The Winds of Change

I woke up this morning with this article all over my Facebook news feed. Windyman has written about the retirement of Kola Loka (Windy City Rollers) and her views regarding the current state of derby.

Kola Loka – Windy City Rollers

It is a really interesting article. It brings up the very current debate over the state of passive offense and the “slow derby” we are seeing throughout a lot of leagues. You can view the interview she gave to HERE (it’s at about the 1.28min mark).

“I find that when people play in a way that is boring or stops play, it’s like winning a battle, but losing the war. To me, the war is making roller derby a sport that can be enjoyed all across the world.” – Kola Loka interview on

I’m not a fan of passive offense (clearly shown by my support of The Society for the Preservation of Fuck-you-get-passed-me Roller Derby). I don’t like to watch it and I don’t particularly like to play it. It makes me sad when I see images like THIS, where blockers just stand on the sidelines and watch THEIR Jammer battle it out to push the opposing team out of play to take their points. I have played offense like this before though, but it does not mean I like it, nor agree with it.

This is not me, but I do have one of those t’shirts! 

There of course is always going to be arguments for and against, and it’s something everyone should be thinking about and taking seriously right now. Lex Talionis wrote that ‘Roller Derby Isn’t Broken‘ and passive offense isn’t ruining the game, that perhaps jammer penalties are the problem:

“Roller derby just doesn’t work when you only have one jammer on the track, so let’s change the rules so that you almost always have two…
Teams are punished exponentially more for the same penalty when it’s committed by a jammer, which means the punishment rarely fits the crime, especially when you remember that jammers don’t get points for illegal passes either and so get punished twice regardless.”

Lex Talionis – London Roller Girls

I find reading the comments of articles like this so interesting as the derby community proves the varying degrees of opinions on this topic. Man Flip points out a potential flaw in Lex’ argument:

“If there were suddenly no punishment for jammers trying crazy/dangerous things, they would try more crazy/dangerous things resulting in more injuries for a sport that has a big problem with lots of injuries.”

With the new rules set expected to drop from WFTDA in early January, with the most recognised changes as eliminating minors and releasing both jammers and blockers on the same whistle, we will see a remarkable change to game play. It’s going to fix the issue (well, some people see it as an “issue”) of scrum starts and either upgrade minors to majors (hence penalised immediately) or downgraded to no-impact.

I think it’s an exciting change ahead of us. I’m eager to formulate goals within my own league (home teams and travel) and get on the same page as the majority to work towards a positive objective for how we want to play the game. It’s like riding one great big wave of derby evolution, that’s a pretty rad thing if you think about it!

But as Kola Loka says and I agree wholeheartedly:

“I would always rather have a good time and win than have a crappy time and win. And I would also rather have a good time and lose than have a crappy time and win.”

High five to that!

What are your opinions of the current state of derby? Are you excited about the changes ahead? or disappointed they are not tackling issues that you see more fitting?

22 thoughts on “The Winds of Change

    • The point of scrum starts is to force the jammer whistle. What advance do you think people will get from still taking the knee on a single start whistle? Perhaps securing advantage of the back line? But you could still secure it in upright blocker mode? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this??

  1. Mmmm, but if the only point on scrum starts is to force the jammer whistle, why is it usually done on the back line? I think there will still be scrums to begin with, just with no kneeling….if that makes sense? A big standing crowd up the back.

    • Well it’s not the *only* reason it’s taken on the back line… but I understand what you mean, and do think that’s the way it will be played to start out. A standing crowd wanting the back line which may be seen as the stronger defense against the opposing jammer.

  2. Ha, I don’t think it’s the *only* reason either. I’m hoping as teams get comfortable with the new rules set we will see skating starts again. 🙂

  3. sausages are boring – except on bread with sauce!
    I hope the new rules stop the stopped derby… it is boring and don’t really see the advantage of it

    • People will always find loopholes in rules to use to their advantage. I think people have to come to that realisation and either find smarter ways to combat that or start playing a different rules set that you agree with.

  4. Thanks for your blog, Akka. I’d like to make a point please.

    I’m not a roller derby girl. It’s not possible for me to see the game the same way as roller derby girls. However I have been a fan since the VRDL’s family and friends bout at the Dandenong Showgrounds. This was before they started their regular bouts. The only way I can see the game is as a fan. I think it’s worthwhile for roller derby leagues to occasionally ask themselves, “Why do fans go to the roller derby?” I want to impress on roller derby leagues that fans go because they want action. Fans already know that roller derby skaters have plenty of skill and we respect you for that. The issue for fans is whether there is enough action in the sport to keep us coming back. At the moment there still is for me, but there is less and less as time goes on. I am mindful that many of the people in the crowd are only seeing half the action I saw when I started going to the roller derby some years ago. How can that be? It’s because when I started to go to the roller derby there was fast action from the time the ref blew the first whistle in a jam to when the jam ended. Nowadays it is common to have action for only half the jam. Anyone can test this for themselves. All one has to do is count the seconds that any skaters are stationary on the track after the first whistle is blown and subtract those seconds from the total seconds in the jam. It doesn’t matter to the fans so much that Team X or Team Y wins a bout, as much as how much action there was during the bout. Please think about this. The fans love roller derby. I’m one of those fans. I’d like roller derby leagues to keep loving the sport but love the fans a bit more by giving us more action so we’ll keep coming along.

  5. Hi! I just found your blog yesterday (I don’t even remember where) and I’ve been reading through all your posts and links voraciously! I live in Melbourne too and I’ve been going to VRDL bouts since 2008, but it wasn’t until a few months ago that I finally did what I’d been wanting to do for years, bought my own skates. The learning process has been bumpy and right now it’s almost impossible to imagine myself ever being good enough to join a team, but it does me a world of good to read blogs like this.

    I only started taking notice of Northside Rollers pretty recently, but you sound like a FANTASTIC bunch. I have prior commitments on Saturday night which is a real pain, because I’m just dying to come and see one of your bouts. Next time, I guess. I just hope ‘next time’ isn’t too far away!

    Anyway, this has nothing at all to do with this post (though it led me down another fascinating timesink of blog reading – I hadn’t realised passive offense was so widespread, since I’ve never followed WFTDA events closely) but I just really wanted to say hi and that I love this blog to bits.

    • We ARE a fantastic bunch!! (ok, I might be a *tad* biased… but Northsiders are pretty Rad!)

      I’m glad you found my blog! Even more glad that you’ve strapped on a pair of skates and are starting down your own derby journey! You might not be ready to “join a team”… but hell, you’d be ready to join a league! Get involved if you can, anyway you can! Start fresh meat, start rec classes, join the NSO crew… Ok, so now I’m trying to recruit 😉

      Pity you’ll miss this weekends bout, it’s going to be epic! But we have another home team bout December 8th. Like us on good ol’ facebook and stay in the loop!

      So cool to find new readers!! That meant a lot that you stopped by to say hi!! Keep reading!!!

      • You have Star Wars-themed teams and you had the Ramshackle Army at an afterparty – that’s all the proof I need to know that you’re rad! Well, that and you play derby, obviously.

        It certainly is a journey. I’ve just started going to a couple of rec classes with the VRDL, and it seems to leave me with some mixed feelings sometimes. I love skating and getting better at it, but it sometimes leaves me wondering what exactly I want to get out of derby, which didn’t seem like such a complicated question before I met some other skaters. (Who of course, all seem to be much better and way more intense and driven than I feel – even the girls who haven’t been skating for nearly as long.) But I’m learning a lot more already, even if I still can’t do a transition to save my life.

        I approve of your trying to recruit, though, and I’ll take that as a compliment. 😉 I’m really looking forward to checking out your league when I get the chance. Can’d wait to see all you awesome girls on your skates!

        • …on a side note: sometimes you have to find the right “fit” with a league. Some leagues are highly competitive, where others have varying levels of that to accommodate all of their skaters. So many leagues have so much to offer that you’re bound to find your spot within the derby world when you decide what you want out of it 🙂

          • That’s a really good thing to hear. 🙂 I’m sure there’s a place for me in rollerderby and I’ll find it eventually, but it’s always encouraging to hear it from someone else, too.

  6. you may not like this, but the fans will ultimately decide the fate of the leagues…..if they do not get action, the majority will not watch or come back. Now USARS, MADE, and others are giving skaters who want more rigorous play an option.

    • I do agree with your sentiments.
      It’s difficult in Australia with all leagues following the WFTDA ruleset (I have no idea if there are any leagues skating USARS or MADE).
      Sure, my league could make the decision to play a different ruleset with our home teams, but we are still a young league with only 2 home teams. If we were wanting more bouts for our travel team we’d have to revert back to WFTDA rules to play them. There would be no consistency for us, not to mention our ref crew.

  7. The 2013 WFTDA rules are out. I read them in the hope that there would be something new that would limit slow play. The new pre-jam positioning section [4.2 etc.] still allows for blockers to crowd the jammer line and as a result have jams where nobody moves. I’m very disappointed. I then read the MADE rules. They penalize skaters if they are stationary. I want to see lots of action when I’m at the roller derby. I suspect that the skaters want to see lots of action too.

    • You still have to be rolling/moving forward to block the jammer (who will be released on the one whistle that starts the jam) or you will get a stop block major. You won’t have jams starting where nobody moves, skaters will HAVE to move.
      And in reference also to your next response, my league and my travel team make a conscious effort not to play slow derby, especially not to use the sausage in a power jam and just stand there watching our jammer. We try and play active offence in all sense of the word. This is something that we are working on as a team.

  8. Further to my last post I think that teams could still play the WFTDA rules but agree that they won’t play slow derby. All it takes is teams with the gumption to do it and the honesty to keep their word..

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