bay scrummed in the start for the 16th Jam to capitalize on a three on three pack, and force penalties on Philly. Teflon Donna was forced to fight against a BAD’s pack of 505, 7, 1 and 828, holding the Belle’s jammer to an initial pass for 1:43 of the jam. Meanwhile Nock Nock swung the lead to 25-74.

Philly swung back when Nock Nock lost lead after getting boxed for a Back Block Major with 1:09 remaining in the jam. Donna escaped her first pass with less than a minute remaining, nab two grandslams and a pass for three points as time would expire on the Jam Clock and Nock Nock’s penalty minute, matched by Nock Nock’s grandslam earlier and the 3 points she had earned before heading to the penalty box.

The energized Belles put BAD on the defensive after earning LJ and points in back-to-back-to-back jams, cutting the distance to 59-91, and closing out the first half.

V-Diva took an Intentional Fourth Minor, as Donna and Mace wore the stars for their respective teams. Teflon Donna got out first but not clean, giving Mace the opportunity to earn LJ, which she did and she called it with a minute left in the penalty. While no points were called, the calloff actually kept V-Diva in the penalty box a little longer and forced Donna to jam again in the subsequent jam.

Both teams traded points back and forth for a few jams, until Philly called another Team Timeout at 24:50 after V-Diva and Mo Pain (8) managed to put 7 points on the board, cutting BAD’s lead to 29 points.

Fresh off the bench, V-Diva skated to an 8-0 jam with 23 minutes and change left. Pain earned lead and get 3 before successfully calling the jam to further cut the Philly deficit to 18 points.

With a bit more than 22 minutes left in the game, the refs boxed Nock Nock for a Back Block Major 0:25 into the jam, and V-Diva also be boxed for a Cut Major at the 0:28 mark as she began to exit the pack on her first pass. V-Diva would get to the box first, getting sprung as Nock Nock sits, but neither waited very long before jumping back into the pack. A Belles three-wall held back Nock Nock long enough for V-Diva to complete her initial pass and begin her scoring run. BAD managed a 9-4 point swing after the jam expires on time.

Lulu Lockjaw put up 8 points on the board, helping BAD pull away a bit, 84-115.

Philly’s Antidote (100) and Donna swung back with 4 point jams apiece, edging closer, 95-115.

BAD capitalized on a penalty on Philly jammer V-Diva, who was called out for a Cut Major and sitting with 1:31 remaining in the jam. Nock Nock picked up two grandslams before calling it with penalty time remaining for V-Diva and force the Belles jammer to start the next jam in the box. Mace would turn around and put 14 points on the board for Bay Area.

Time worked against Philly with over 10 minutes remaining in the game, as the Belles weren’t able to capitalize, only earning 17 points to BAD’s 19 points to skate to a 119-169 win for Bay Area. BAD advanced to the second round of the tournament for the first time, to play the South Central’s No. 1 seed Texas.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Kiss my grits - Championships

The last two years, I posted some warm-up blogs to preview the upcoming WFTDA Championship tournament, this year hosted in Atlanta, Georgia.

Out of time constraints, I'm not going to do that this year. My tickets are purchased and I'm gearing up for a major road trip south. On Monday I'm coordinating a stopping point in Nashville, Tennessee, where hopefully I stop on Thursday night to rest before making the rest of the trip on Friday.

Championship weekend is always different. The Region Tournaments always seem so packed with derby starting early in the morning and going until late. The final tournament's one-loss-and-done format shortens the bout days considerably.

Eight teams will play Friday to determine who advances on against the No. 1 seeds, who begin the tournament with a bye. Four games for Friday means that the event starts in the afternoon and should wrap up in time for everyone to grab a beer afterward.

Saturday, is arguably the busiest day as the No. 1 seeds finally see play during the tournament, and the lower seeds hope to sneak out a win against the dominant teams in WFTDA. After the first four games, we play two more to determine the placing in the tournament and decide which teams will play for 3rd place and which teams will play for 1st place.

Sunday, the shortest day of them all, we'll only see the medal games. And since they are in the mid-afternoon that allows everyone to tour the host city or recover from their hangovers from the night before. When the games finish up around 4:30 p.m., the medal ceremony will take place with plenty of time for people to celebrate afterward.

I'm likely to head back north once the final game is over. If I can put a ton of road behind me on Sunday, that means less time I have to spend traveling on Monday.

Here's how the brackets look in text format placed in chronological order.

Bracket 1 - 2 p.m. Denver versus Charm
Bracket 3 - 4 p.m. Minnesota versus Kansas
Bracket 4 - 6 p.m. Philly versus Bay Area
Bracket 2 - 8 p.m. Atlanta versus Naptown

Bracket 8 - 10 a.m. Texas versus Winner of Bracket 4
Bracket 7 - Noon Oly versus winner of Bracket 3
Bracket 5 - 2 p.m. Windy City versus winner of Bracket 1
Bracket 6 - 4 p.m. Gotham versus winner of Bracket 2
Bracket 9 - 6:30 p.m. Winners of Bracket 5 and Bracket 6
Bracket 10 - 8:30 p.m. Winners of Bracket 7 and Bracket 8
Bracket 11 - 1 p.m. Loser of Bracket 9 versus Loser of Bracket 10 for 3rd/4th place
Bracket 12 - 3 p.m. Winner of Bracket 9 versus Winner of Bracket 10

Friday, October 19, 2012

Derby journalism pool

I had a fantastic conversation with Dumptruck last night about derby journalism and the standard DIY attitude a lot of us have when it comes to giving our favorite sport (derby) the right coverage.

There are any number of bloggers, photographers, podcasters, announcers, Twitter accounts, video production, etc., types in derby, but we're all spread out.

The nature of our now-global sport is that the people who care most about it have a hard time ever coming together, unless it's RollerCon, World Cup or Championships (there are other examples, yes, but these are the top 3).

Dumptruck, of course, is world-renowned as an announcer for roller derby, and has participated in countless bouts (suck up points?). He also worked a lot with Megatron on the Derby Deeds Podcast. Beyond that, the man is incredibly knowledgeable about the sport and its recent history.

What would it take to build a talent pool of strong derby journalists using a Web-based hub to create a focal-point for derby coverage to come out of?

Essentially you could create a wealth of information as various people cover the sport from multiple angles, and it would eventually grow our product as we're providing amazing insight into a sport we care deeply about.

The Internet and social media already serves as a way for us to disseminate our writeups, photos, videos, etc., so it makes sense to create a group in which we able to share our craft. All intellectual rights and copyrights would stay with the creator, but it would give the writers an opportunity to include other voices in their blog, increasing the content, and building web hits. 

The photographers would have a place to share their work, and give the writers a launch point for story ideas. The podcasters would cover the game from a whole different angle, but give us the sound quality and bites that we so desperately crave.

The idea certainly has merit.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Poodle versus playing

I had a conversation with a visiting referee from Cajun Rollergirls on Wednesday, in which he recounted penalty wrangling for a Texas home team bout featuring a team of veterans.

In that bout, the team deliberately didn't poodle (intentionally picking up their fourth minor through an False Start Illegal Procedure). Instead the team would somehow play and pick up fourth minors through regular game play.

I marveled at such a feat, essentially playing the game at an extremely high level and having the control to pick up your fourth minor during a jam, rather than intentionally pick it up at the beginning at the jam.

Both strategies have their merit, but the level of play that it takes to pick up your fourth through game play just astounded to me.

I guess in a world of minors that will soon end, it doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things. I'm incredibly excited when we refuse to allow something as simple as a minor penalty affect strategy or game play.

Last night we played Mid Iowa Rollers. We had scouted them pretty hard a few weeks back when they played and defeated Iowa City's Old Capitol City Roller Girls, and developed our own strategies based on a few miscues from OCCRG.

What we didn't practice was picking up our fourth minor during game play.

We didn't win. But then again we did way better than I thought we would. We managed to force them to play derby.

Our two top jammers in rotation would start to pick up their minors and it eventually came time to decide whether to poodle them or let them skate. It was more out of necessity to have them skate, as one player already was in the box. With both of my jammers playing as blockers in the same pack they managed to pick up their fourth minors at different times and get clean for their next jam rotation.

An unexpected side effect to such a tactic: You're giving your (future) jammer a minute to rest in the box, instead of poodling her, letting her sit for a minute and then have to play as a blocker.

By having her pick up her fourth after the pack whistle you minimize how much time she has to skate before she will jam.

Sure, it's not without its faults. One picked up a major instead of her fourth, but she eventually got rotated into the pack again and picked up her fourth minor. And a player could end up picking up her minor at the the end of the jam, only to sit for a minute, then play, then jam. But in a world of 45 second to minute:thirty jams, it doesn't really affect the game that much.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Top 10 Things to happen to Derby in 2012 - For better or worse

(Editor's note: I'm going to preface this with a quick note that opinions in this blog that are entirely my own.)

WFTDA.TV charging for live video stream: Numerous complaints came about the low quality HD feed, but remember the simpler days when DNN provided fantastic coverage and only asked for donations? I do. WFTDA continues to find ways to leech off the people who helped put the organization together. If we keep cannibalizing off each other, we will kill this sport, and have no one else to blame but ourselves. The FREE audio feed keeps dropping out, and the commentary is set up for video, not audio. So for all that practice at being an announcer with a live crowd, your primary audience has to pay to see the action. Un-fucking-believable. Why would I pay 50 dollars for the video pass, and then have to fork over another 15 dollars for a DVD. Is this money going into better broadcasting, because that's where WFTDA should put there money before they pushed DNN and other web journalists out of the mix.

The end of the Gatekeepers versus New York Stock Exchange bout during Spring Roll. Behind considerably, NYSE takes exceptional liberties with the rules to manipulate gameplay into a come-from-behind win. As angry as you want to be, you still shake your head at the impossibility of come back facing New York, yet they managed to pull out a win.  The Gatekeepers got some measure of revenge against NYSE in their August 11 rematch, winning 197-141.

Gotham's win streak: Gotham's 187-84 win over Bay Area tied the WFTDA all-time sanctioned win streak at 22 on Sunday, July 22, and later broke that record with their 265-60 win over Star of Texas hostesses Texas. Gotham (hasn't/hadn't) lost a game since November 6, 2010, when they lost by 34 points to Rocky Mountain, 113-79, in the semifinal game of the 2010 WFTDA Championship Tournament. Rocky Mountain went on to beat Oly by one point, 147-146, to earn first place. Since that loss, Gotham went on to win third place against Philly at the 2010 tournament, blazing its 2011 competition, becoming the 2011 champions, and currently undefeated in 2012 season play.

Peg-Assist at ECDX - While not nearly as game-changing as Windy City's use of the Spiral Staircase last year, Rose City's little manuever to swing their jammer around to the front wowed fans and players alike. Within the next day leagues were posting links and videos of the feat, and more than a few hundred skaters were practicing it. Windy City would use the manuever against Bay Area during the Star of Texas Bowl on July 22, 2011.

Gotham's possible repeat as champions - Every other championship caliber team, save for the top two North Central teams, seem to have had a mass exodus of players. While New York has had its share of players leaving, it's hurt their competition more. Oly and Rocky took considerable hits to the roster, leaving Rose City as the West Region's gem.

The North Central tournament hosted in New York - What the fuck? I understand that leagues put in bids to host the region and championship tournament, but did no one from the North Central actually bid? Why the fuck does Niagra get to host the tournament, when they're in the East Central?

New rule set - There's been a lot of speculation over the past coming months what with WFTDA's announcement of the new rule set. A lot of fans and players are talking about the riddance of scrum starts. Least of anyone's worries: No minors.

Minnesota-Windy City Rollers skating to an uncontested tie. What the fuck. WFTDA declared that no game could end in a tie. And then they ruled that it ended in a tie. Of course, this only shakes up the North Central Region, as the two teams have jockeyed in the No. 1 and 2 slot for the past three playoffs (at least)

Oly's charter roster: Who's on it and where do they come from? There have been rumblings about Oly pulling players from other cities to come and play for the Cosa Nostra Donnas, many of which never actually practice with the team. 
The recent retirement of Romina "Stella Italiana" Muse, left a hole in the roster no doubt, but compared the level of skaters Oly is pulling in, that news remained rather quiet.

Really?: This was written last year, arguably during the rise of men's derby, but it started to creep into circulation again, thanks to Facebook. I can't believe anyone would have the audacity to print this. I'd be interested to see where the writer's opinions rest a year later. http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/jackalope/2011/03/five_reasons_we_dont_need_mens.php

A point of frustration

A long time ago everyone was all about spreading the word about derby. But in successive attempts to email teams for stories, no one is answering.

This is a horrible way to keep a blog going, particularly when my focus is using traditional journalistic storytelling in regards to derby.

Simply: If know one is willing to talk to me, I can't tell your story.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Live by the sword, die by the sword

We all fall into mental traps of our own device. Skaters do it. Refs do it. Even coaches do it.

Especially coaches do it.

We fall in love with strategy and the decision making.

In the heat of battle, coaches are called upon to devise the ultimate strategy and instill confidence in his/her players. When it works, it's brilliant. When it doesn't, you get a sinking feeling in your gut. And the you grasp on to it like a fleeting child getting sucked into a giant vortex of doom.

We recently played a team and we were down by 20 points with about three and a half minutes to go. Personally I felt like the point-spread was out of reach for the situation we were in - We had one hot jammer, and their skaters were doing a seemingly miraculous job of staying out of the box (How, I don't know, but I wake up in a cold sweat dreaming about it).

Our only opportunity to come back was to force the opposing jammer to take a bad penalty and go straight into our power-jam No offense is the best offense strategy (Slow derby). We ran into several problems:
1. We couldn't draw a penalty against the opposing jammer even when all four blockers and the jammer were combining efforts. We fell short of knocking her out of bounds and trying to draw cut and/or back blocking penalties on her.
2. Our walls fell apart. It didn't take the other team long to open up gaps and allow their jammer an easy pass.
3. We failed to chase when she did get through to try and reabsorb her into the pack.
4. Our jammers remained in the pack without trying to make it through, choosing to stay and play defense.

It's frustrating to be a coach, ask the team to implement a strategy and then it falls a part on so many levels you don't have time to fix it. We had burned our timeouts trying to keep the clock from ticking off.

After the jam expired, I called for it again. This time with a new lineup. It again failed. I'd fallen in love with something that was pulling me down into the quicksand, and I couldn't let go. The final score ended up being 119-167 I belive. We managed to score zero points in the 3-plus minutes, meanwhile our ultimate defense collapsed.

It's a hard lesson. But maybe I'll learn from it. In the end I don't blame the players, I blame myself. I couldn't let go of the powerful idea of making a key decision, which likely ended up costing us.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Adding another bullet point to the derby resume

Last night (Saturday, July 14) I head reffed a bout for the first time in my derby career (five or so years).

Since I began coaching three years ago, reffing has taken a back seat to my team's need for guidance, skills and strategy. I've only been able to pick up a few bouts here and there in the stripes, including a recent mixer in which I jam reffed for the third time.

I feel like all my experience and rules knowledge really came into play during the entire bout. I focused on leading my crew of referees and non-skating officials and worried less about moment-to-moment game play. Sure, I still made plenty of calls, but instead of always making the calls I was there to make sure the Jam Refs were allowed to make the calls on their jammers or that the other Inside Pack Ref was picking things up, too.

There really wasn't anything that sprang up new, but we did have a couple of learning experiences for many of the refs, including jam refs who needed some clarification on point scoring and best practices. But hey, every bout is a learning experience.

The host league was incredibly hospitable, making sure I had a solid crew in stripes and NSO shirts and it paid off in the end. The NSO and I were in constant communication. Communication is integral to not just officiating but all of derby.

I plan to take this experience and move forward in regards to both coaching and reffing.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

DRILL: Welcome to the shark tank

I don't post drill blogs very often, but I'm bored, and the lack of responses from interview requests has me feeling a little down. So here we go ...

Shark Tank
Works best with 8-20 skaters. Takes approx. 5-10 minutes to play one game, sometimes less.

You'll need helmet covers and four cones.

Refs help to watch for illegal hits, but coaches can watch for things, too.

Place cones in a 10 foot by 10 foot square formation. Designate two skaters as "it" or the "sharks" and give them helmet covers for distinction. All other skaters are considered "fish."

- "Fish" may skate in any direction within the confines of the square. They may not exit the square.

- "Sharks" may move through the square, exit the square and even skate around the square.

- The "sharks" goal is to use legal hits (clockwise block would be the only action that is typically illegal, but for the sake of the game is legal) knock the fish down or out of the square. Once down or out, the "fish" exits the square. "Fish" may counterblock. The game continues when only two "fish" are remaining. They now become the new sharks.

If you're skaters are particularly skilled you may shrink the square or add additional sharks, but typically two are just fine. Particularly when they start working together or combo their hitting.

Friday, July 6, 2012

WFTDA games review panel rules Minnesota-Windy City bout ended in tie

"The Games Review Panel has voted to uphold the sanctioning and the tied score of the 6/16/2012 game between Windy City Rollers and Minnesota RollerGirls."

WFTDA membership has voted in the past that major rules violations alone are not sufficient to de-sanction a game. We found, while the lack of an overtime jam is a major rules violation as a result of officiating errors, there is insufficient evidence that there were enough instances of poor and inconsistent officiating to revoke the sanctioning from this game. As for the unprecedented tied score, we stand by the submitted bout paperwork as the correct totals for the game."
~ Women's Flat Track Derby Association, July 7, 2012

June 2012 DNN rankings


The rankings by Derby News Network are out, and while there's a few given top spots (Gotham, Rose and Denver) surprises continue to happen.

The Chicago Outfit have struggled this last season with the transfers of Sweet Mary Pain and Gaygan (Molly Hachet also transferred, but I couldn't remember if she was on the A-team roster) with tough losses and even tougher close games.

Their games against Arch Rivals during the 2011 North Central Region Tournament were literally off the chain, each team splitting their contests, but ultimately Outfit getting the better end of the deal. Perhaps, we'll see a repeat this year.

Windy City and Minnesota have the top two slots locked up in the North Central Region. We're still waiting WFTDA word on the association's ruling after it was determined the game ended in a tie during the clash at Roy Wilkins Auditorium. WFTDA has ruled that the tie stands and the bout remains sanctioned. (WCR has two bouts remaining prior to the NC tournament: South Bend, July 14; and Denver, Aug. 25.)

Iowa darlings, the Mid Iowa Rollers, have bounced back from a bizarre season managing a decent ranking in the WFTDA's South Central Region, their play against Kansas City vaulting them up the rankings. Proof that a team can play the big competition, lose and still gain something out of it.

Wasatch has vaulted in the rankings, mainly through the same course, e.g. playing tough teams and getting key wins against other teams in their region. It's hard to imagine this relatively new team has grown so quickly so fast. (Personal editor's note: There are some pretty awesome women on that team.) Their ref crew could easily be one of the top 20 in the nation, and it shows through Wasatch's play.

Montreal's surprise win over Charm City has the rankings boards and derby journalists excited about the New Skids again. They displayed excellent skill last year during ECDX and their shot at a championship bracket berth shot down by London in the 2011 East Region Tournament. Montreal gave an impressive performance at ECDX this year and could easily vie for a top 3 spot in the eastern regional tournament this year.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Ties not limited to Father's Day

In September 23, 1908, Fred Merkle committed a base running error when his teammate crossed home plate for the winning run for the New York Giants. The crowd stormed the outfield. Convinced the game was over, Merkle, who was heading to second base on a Al Bridwell single, turned around and headed for the club house. The Chicago Cubs recognized Merkle had never touched second base and scoured the area for the baseball, even tackling a Giants fan for the trophy. Long story short, the Cubs retrieved the ball, tagged second, and recorded the out, negating the winning run.

In all the hoopla, the game ended in a rarity for the sport of baseball, a tie.

The National Hockey League eliminated ties in the 2005-06 season, ruling that games would end in a shootout after a five-minute 4-on-4 overtime period. Prior to the ruling, teams earned 2 points in the standing for wins, and 1 point for a tie. Currently, any team losing in the overtime period or shootout is awarded 1 point for an overtime loss.

The National Football League currently records 17 games ending in a tie, the most recent between Philadelphia Eagles and the Cincinnati Bengals who played to 13-13 on Nov. 16, 2008.

Historically, they don't occur often. Roller derby, or more specifically the Women's Flat Track Derby Association, has particular guidelines to ensure that games do not end in a tie.

That changed on June 16, 2012, during a contest between Windy City and Minnesota. While the scoreboard at the end of the game showed Minnesota the victor by a 160-155 margin, further scrutiny of the score showed the point total should have ended 155-155. The game and its outcome are currently under review by WFTDA.

You can watch the bout, available at YouTube.

The game remained incredibly tight throughout the 60 minutes.

In a game in its amateur stages, roller derby doesn't have the luxuries afforded professional athletic competitions, namely the backing of an independent officiating organization.

Derby's DIY attitude unfortunately extends to the referee and non-skating officials, as each league is customarily sharing talent when they bout. The home and away teams each bring in their own talent to staff bouts.

Thankfully, with WFTDA's recent addition of a leveled certification for NSOs and it's already rigorous referee certification process, the sport is slowly transitioning into a uniform standard. Most tournaments are staffed via a head referee and head NSO selected talents from an applicant pool.

I'm not sure how the MINN-WCR bout was staffed, but I'm assuming it's through the former process of a shared talent pool.

The problem with any system is that mistakes are made. The problem with derby is that there's so much uncertainty to be translated by a small set of eyes.

Points in most other sports are easy to spot: The ball goes in the hoop, the puck goes in the net and the guy with the ball crosses into the end zone. Points are clearly assigned based upon an event in which very little interpretation is necessary.

In roller derby, the jammer scores the points by legally passing blockers as she skates in bounds. Points require a jam referee to be watching his/her jammer while accumulating information from several sources.
-An outside pack referee relaying a penalty or No Pass No Penalty inside
- An inside pack referee relays Out of Play penalties so a jam ref can appropriately determine pass/point
- The penalty box may hold ghost points

Even after points are awarded, the officials may find that points were Awarded in Error, and must take them away or that the jam referee missed a point in the box.

Or worse, there could be a math error or a mistake between the score sheets and the scoreboard.

Lots of things could happen. And they do happen. Mistakes are made. It's unfortunate that a bout had to be "called" if even unofficial in error and now the outcome is left up to WFTDA.

I'm not sure how the situation would resolve, but if it is found to be a tie, then I think the teams should have to skate in a makeup game. Regardless, Minnesota certainly proved it deserves to be at the top of the North Central Region.

The last six minutes from fan video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1YQ74mOTaCM

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Bout day

Today I head to Peoria with a couple of the Quad-City Rollers for a bout. It's one of the few travel bouts we have this schedule, which makes me sad because travel bouts are the same level of fun without all the anxiety and work on our part.

We have a really good relationship with Peoria, and it's always a pleasure to watch them improve more and more. We get a chance to show them how much we've improved since the last time we played them, albeit shorthanded.

I think we're skating with nine skaters tonight to their 13, so it'll definitely be interesting to see the outcome. Plus of those 9 skaters we have one or two fresh meat players, so the edge of experience will likely go to Peoria's favor. Here's to our endurance and ability to gel together as a team.


The Chicago Bruise Brothers make their official debut tonight against Green Bay's men's team, so I'm sorry I'm going to miss watching Justice Feelgood Marshall on the track live on DNN. Oh, the irony.


Our sisters to the West, Old Capital City Roller Girls play Des Moines Derby Dames tonight in WFTDA action tonight. I'm looking forward to hearing the results from that game after getting the news that Showstopper will be pulling the plug on her career after a recent injury. Plus, Iowa City is such a swell league.


Wednesday was the first time I ever got to use Gumball toestops. I recently spent several months with simply jam plugs in to force myself to learn to plow stop and hockey stop. After a round of jam reffing I decided that toe stops were in order to not get left in the dust from quick jammer starts. And finally after having gifted two other sets of toestops to skaters, I purchased another set (short stems) and put them in.

I'm still not overly comfortable running on them, but they're pretty amazing when suicide stops are necessary. :D Maybe one of these days I'll actually get comfortable enough to run with 'em.


Our vets have been scrimmaging with the junior league in preparation for their big tournament in a few weeks. They'll play their first bout against another team in Des Moines, so some of them are a little nervous. The juniors had only scrimmaged with themselves up to this point.

And while we aren't allowed to hit them (don't touch the minors), they have full permission to use us for target practice, essentially making us heavy bags on wheels.

It's amazing to watch their little minds soak up all the derby, as they're constantly learning. Hopefully playing against adults will give them a huge learning curve when they play other juniors.

I have to get ready for the road trip. Ciao.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Gatekeepers-NYSE Final jam

Without the benefit of a rolling game clock or seeing the scoreboard in general, we have to establish a few things. For all intents and purposes, this is the last jam of the game. The St. Louis Gatekeepers have a15 point lead against New York Stock Exchange. NYSE is skating with the 3-1 pack advantage with both jammers in play. They choose to take knee down start to optimize the amount of time Jammer Jonathon R can score against St. Louis' Batwing.

The Jam officially starts at 0:23 into the video and the Jammers are released on the No Pack call. Jonathon R gets to the front of the pack and around the lone Gatekeepers defender for lead jammer, while Batwing gets stuck behind a 3-wall. Jonathon R earns Lead Jammer at 0:32 in the video. Batwin escapes the pack but is called for a penalty at 0:42, less than 19 seconds after the jam is started. Again, we don't have the benefit of seeing all the action, so I'm speculating that it was initiating contact in the air, a Misconduct, setting a Power Jam in motion for New York. In the meantime, a Gatekeeper blocker returns to play from the penalty box, but not before Jonathon R earns an easy 5 points at 0:48.

At 0:53 NYSE's No. 2 makes a distinct motion that looks like it could have been called for Destruction of the Pack, but again we can't see the proximity (or lack of it properly). Both teams do make an attempt at forming the pack/keeping the pack formation. At 0:58 Jonathon R hits the pack for his second scoring pass, just as NYSE blocker No. 42(??) initiates a block against a Gatekeeper blocker, and proceeds to suicide stop as the two Gatekeeper blockers skate forward to block Jonathon R. A Gatekeeper blocker comes out of the penalty box and is instantly trapped by a NYSE three-wall putting the two lead St. Louis blockers out of play. Jonathon R earns another 5 points. At some at about 1:05 a whistle is blown for what I'm assuming was a Major (maybe for Destroying the Pack) against an NYSE blocker, as Gatekeepers now have a 3-2 pack advantage.

At 1:10, NYSE No. 2 initiates a legal block with the assist of 42, who then pulls him back, just as Jonathon R hits the pack. This action illegally creates a No Pack situation (i.e. Destroying the Pack) as JR addresses the St. Louis three-wall at the top of the pack. At 1:13, a whistle is blown and a referee issues a Destruction of the Pack penalty to NYSE. Jonathon earns another 5 points at 1:17 into the video.

The camera gets a little ahead of the action at 1:19 and we can't see everything but there does look to be effort on the part of the Gatekeepers to maintain a pack. But they get a little spread out and JR earns another five points.

The fourth Gatekeepers blocker returns to the track at 1:26 into the video, ahead of JR, and tries to initiate a block just as he enters the engagement zone, but allows the NYSE jammer to shuffle by. JR hits the pack and gets stuffed by a STL three-wall at 1:33 and again the camera is a little ahead of the action. A NYSE blocker delays getting on the track just a fellow blocker is exiting for a penalty, intentionally preventing a pack from forming. JR pushes through some more than passive Gatekeepers blocking, drawing some Out of Play Blocking penalties against St. Louis at 1:37. JR finally exits the pack, thusly scoring another 5 points, and a NYSE blocker is distinctly seen at the back of the track not making an attempt to reform the pack.

JR hits the pack again at 1:52, with what looks like one lone NYSE blocker taking the slow, outside line, letting his jammer try to draw the 2 remaining Gatekeepers Out of Play. At about 1:54 an NYSE blocker exits the penalty box, skates what looks to be against the legal direction making intentional contact with a STL blocker to push him out of the way to free JR. The referees I believe call the offending NY blocker on the penalty, as another Stock Exchange blocker returns to play from the penalty box.

The call from the mike is that Bat Wing returns to the track 2:04 into the video just as JR springs through for another 5 point score pass and calls the jam off.

This is going to be one of the videos that skaters and refs will scrutinize over for a few months, as there were multiple times a No Pack situation was created both legally and illegally. NYSE definitely used the rules to their advantage (or more to the disadvantage of the Gatekeepers) and manipulated gameplay enough to eek out a victory.

In the words of Conan the Vegetarian, this is why we can't have nice things.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Web hits for April 2012

Thanks to a well-times blog on Wild Cherry's departure from Gotham to Atlanta, fivepointgrandslam.com saw some tremendous traffic, barely surpassing the previous hit record set in September.

In April 2012, the site picked up 523 hits, 7 more than the September 2011 hit total. After a bit of a lapse (and lack of good posts) after Regional/Championship season, I'm starting to pick up the blogging again.

Hopefully we'll have a few more posts for this month and we'll soon be heading into the summer seasons.

April 2012 - 523 hits
March 2012 - 273 hits
February 2012 - 170 hits
January 2012 - 211 hits
December 2011 - 229 hits
November 2011 - 445 hits
October 2011 - 328 hits
September 2011 - 516 hits

Friday, March 30, 2012

Transfer news - Gotham's Wild Cherri transfers to Atlanta

Cheri "Wild Cherri" Kresge will transfer back to the South Central Region, joining the Atlanta Rollergirls after a season playing for Gotham . 

"My love life takes me there," Kresge said. "I really wish I didn't have to leave Gotham. They were an amazing team to work with. Gotham is my N.Y. family  - the closest friends I have up here. I'm going to miss all of them."

Kresge was a part of the Gotham's 2011 Women's Flat Track Derby Association championship team, winning first place during Continental Divide and Conquer, the WFTDA's championship tournament, in Denver, Colorado.

Atlanta currently sits fourth in the WFTDA South Central standings and ranked 30th in the world on DerbyTron.com. Atlanta finished fourth in the WFTDA South Central 2011 tournament Show Me Der-B-Q in Kansas City, Mo.

"With the Atlanta Rollergirls, I hope I find a happy derby home and I plan to sit put for awhile," Kresge said. "I will be trying out for the travel team and hope to help build a collection of Ws going into regionals this year." 

Atlanta is 1-1 for the WFTDA 2012 season. Atlanta defeated Maine 181 to 114 on Feb. 18, 2012, but lost to Nashville 166 to 136 on March 24, 2012.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Fun with derby geometry

PROXIMITY: Ask a skater to define proximity, and you might get a strange look on her face. Ask her to stand on the pivot line on the inside of in-bounds and a partner can be on the outside line, then ask her how much distance is between the two skaters. Watch her head explode when you say zero feet.

The pivot line is 13 feet wide, the difference between the inside curve distance of 12.5 feet and the outside curve distance offset by the 1 foot variance (26.5 feet minus 1 feet = 25.5 feet) 25.5 minus 12.5 gets you the 13 feet. So between the two players, there's approximately more than 10 or 11 feet.

However when defining proximity, skaters who occupy the same 90 degree plane actually have zero distance between them. This is important to remember when defining packs, because two lines of skaters occupying the inside and outside of the playing field would essentially have no space between them.

The Red Pivot and the Green Pivot have zero distance between them in regards to proximity. As long as the Red Pivot and the Green Pivot remained the designated pack, the Red Blocker would have to maintain proximity to be considered part of the pack, or at least within 20 feet of the pack to remain in the engagement zone.

It's a fairly simple concept, but it can take a lot of work explaining to someone that there is actually zero distance between two players. You could be 11 feet apart on the 90 degree plane, but you might as well be touching each other.

This comes up more from a reffing perspective than a player perspective, because the Pack Refs are defining packs based on proximity and it doesn't take much to change the dynamic of that proximity.

This is also helpful to skaters who are using a slow, deliberate strategy to keep the pack pace slow. By maintaining proximity to another skater, you are still making an effort to maintain the pack, even if she is on the inside and you are on the outside.

FORWARD PROGRESSION: I see this happen a lot, and we've been victimized by skaters unaware that they may be crossing the jammer line during knee-down starts.

Remember knee down starts are utilized to create No Pack designation upon the Pack whistle. With the evolution of derby the persistent use of the knee down start is becoming more prevalent, and skaters are picking up Illegal Procedure penalties for lining up Out of Position.

The main explanation of this came down after Windy City's use of a strategy sometimes referred to as Spiral Staircase, Golden Spiral, etc. Essentially the Windy City blockers were trying to get their jammer through quickly, so they utilized a form of the Killbox, but lined up behind the jammer line - taking full advantage of the rule below.

Skaters who line up behind the jammer line are considered Out of Play as a result of "leaving" the front of the pack. This is because Game Play happens from the Jammer Line and progresses counter-clockwise. See the diagram at left. The Red Blocker behind the jam line is considered Out of Play - False Start upon the Pack Whistle, which is simply a minor. 

This is a good way to pick up an intentional Fourth Minor. However, if the minor is in error and it's not the fourth the skater is ruled to have left the pack from the front of the pack, not from behind. If the Red Blocker were to skate forward to rejoin the pack, she would be issued an Illegal Procedure Major for Illegal Return/Re-Entry.

Since the Spiral strategy became wildly popular, Women's Flat Track Derby Association issued a couple of rulings:
1 If at the start of the jam a Blocker is touching on or behind the Jammer line, she is considered to be out of position ahead of the pivot line and has committed an Illegal Procedure False Start minor penalty. 

2. It is required that the majority of on the track Pivot Blockers and Blockers from each team begin in this pre-jam positioning.

These two publications help illustrate why it's important to make sure skaters line up in front of the jammer line, not on the line, and also why you want to make sure most of your skaters are In Position prior the the Pack Whistle.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Learning a little more about sport psychology

We had the pleasure of hosting a Bonnie D. Stroir bootcamp at our home venue on Wednesday. Bonnie was kind enough to come in, give the Quad-City Rollers some personal pointers for an hour and then turned around and give a skills bootcamp to invited leagues for three more hours.

I definitely recommend any coach/skater to take training sessions from the big names. I learned so many little things I never would have picked up from just watching and practicing. If you get an opportunity to go to bootcamps, RollerCon or invite a guest coach in, I'd recommend doing your research on them and if they have the qualifications, then get to it.

As a coach, you have to keep an open mind about different philosophies and strategies. The last half-hour was reserved for Bonnie discussing various ways to solve emotion/mental fatigue and keeping everything positive.

I institute a quiet bench each time I coach, which helps me focus and makes it easier for the skaters on the track to hear if I have to bark some quick instructions, i.e. telling a jammer to call it. Bonnie's advice went even further: Don't shit where you eat. Essentially, your bench area should be a "safe" zone for you to come back to and be able focus your energy, not a place to come back to and bitch about calls, non-calls, whatever. One it wastes your energy, and plus it can affect other skaters. I've had this happen in the past when a skater comes back to the bench and blows up. Everyone's attitude heads south and a coach has a harder time getting everyone focused. Get it all out before you get to the bench so you can refocus.

The other philosophy that I loved and hadn't really considered was the idea of not watching the bout from a bench. Bonnie mentioned studies about athletes who actively participate in a sport and another group who just watched a film of their sport. Both groups registered muscle and mental activity in the same locations, effectively proving that you spend the same amount of energy watching as playing. By not watching the bout from the bench, a skater saves that energy for when she actually does need to skate.

Her formula went something like this: If you play every other jam and watch the jams you're not in, a skater is essentially spending twice the energy she would need to. A skater who doesn't watch the jams she is in, spends half the energy of the first skater, and has that much energy at the end of the game.

A jammer who only plays every four jams (and doesn't watch) would only use one-fourth the energy of a player who played and watched all the jams.

Last night we optimized the quiet bench and the don't watch policy and I think it went amazing. Our team was so composed throughout the game despite some pretty serious offenses from both sides.

I talked with a few of our skaters afterward, and they said they felt great - even after a very hard fought bout. It's amazing how much a few little pieces help out in the long run.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

From the bookshelf - Reads to help coach

I was never in team sports when I was younger, the closest being a club roller hockey league in college. 

The closest I've been was a great team player on that league that offered pointers and suggestions.

My coaching experience comes from a few years as a roller derby ref, the previous hockey background and a  slight aptitude for teaching.

Instead, I reach to the writings of other sports coaches, sports pyschology books and other sources. These are the best thing to actually gleaning tips from roller derby coaches. Very few of us have more than a few years of experience.

A Coach's Life: My 40 Years in College Basketball: I'm currently reading this Dean Smith autobiography (in collaboration with some other writers) about North Carolina's legendary men's basketball coach. Yes, it's basketball and not roller derby. But many of these great coach's have mounds of advice for coaching players and how to handle key situations.

Phil Jackson's Sacred Hoops: Spiritual Lessons of a Hardwood Warrior chronicle Jackson's time as a player and coach, with a steep philosophical slant. Another basketball coach, Jackson uses visualization techniques and calming exercises to keep the high stressful moments of a game at bay, making the way for strategic plays.

:07 Seconds or Less by Jack McCallum is a journalists take on the Phoenix Suns' quick offensive approach to the game. The Suns and Steve Nash (easily one of my favorite basketball stars) played a distinct style of the game, adopting a style of fast pace that often translates to roller derby.

Creative Coaching by Jerry Lynch is more of an overview of coaching and what one can do to become a better coach. The book gives advice to building team cohesion and maximizing effort in your players.

Eagle Blue by Michael D'Orso. Another journalist delves into the world of basketball, this time writing about a tribal high school's basketball team in Alaska. Confronted with the troubles of a middle to lower middle class tribal community and the elevated importance of basketball, the book is an excellent rags-to-riches read. 

The Mental Athlete: Inner Training for Peak Performance in All Sports by Kay Porter. Lots of positive motivation and mental visualization techniques make this book, covering a broad range of sports (but not roller derby) an excellent guide for learning and teaching the psychology of sport to coaches and players.

The Sport Psych Handbook, edited by Shane Murphy. This compilation book helps the non-athelete or  -coach understand the complicated mental aspects of athletics. This was probably my first sports psychology book, because it boils down some serious issues in simple terms, but does include some complicated aspects of psychology.

Power Skating by Laura Stamm. This book is the go-to text for hockey coaches and players to learn the fundamental mechanics of skating. Even with a skating background, I find difficulty in explaining some techniques to skaters. Power Skating breaks down specific movements with clear diagrams. Essential, even if it does focus on hockey.

That's not everything, but it's definitely a bulk of the collection. A majority of the above books are published by Human Kinetics, which produces several coaching and sport books. Sadly, there aren't many books about roller derby, but you should still seek these out. Roller Derby by Catherine Mabe writes about derby history. Down and Derby pays tribute to the sport and the contemporary players and coaches behind it. Melissa Joulwan's Rollergirl: Totally True Tales from the Track chronicles the latest revolution from its birth in Austin, Texas. 

Lastly, Roller Derby: The Sensation That Cause a Book is written by roller derby mascot Bane-ana. It's a funny read from a different perspective, but I quickly realized how we're all connected as a family, and go through the same trials and tribulations as the next person.

I also recommend getting a desk calendar of quotes or a book of quotes from athletes and coaches. Find a few favorites and memorize them. Roller derby is such a different sport, that we don't often look to other sports for inspiration, but they are certainly there. I saved several different quotes from a John Wooden calendar I bought last year.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Cup drill

Teaching teamwork can be difficult particularly if a majority of the group has never played a team sport before. For a roller derby team to be successful each individual must work for the group's goals.
Teams rely on each member to perform duties, fill in holes and communicate effectively.

The following drill won't teach you how to hit or give a whip, but it's something to help take your mind off game mechanics, relax and learn a little bit about teamwork. 

This works best with medium sized groups (5 to 15 players). If you have a lot of players, split them up into two different groups. Each group forms a closely knit circle with each player sitting on his or her knees. (You can sit on your butt, but there's a lot of reaching toward the center.)

Each player has a plastic cup placed in front of her with the cup mouth on the ground. On the command to start, each player will reach to his or her right (with either hand is fine), pick up your neighbor's cup and place it in front of the player to your left. If everyone does it all at the same time, then good. If not, try again. Sometimes the timing can be off or a player reaches for the wrong cup. Give the command to start again.

Once the players get comfortable with this drill have them start picking up the pace, emphasizing that everyone must move their cups in unison. A distinctive "Kloph" sound will let you know it's working. The intensity rises as the pace quickens, and eventually everyone is working together to perform the same task.

After trying the same direction for awhile, or once the team has gotten really good at going a particular direction, ask them to switch the direction of the rotation.

Everyone is working for the same goal, and it requires each player to play at a level as high as their weakest player. If someone's slower at it, the whole pace will be slower, but eventually that player will start getting better. That's the point of teamwork - finding the hardest workers, who can co-exist with other players and make the entire unit stronger.

I use this drill as a tension breaker, as something fun if we need to tone down our focus. The reaction at first is generally chaotic, but eventually everyone understands the concept and the lesson it teaches.