Rules With Skew (2) – sometimes it’s okay to be stopped…

Misunderstanding 1: If you come to a stop while blocking, it’s automatically a stop block penalty.

Misunderstanding 2: It’s necessary for you to maintain a stopped position for all stop block penalties.

Demystified: The way stop blocks are penalised is more nuanced and actually falls somewhere between the two misunderstandings.

Alongside multiplayer blocks, and contact with forearms, I see and hear more debates relating to stopped blocks than possibly any other penalty. Here’s a potted guide to actions performed while stopped, and what might land a skater in the penalty box.

Some of this is based on general referee consensus and/or my personal view, and should not be considered the official word of the WFTDA unless directly from the rules or casebook.

So what is being “stopped”, exactly?

According to the WFTDA rules Glossary:

Stopped: A skater not making any directional movement with their skates

The key bit here is it’s about what your skates are doing. Not your body.

If there’s any amount of roll/slide/stepping, however small, you’re not stopped. If you’re picking up and adjusting both feet while moving forward slightly, you’re not stopped. If you’re slowing down but haven’t actually come to a stop yet, you’re not stopped.

If you’ve planted and established one foot completely stopped and have your weight going through it, but are wiggling the other one about in a way I can be sure it’s not actually affecting anything – sorry, but I’ll interpret you as being stopped. There’s definitely a grey area here, and lots of cases where a single foot is moving in a way that does make a difference, but if it’s barely touching the floor and you’re gripping onto a teammate for support…you get the idea.*

Standing while stopped on the track is okay…most of the time

Assuming there’s a pack, you’re in play (for blockers!) and you’re not doing anything else, in WFTDA derby you’re allowed to be stopped on the track. You are, however, a sitting duck. You are a perfectly legal target for blocks, but you can’t legally block or counterblock anybody – not until you’re stepping, sliding or rolling again.

In the same vein, you can’t assist anyone while stopped – ie. actively give your jammer a whip or a push – but a teammate could initiate an assist, and take a hip whip off you or push *you*. These rules are completely in line with the rules about when you can block and be blocked by opposition skaters.

There are two broad “types” of stop block penalties

1) You initiate a hit to an opposition skater while you are stopped that has sufficient impact on the game.

This could mean, for example, causing that skater to go down, out of bounds, or lose relative position with respect to you or someone else – that includes that block being what allows you to pass that skater.

These aren’t “if and only if” game impacts – referee discretion allows us to determine if something meets the metric for a penalty without necessarily being one of these “black and white” examples. For more insight on 2017- rules philosophy, visit this post by Ref-Ed.

When issuing this penalty as an official you should be absolutely sure the skater in question is stopped when initiating the block, ie. that they have established their position as being stopped in a way that means you could determine this consistently across the course of a game.

2) You’re being legally “pushed on” by a jammer (usually) behind you, and you maintain a stopped position.

This happens when you are counterblocking and come to a stop, because damn, your edgework or ability to dig in your toestops is just that good. You maintain a stopped position while the jammer continues to try to push you. We’re only interested in the skater making contact with the opposition skater here when examining the stopped block – not their supporting or bracing teammates. It’s important to remember the key word here is maintain.

An example of the latter is covered in the WFTDA casebook scenario C4.1.3.A. Okay, it talks about toestops, but the same applies if the skater in question is using their edges. The key bit is the maintained stop – the casebook advises that a momentary stop where the blocker begins moving again shouldn’t be penalised.

With the second type of penalty officials will be looking for three things:

a) You come to a stop as you are counterblocking an opposition skater.

b) The skater pushing on you is still actively pushing forward (rather than temporarily resting or not otherwise not applying forward momentum)

c) After a “beat” that would allow you to realise you’ve become stopped and react accordingly, whether you:

  • resume skating/stepping in the derby direction (no penalty), or
  • whether you maintain that stopped state (penalty)

What this “beat” means may vary slightly between different situations and will certainly vary a little between officials as it’s not a specific length of time – it’s a judgement call – as officials we aim to try and make it as consistent as possible.

Points that can trip you up as an official are:

  • to penalise too quickly, before there’s a chance for the skater to maintain being stopped (no maintain = no penalty)
  • to penalise when the blocked skater isn’t actively trying to push forward on the stopped skater (there’s no impact on the game if there’s no actual attempt at blocking)
  • to not penalise because one foot is still making some superficial movement, even if the all the weight is through the stopped foot – meaning the moving foot isn’t doing anything of substance – the skater is stopped*
  • to forget that the first type of penalty exists, and we’re not only interested in counterblocks – you still can’t legally initiate a “hit” if you’re stopped

Skew’s ref training notes:

  1. Find a time when skaters are practising a wall pushing drill where jammers are not allowed to juke around and you can really focus on the jammer’s contact with skaters in the wall, and the movement of the blockers in the wall, in order to hone your understanding.
  2. Play with your positioning – and experiment with where different refs would be during gameplay- where is it easiest/possible to determine when skaters are truly stopped? How can you determine if the jammer is pushing on the stopped skater or merely resting against them?
  3. What other penalties can come into consideration during this slow, defensive type of play? How can officials use good coverage to identify other potential penalties, while still picking up on stop blocks?

For more resources on this topic try:

Ref-Ed direction of gameplay presentation – covers stopped and clockwise blocks in more detail

Miracle Whips – for a video featuring a technique that could produce a “type 1” stopped block if the backwards-facing blocker clearly establishes that stopped position and re-initiates with the shoulder, but is oh-so-effective if you can time the block to be legal. Beware of judging whether a skater is stopped or not from the slow-mo replay.

Optimus Grime – for a video on a “fire jamming” technique where the jammer comes to a stop while executing a block that allows them to pass opposing blockers. This is legal (and not a “type 1” stop block) if the jammer has not established themselves as stopped when they initiate the shoulder block. Remember technique-demonstrating videos exaggerate the motion, so may not be representative of what this looks like in gameplay.

Gotham vs. Texas at WFTDA Champs 2017 features lots of slow, defensive play to study (and is generally one of my favourite games of derby of last year’s post-season)

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*Edits made because this idea is a grey area, requires discretion, and proved controversial. If there’s any doubt in your mind as to whether a skater is stopped, don’t call them as stopped.

2 thoughts on “Rules With Skew (2) – sometimes it’s okay to be stopped…

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