Owner-Operator of Derby Frontier
Do you hate “slow derby”? Can’t stand the sausage or backwards skating to kill Power Jams and rack up some potentially ridiculous points? Well, if there is one thing that’s universally true about roller derby its that roller derby is far from universal. Many organizations and associations exist around the world, each with their own rule sets that offer differing gameplay mechanics. So, if you’re itching for something different, USARS may be the answer to your derby desires! It’s not a perfect rule set. Not by ANY means. But, if the strategies devised for WFTDA gameplay has become tiresome then sit back and join me in taking a look at the very different game you COULD be playing. NOTE: I’m NOT sitting here trying to convince you to disown WFTDA, I’m simply giving you another option to consider.
USARS Roller Derby plays like WFTDA in some ways. Same helmet covers. Same player positions (in name ONLY though… just read on haha). Similar blocking rules of no multi-player blocks, no blocks to the back of the body (including back of the torso, booty or thigh), no blocking above the shoulders, no blocking below the mid thigh (low block), no blocking WITH the head, blocking while both feet are off the ground, etc. Pretty familiar territory for the most part. But things get really interesting when it comes to point scoring and the general flow of the game. Like REALLY interesting. Take pack composition for example:
There is no “no-pack”:
RD40.05 – The Pack is the largest group of Blockers comprising players from both teams in proximity to each other, excluding Active Scorers (don’t worry, we’ll get to that term shortly), except as set forth herein.
- A single player cannot be a Pack
- “Proximity” is maintaining Relative Player Position not more than ten (10) feet apart
- A Blocker need not be in the Upright Skating Position or in bounds in order to be part of the pack
- When two or more groups of Blockers comprise an equal number of players and are more than ten (10) feet from one another, the Pack is the largest group of Blockers most forward on the track
- When two or more groups of Blockers exclusively comprise of players from the same team, the Pack is the group comprising all Blockers on a team and positioned most forward on the track
Good luck trying to slow that pack and force a no-pack to get your Jammer through! Not gonna happen!
Two Words… Continuous Motion:
Try playing a game in which stopping on the track can result in a major penalty, regardless of whether contact was involved!
RD40.02 –Beginning at the sounding of the Jam star whistle, and throughout the duration of the jam, all Active Players will continuously skate in a counter-clockwise direction on the track. Stopping or standing on the track during a jam is not permitted unless the player is only momentarily stopped while:
- Changing skating direction
- Recovering from a block or fall
- Avoiding collision or unwanted contact with another player
That’s it! No ifs, ands or buts! Jam whistle goes and you skate continuously until it is done! This mechanic combined with another makes for a very interesting mix… observe!
You Can’t “Bring Her Back”:
RD40.02 – Clockwise movement on the track is not permitted at any time. A player may skate any direction so long as he or she observes counter-clockwise direction of play.
So, thinking of taking that Jammer or skater “back” after you knock them out of bounds? Think again! Doing so could result in a major Direction of Gameplay penalty. Knock ‘em out and get back in the game, there’s no time to
Those who have seen this in action can attest to the fact that it often makes for much faster, and sometimes relentless jams. It places a demand on skaters to constantly keep up with the other players and to get back in the action as fast as possible! As if that wasn’t intense as is… you also need to impede TWO possible point scorers on the opposing team, either of which can suddenly become an active point scorer if you are not paying enough attention. Say whhhhaaaaatttt!?
Bye, Bye, Star Passes:
RD40.09 – A pivot may break free from the Pack during his/her Jammer’s initial attempt to pass through the Pack and may become an “Active Scorer” once the opposing team’s Jammer has emerged from the pack to become an Active Scorer.
That’s right, folks! Once the opposing Jammer has completed his or her initial pass through the pack (effectively making them Lead Active Scorer), your PIVOT is permitted to take off after her, without a panty pass occurring, to score points for your team. So, if your Jammer just can’t make it through that pack… Pivot, away!!! Should your pivot take off as an “Active Scorer” (fancy term for point scorer), the Lead Pack Referee (fancy term for a front Inside Pack Ref) will reach both hands far above his/her head, put them together like he is praying (it looks like an “A”), and will yell “BLACK PIVOT ACTIVE!”. This will then cause the Active Scorer Referee (fancy term for Jam Ref) for Team Black to abandon the Jammer (who is now considered nothing more than a blocker for the remainder of the jam) and will begin following the black team’s pivot, who is now considered the point scorer.
That puts a whole new spin on “watching the Jammer” doesn’t it? Cause if your eyes aren’t ALSO on the opposing Pivot, once your Jammer becomes Active, their Pivot can simply take off and start racking up points. Watch and contain them both!
Is your mind blown? Excellent… and there’s more…
RD40.11 – Following the initial determination of Lead Scorer, the opposing Active Scorer may assume Lead status by passing the Lead Scorer in bounds and without committing any penalty during the pass (known as a “Clean Pass”). Active Scorers alternate Lead status with each Clean Pass completed against the then-current Lead Scorer provided that both Active Scorers are on the same pass.
Oh no she didn’t! Sifting through the mumbo jumbo, what this essentially says is that if the opposing Jammer (or Pivot) has Lead Active Scorer status, your Active Scorer can STEAL Lead from him/her by passing her as long as they are both on the same pass. Another way of spelling it out: opposing Jammer gets through pack first to become Lead Active Scorer, your Pivot takes off after her and becomes Active Scorer. Halfway around the track, your Pivot PASSES the opposing Jammer, resulting in her STEALING Lead status away from your opponents for your team. Coolio, eh!?
This can end up bouncing back and forth throughout the Jam until somebody calls it off. However, you can’t always steal Lead. Should the Lead Active Scorer be a lap ahead of your Active Scorer, your team cannot take Lead until you “catch up” (make up that lap you are behind then lap them AGAIN). This of course puts a hefty demand of endurance, discipline, and skill on your Jammer and Pivots as they need to skate faster and maneuver the pack better than the opposing team’s point scorer. So, if you’re all about fast, intense, physically demanding roller derby… this may be something worth looking into!
There are actually a LOT of different scenarios that can play out in terms of Power Jams, new Jams, Active Scorers, etc. way too much to go into here. But let’s just say it is incredibly interesting and there is NO SUCH THING as a Jammer-less Jam. Not even when both Active Scorers are going to the box (if both Active Scorers get a penalty the Jam is called off and a new one is started). Want to know exactly how that works? Check out the Official Rules for USARS yourself over at the Official Site.
What do you think of USARS?