Skew’s quick and dirty guide to WFTDA changes 2019

The quick and dirty guide I wrote to understanding what had changed for rules/procedures between the 2017 to 2018 WFTDA season is the most read thing I’ve ever written here.

Well, roller derby, it’s 2019.

As ever, this is unofficial advice and subject to personal interpretation. It’s also called the quick and dirty guide for a reason – I’m not going to cover every exception and every subtlety. Consider this a starting point for your 2019, especially if you officiate.

Remember I am not the WFTDA and your definitive source should always be their communications on the subject which are detailed, incredibly useful, and can be found here:

A really important point as we start a new season…

Around this time of year it’s really common for teams to suggest strategies and officials to make calls based on something they perceive to be a rules change, when in fact nothing has changed at all – they’re paying more attention to and overinterpreting something they’d glanced over before. If it’s not in the line by line change document or a new/deleted casebook entry, chances are nothing has changed.

Even then, it’s worth a quick check that it’s not the same content, relocated to a different place. Remember: nothing has changed in 2019 with regard to cutting, forearms and the precise location of target and blocking zones.

Be open to challenge, double check the documentation later, and talk about it with others if you’re unsure. And if you’re the one doing the challenging? Be polite. Be patient. Let us support all our fellow derbs through this period of change.

What information might I have missed during 2018 season?

Since my post last year, there was finally a clarification regarding when lead jammer was meant to be awarded, after conflicting wording meant officials were applying two different interpretations.

The waters were also made a little clearer regarding skaters who hang around too long after serving their penalty (C.4.2.1.L).

There were also updates to WFTDA tournament rules and sanctioning.

The Officiating Town Hall was super helpful to understand changes behind the scenes, and new information and e-learning content for officials’ certification was released. If you haven’t already, and even if you aren’t considering certification, you should definitely consider registering and starting your learning. There are a growing number of courses available and some of the information there is invaluable if you’re an isolated trainee or anyone looking for some guided instruction. The WFTDA Officiating Resources pages have also had a little redesign and are essential for all officials.

What’s changed for 2019?

1) No more scoring on the other jammer

It’s historically been the case that one jammer can score on the other, either as a jammer lap point or as a NOTT point (a.k.a. box point). This meant big scores arising from power jams, a bunch derby folk *really* pre-occupied over the mysterious “six point pass” and crucially – jammer referees making mistakes, being inconsistent and nobody really noticing, as highlighted by Code Adam. Yikes. NO MORE.

Scoring is simplified.

What hasn’t changed?

  • Scoring on blockers is pretty much the same. Not on the track (NOTT) points are scored on other blockers when the first blocker is passed.
  • Jammers can still perform so-called “eat the baby” tactics – it’ll just be to slow the opposition’s ability to score, rather than get any bonus points.

So what has changed, then?

  • There is no six point pass.
  • There is no jammer lap point. The maximum a jammer can score, per scoring trip, is four points – one for each opposing blocker. There is no longer any way to score five points in a single scoring trip.
  • WFTDA has clarified how scoring should be handled where one jammer has never earned a pass on the jammer-turned-blocker because the timing of a star pass (spoiler: it’s all four points – C.3.3.J).

Also worth checking: casebook entry C.2.5.A clarifies the curious case of how we handle scoring when a jammer passes a penalised blocker who is in the process of leaving the track, but is still touching in bounds. We credit the jammer the pass/point. This is different to a penalised skater who has already left the track, or has returned to the track behind the jammer – these skaters would still be treated like a NOTT point.

2) Contact to the back

For the whole six years I’ve been in derby I’ve had skaters argue “but they hit me forcefully in the spine – why wasn’t it a back block penalty?” Good news – now it is.

What hasn’t changed?

  • The illegal target zone. It’s still the same size and shape as before.
  • You can still get back block penalties for non-forceful contact if you improve position (e.g. pushing on someone’s back to drive them forward allowing you to pass others).
  • There is still (and was always) the possibility of expulsion for dangerous contact to the back.

So what has changed, then?

  • Forceful avoidable contact initiated to the back is penalisable. What’s forceful contact? In the new ruleset WFTDA defines it as “abrupt contact (such as hitting or striking) with a significant amount of strength and energy or any contact that either has the potential to harm the recipient or significantly alter their position, balance, speed, trajectory, etc. (regardless of whether that potential is actualized).”
  • Even if the skater whose back is forcefully hit doesn’t move or change relative position (e.g. because of being braced by a teammate) the initiator of the illegal hit can be penalised (C.4.1.1.I).
  • There is an exception for when forceful contact (initiated by skater A to skater B’s back) where such contact occurs unavoidably due to a block on skater A from a third party. See casebook entry C.4.1.1.J).

3) Star passes

Remember how you love being able to cede a cut and effectively press the “undo and try again button”? Great news – there’s something similar happening with star passes. This change is in line with the concept of not penalising an action unless it has sufficient impact on the game. For information direct from the WFTDA which really breaks this down – see their public forum post here.

What hasn’t changed?

  • The rules about what makes a star pass (the single moment when the jammer releases the star into the pivot’s sole grasp) illegal are the same – e.g. if either party is down, or out of bounds.
  • If a pivot recovers a dropped star, they are not the jammer, but the jammer may momentarily grasp the star and immediately release it to the pivot and that’s still a legal star pass.
  • Jammers can still be penalised for intentionally illegal star passes, such as one that then allows the true (original) jammer to escape the pack.

So what’s changed then?

  • Pivots – there’s increased focus on you, here. You need to be even savvier than before when receiving the star. If you come into possession of the star as the pivot and you are not the jammer (as the star pass was illegal or otherwise unsuccessful), you will be warned “you are not the jammer”. You can continue to hold your team’s star, as pivots are permitted to do so, but you are still the pivot and must not put it on.
  • If a non-pivot blocker comes into the possession of the star they won’t be immediately penalised, but they will be if they maintain control of that helmet cover, or release it in a more advantageous way than just relinquishing it. Non-pivot blockers, however, won’t be given a warning like the pivot. This is because it’s completely legal for a pivot to be in possession of the star, but the rest of you – nope! (This includes the original jammer, now blocker, after a successful star pass.)

Seriously though, read the WFTDA forum post. And keep its parent forum bookmarked.

3) An important exemplification of dangerous play

I’ve known far too many players sustain serious injury through being down and having someone blocked into them. We already know it’s a no-go to deliberately fall on to a downed skater, but new casebook entry C.4.3.K clarifies that blocking an opponent into an adjacent downed skater warrants a penalty.

It’s important to remember to know when a penalty is *not* warranted – check the “keep in mind” information in the casebook entry.

4) Officiating procedures, NSO and statsbook

Need to complete or interpret statsbooks? There is now full integration of the penalty/lineup tracker module (hurrah!) and removal of the glyph from LT paperwork. Other changes may be missed by the casual user of derby stats but are important fixes to make sure everything works. Thank you Statsbook geniuses!

Always want to be on top of your official verbal cues? A penalty for interfering with a star pass is now called as “star pass interference” rather than “pass interference” – updated cues, codes and signals doc here. There are a few other changes too – can you spot them?

Notation when performing the role of line-up tracker has changed slightly – I advise reviewing the statsbook manual if you are due to perform this position to get a firm grasp on notation changes and clarifications.

There’s also a new casebook entry giving a standard procedure for timing penalties for a fouled out skater when they don’t behave entirely as expected (C4.5.C).

Before you go…

We’re well aware we need to systematically review the Skewblogs archives to update for accuracy, correct rules references and up to date links. When a blog has been updated for 2019, the post will be re-shared on social media and there will be a brief change summary at the top of the post.

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