WFTDA 2014 Beta Ruleset: Farewell Passive Offense?

Holy schnikeys, Batman!!! WFTDA has just released the Beta Rules for February 2014 and is currently looking for teams/leagues to put these borderline similar-to-USARS proposed changes into practice. It all seems to centered on cutting down on the length of Power Plays and addressing this whole Passive Offense thing that has the greater derby community expressing rather heated opinions on it’s entertainment value for game day audiences.

So, what exactly are they looking at changing? Well, for starters, it appears great efforts are being made to find a solution to this “slow/stopped derby” that many are arguing about. Thinking of slowing that pack up to gradually stop and form a sausage? Think again. The proposed changes have some pretty hefty destruction of pack and general game play changes that, if approved, is not only going to make the game faster but also places a great deal of responsibility on the rearmost team of a pack to keep the pack defined. The opening paragraph of the WFTDA Beta Test Proposal for Destruction/Failure to Reform states: “This option looks at changing pack destruction and failure to reform penalties to put the onus on the back group to maintain pack proximity. If the rear team is not otherwise attempting to engage the opponent, and slow down the pack speed resulting in a no pack, they will be subject to destruction of the pack penalties.”

Here’s how it may look, spelled out in the rule set next year: When one team slows and or stretches the pack back away from the team actively blocking their opposing jammer, they should be considered to be intentionally creating a no pack situation or destroying the pack. Slowing or stopping on the track can be a penalized if it destroys the pack.

Goodbye passive offense? Now, how long will it take for people to say they miss it? (It'll happen, just you wait)

Goodbye passive offense? Now, how long will it take for people to say they miss it? (It’ll happen, just you wait) Photo courtesy of Rob Vida Photography.

Whoah! So, if you’re slowing the pack to help your jammer get away from engaging, opposing blockers… Destroying the Pack, Major! To help clarify this further, WFTDA has included cliff notes for skating officials.

Note to Refs: if the referees can observe that the pack will break unless the rear group accelerates, and the rear group is actively braking or stopped, then the rear group will be penalized with a destruction of pack penalty.”

Unsurprisingly, this leads to a big impact on pack speed. The current rule set states that there is no defined pack speed and that a penalty shouldn’t be given for gradually deviating from the speed of the pack. Here’s how it looks right now: The rules do not define pack speed. Illegally destroying the pack penalties shall not be given for gradually deviating from the speed of the pack as established through game play, unless said deviation is sudden, rapid, and marked, leaving the opposing team no opportunity to adjust and maintain a pack.

HOWEVER, the previously mentioned proposed change to 4.1 leads to an addition here as well. The exception to is when a team slows and/or stretches the pack backwards to create no pack while the opposing team is blocking their jammer. In this situation, the rear team is illegally destroying the pack. They must actively move to maintain the pack if their slowing and/or stopping as a team would create a no pack situation. This slowing and/or stopping can be penalized.

So, if you gradually deviate from the speed of the pack while it is just moseying along, with no action going on, probably no biggy. But don’t think about slowing or coasting to force that gradual no-pack while your jammer is trying to fight her way through the opposing team. You’ll be spending a lot of time in the box if you do! And that’s not all, yet another scenario comes into play regarding chasing. In regards to, the front team cannot sprint away from the rear team to chase down an opposing jammer. If the rear team is actively skating and working to maintain a pack and the front team chooses to sprint away, the responsibility then falls on the front team to slow their speed to reform that pack. In this situation the front team needs only to slow enough to maintain a pack. If the front team continues to sprint away, they are intentionally creating a no pack situation or destroying the pack. However, if the rear team slows to a crawl and/or stops on the track, the responsibility falls on the rear group to reform the pack.

So, as long as the rearmost team is actively skating, the front-most team is responsible for the illegal pack destruction should they decide to speed up and chase the jammer.  Guess that means you better make sure you practice your bridging and communication REALLY well if you’re intending to chase! Here’s the kicker in that scenario though, if the rearmost team starts to slow or stop while the front-most team is chasing, then it is the REARMOST team who is responsible for the illegal pack destruction.

I think it will be incredibly interesting to see the dynamic shift between how control of the back of the pack is so important today, to control of the front of the pack being rather paramount in 2014. What are your thoughts on all of this? Anything you really do or don’t like? Can you foresee any strategies or potential manipulation of the wording of these new proposed changes? Personally, I smell a “goat”! Share your thoughts in the comments below!


Kevlar 2Written by Kevin ‘Kevlar’ Dennison