The thing to understand as a newcomer to the idea of cutting the track is that it’s not fundamentally about “cutting off the corner” or “cutting the distance short” (though this can happen as a part of cutting) but “cutting in line”. You could think of roller derby as a particularly jostly aggressive queue. Everyone has a position in the queue/line relative to one another and you can improve your spot in many ways, but you must do so LEGALLY. And in the case of cutting, you’re improving your queue position illegally by using the out of bounds space.
To get a cutting the track penalty there are three crucial stages which must all be met:
- You go out of bounds, by being hit out or under your own power.
- When you re-enter the track upright and in bounds, you’ve improved your position relative to other skaters compared to when you were last legally in bounds (assuming it’s not a fancy “no earned pass” exception case – more on those later)
- After doing this, you don’t attempt to immediately cede your position.
If one of these three parts is missing – no cutting penalty should be awarded. Case in point: the GIF above by Sprints – the skater is never actually hit out of bounds and can continue on their merry way!
All about ceding
Since the 2017 rules change, skaters can cede if they suspect they’ve cut. The best resource on this is a statement from WFTDA rules that they allowed to be shared publicly. There is very little point in me paraphrasing this statement here. It’s posted on a few different platforms, but I’m first linking to the copy looked after by Rules Colored Glasses and it’s here. Go and read it. (I promise I’ll wait right here for you to get back.)
Pro-tip: Standing still on track and looking at the official to see if you’re okay after you’re worried you’ve cut isn’t going to cede the cut if you’re got one. Conversely, if while you’re stopped and staring, you’ve passed a reasonable time to immediately react to any potential cut and nobody’s issued a penalty…nobody saw a cut and there’s probably nothing to cede. On that note:
Also please remember it’s not 2016. Have you immediately fallen over the moment after you think you’ve cut? For safety’s sake, please get up to cede rather than doing the scramble along the floor of yesteryear.
Please remember – ceding requirements only apply once you’ve re-adopted an in-bounds and upright status. Until then – there’s no cut to cede.
A non-exhaustive list of 10 ways to get a cutting penalty (the first five, anyway!)
The examples won’t describe every single way to get a cut penalty, but intend to give you a start on seeing all the ins and outs. Remember, it’s not necessarily *just* about avoiding a penalty, but understanding what is the smartest place to re-enter without penalty (avoiding exhausting yourself with unnecessary runbacks) and how you can be smart and draw cuts on other players. If you have other examples to share you can join in the conversation on the Skewblogs Facebook page.
All the penalties below, unless otherwise discussed, assume the skater who cuts does not cede and the penalty could otherwise be avoided by ceding.
1) You’re a jammer blocked out of bounds by someone behind you…and you re-enter in front of them
An opponent legally blocking you out earns superior position on you, even if they’re physically behind you at the time you leave the track. This means they could “draw the cut” on you. If at the moment you re-enter the track your hips aren’t behind theirs, you have cut them, and must cede immediately to avoid the penalty. This is cutting in its most simple form.
In the pictured example above, yellow jammer cuts blue pivot, who had blocked them into a straddling position, before yellow jammer re-enters fully upright and in bounds. If yellow jammer doesn’t cede, they will be given a cut penalty.
GIF by Sprints: White pivot is behind black jammer, and hits them out out of bounds. It’s hard to see where the pivot’s hip are relative to the jammer at the time the jammer goes out, but it doesn’t matter, as they’re the initiator of the block. Black jammer momentarily re-enters in bounds on toestops and cedes as soon as they are able (so no penalty!), but still has to re-enter behind white pivot to avoid a penalty. Another white blocker also skates clockwise to extend the pack and the distance white pivot can draw back the jammer.
Watch out! “In front” is measured in derby direction only. So if you’re travelling clockwise (if, for example, you’re drawing a skater back you yourself have hit out) and an opponent blocks you out of bounds, you need to re-enter the correct side of that opponent. This may seem counter-intuitive, as it’ll be further along in your direction of travel, and not the mirror-image of when you’re travelling in derby direction.
Not a cut penalty when: the skater who hit you out gets a penalty, or goes down, out of bounds or out of play, at any point before you re-enter the track upright and in bounds. With the latter three, this is when officials will signal “no earned pass” – what you may formerly have called NP/NP or “no pass no penalty”. This is one reason why your coaches prefer a controlled hit where you can stay in a position to draw the cut, rather than end up in a similar state to the skater you block!
2) A jammer pushes on a blocker who puts a foot out of bounds, then recovers
Blockers get cuts too. Some look like the jammer cut above – when a blocker has been the recipient of another’s offensive move – but others are more subtle.
Picture a jammer pushing on a wall, where one of the skaters contacting the jammer is close to the track boundary. The jammer drives diagonally-forward on this skater. The blocker adjusts position to maintain balance, and momentarily touches part of their skate out of bounds – it could just be a wheel or two – before re-establishing themselves in bounds. The whole time, the jammer remains behind the wall.
By blocking the blocker out of bounds, the jammer has earned the ability to draw a cut on them, even if they’re still physically behind the blocker. It’s exactly the same as the first example…just with different skater positions.
Not a cut penalty when: the blocker goes out due to contact from their teammate, or their own accidental adjustment that wasn’t as a result of opposition contact, and they don’t improve position in any other way
3) A non-initiator ahead of the jammer skates clockwise and draws the cut
It’s not only the initiator of the block that sent you out of bounds that can draw a cut on you – any opponent with a superior position at the moment you ceased to be in bounds has the ability to draw a cut, should you fail to re-enter behind them. Hence why they may choose to sprint clockwise.
In the image above, taken at the moment orange blocker goes out of bounds, blue 3 is the initiator, and can draw a cut. However blue 1 and blue pivot could also do so as they are upright, in bounds and ahead of orange jammer! Blue 2 could not draw a cut, but may choose to skate clockwise for other reasons – to fool the jammer into thinking they did have a superior position, for example.
However the rules for initiators (the person that hit you out) and non-initiators (those that didn’t) are a little different when it comes to losing the ability to draw the cut. Whereas for initiators going down/out at any time shuts down that skater’s ability to draw that penalty, for non-initiators…they’ve got a little more flexibility.
The best explanation is that we think of the initiator being subject to constant video surveillance – if there’s video evidence of them going down/out of bounds/out of play – game over. Any non-initiators – we just care about two photos: where they were at the moment the skater went out of bounds and where they were at the moment the skater re-entered the track upright and touching fully in bounds. Assuming they don’t get a penalty themselves, whatever they do in that intervening period doesn’t matter.
Not a cut penalty when: the non-initiator was behind the skater when that skater went out of bounds – these non-initiators can never draw a cut!
4) Your angle of re-entry means you only go behind the person drawing the cut *after* you’ve re-entered the track
The moment you re-enter the track – the moment you’re upright and none of you except maybe a single hand/arm is touching out of bounds – officials take a mental photograph. They then ask themselves: were your hips behind the opponent’s?
A common cutting penalty arises when a skater returns to the track at an angle, and although they ultimately place themselves behind the skater who recycled them, at their point of upright re-entry, they’re actually ahead. If they don’t cede – that’s a cut!
In the image above, blue 1 has the ability to draw a cut on orange jammer. Orange jammer, while upright, re-enters the track using the trajectory shown by the red arrow, before stopping, and resuming skating in derby direction. Although they end up behind blue 1, at the moment of re-entry orange jammer’s hips were ahead of blue jammer’s, and with no cede, a cut will be called.
Not a cut penalty when: the jammer is still straddling while moving clockwise, and has hips fully behind the opponent’s hips by the time they’re solely touching in bounds
5) You cut during take-off or landing for an apex jump
I’ve covered this already, so get yourself on over to the previous post on apex jumps to see the ways these can lead to cutting penalties, because during an apex jump you give yourself not one but two opportunities to cut – during take-off and during landing.
The second part of this blog with five more ways a skater can get a cutting penalty can be found here.