Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Introducing the All-New RollerDerbyNotes.com

Hello! If you’ve been long-time reader of WindyMan’s Roller Derby Notes, I would like to thank you for your support. The time has come to make a few upgrades and bring the Derby Notes philosophy to the next level.

I am pleased to introduce RollerDerbyNotes.com!

wrdn-becomes-rollerderbynotes

There has been a noticeable lack of posts to the blog this year, and this is the reason why. Much time and many resources have been diverted into tinkering with a new website and the creation of new content for that website. The roller derby analysis and commentary that made a mark on the community is back in full force on RollerDerbyNotes.com, as well as a new emphasis on news and features.

Please head on over to the introduction page on the new site right away, update your bookmarks and RSS readers, and if you’d prefer, re-subscribe to receive email updates of new posts. (Be warned: There will be many more of them!) Just about all the content from WRDN has been transferred over to RDN as well as some commentary and analysis pieces that were held over for the new website. Please check them out!

This blog, WindyMan’s Roller Derby Notes, will remain up and available for the indefinite future, but no new posts will be made to it. At some point in the near future, all articles here will be updated and re-linked where possible to direct everyone to the new site. The site’s Facebook (/DerbyNotes) and Twitter (@derbynotes) handles have also changed, so please be aware of that if you’d like to keep following along.

I suppose this is sort of a goodbye, even if we’re saying hello again just a block or two away. Or maybe it’s just getting rid of that awful linoleum tile in the kitchen and replacing it with some spiffy new hardwood flooring. The old stuff served its purpose, but it had outlived its usefulness.

Anyways. Get going to RollerDerbyNotes.com and check out our new articles, and tell your friends we’re on the move. Thanks again!

2013 WFTDA Bracketology #2: Division 1 and the High Cost of Inflexibilty

wftda-playoffs-2013-header

With WFTDA rankings locked-in and the participating teams seeded into four cities across the United States, the first-ever WFTDA Division 1 playoff tournaments are set to kick-off this September.

As the growth of the modern game continues to seek a clear direction, the WFTDA is heading into new territory this postseason. Besides overhauling the ranking system to eliminate biases inherent in an opinion poll, the governing body has also made a significant change to its playoff format.

Out are the four distinct regional tournaments, which have been replaced by what is effectively one big championship playoff divided into four equally-seeded qualifiers. This method was selected by WFTDA member leagues to, according to them, allow for “more competitive play within and across” the whole of the playoffs, and ensure that “the best teams are eligible for Championships,” which this year will happen in Milwaukee the weekend of November 8.

In this installment of WFTDA Bracketology, it’s time to pick apart the Division 1 brackets and see how the WFTDA attempted to meet these and other goals, whether or not the methods it selected were the best way of meeting them, and if the concessions it made to do so were really in the best interests of its member leagues, and for roller derby as a whole.

In case you missed it, check out the first WFTDA Bracketology post wherein we discovered some issues with the Division 2 bracket and took observation at an alternate look at the Division 1 tournament, two things which will come in very handy for what you’re about to read here.

The 2013 WFTDA Division 1 Playoffs

The five events that make up the run for the Hydra championship trophy are no longer called “The Big 5” by the WFTDA, but the scale of the tournaments that now comprise the Division 1 playoffs are still pretty damn big. Forty teams are eligible regardless of what people are calling it these days, so let’s give “The Big 40” their due and see who is playing where this year.

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2013 WFTDA Bracketology #1: Division 2 and the D1 “Regional” Playoffs

Big news, flat-track followers: The WFTDA has released updated league standings and with it the seedings and brackets for the 2013 WFTDA playoffs. This has always been a major event on the roller derby calendar, but this year brings significant changes to the formula for determining who plays where.

The four-region system used in the past few years has been abolished in favor of one “global” region, one where all member leagues are lumped into the same system. The system itself has also gone under a major change, foregoing polled rankings for a math-derived rank based on strength of opponent and point spread of games. There is also the addition of a lower-tier divisional playoff, to give a few more teams exposure to a national tournament experience.

In this two-part “Bracketology” examination of the tournaments, we’ll take a look at who is (and isn’t) in the tournament, how the seeds and playoff sites match up, the methodology behind why the WFTDA dispersed teams the way that they did…and why a lot of trouble might have been avoided with a few simple changes.

Because now that the ranking sheets have hit the fans, it’s clear that there are few issues—a few big issues, actually—that need to be addressed for future playoff editions. One might even surmise that the WFTDA could have avoided some of these issues ahead of time with some forward thinking or careful consideration of their options.

But we’ll get to that in Part 2. First, let’s first take a look at the 20 teams in Division 2 competing for a special invite to the WFTDA Championships in November, and an alternate view on how the 2013 playoffs would have went down had they happened under last year’s regional format.

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Roller Derby 2013 Preview: The End of the Beginning

Happy new year, roller derby—it’s going to be a doozy.

That’s because 2013 will see a number of changes, additions, milestones, and opportunities across all five of the major roller derby organizations. On the track, off the track, in the rules, or in the pocketbook; everyone’s doing something of major significance this year, and many of these things could have long-lasting effects on the game.

Taken on the whole, it gives the impression that modern roller derby itself, soon to be 13 years young, is starting to get ready to move on to the next stage of growth…almost like a pre-teen not too far away from starting puberty. Since roller derby doesn’t have any parents to give them “The Talk” (thank goodness!), it will collectively have to figure out what that stage is going to look like and how it will effect to the greater health of the game. Even if that stage may ultimately be a few years off, we’re definitely starting to wind down the modern game’s childhood days.

If 2013 is to be the end of modern roller derby’s beginning, let’s take a pre-emptive trip down memory lane and see what major events and important news items derby needs to keep an eye on from the WFTDA, the MRDA, the RDCL, USARS, and even MADE. From new rules, new organizational structures, new opportunities, and even a $20,000 banked track tournament—this is not going to be a year that roller derby will ever want to forget.

WFTDA

wftda-logoOf all the changes in the WFTDA happening this year, the one that will have the biggest impact is the new 2013 WFTDA roller derby rules, which officially went into effect on January 1. As the de facto flat track roller derby ruleset, a significant number of leagues, including all those under WFTDA sanction, obviously, will be playing by the new rules in games from this point forward.

In addition to updating the text of the rules, the WFTDA has updated its rules revision process, too. After taking a lot of heat from many regarding what resulted from the update cycle of its 2010 rules, the WFTDA has already indicated that rules updates will be coming in at higher frequencies than in the past, stating that there may even be an update later in 2013. It’s also taking feedback of issues directly via a rules issues reporting database to help speed things along, which is great.

The number of derby events played using WFTDA rules is mind-boggling, and 2013 is likely to see that number increase. But if there’s ever been a bellwether for where teams are at—and how the rules are holding up—heading into playoff season, it’s the East Coast Derby Extravaganza (June 28-30). Traditionally the last major event before playoff rankings are locked-in for the fall tournament season, this year’s iteration may become even more significant considering… Continue reading

WFTDA Creates New Playoff Format for 2013

One of the persistent issues facing the WFTDA over the years has been that of competitive balance. Teams want to play teams that are nearer to them in skills and abilities; fans want to see games that are competitive and entertaining, especially in the postseason. The WFTDA wants these things too, and have taken a step to try and get that to happen.

The WFTDA has announced there will be a new playoff structure in place for 2013. Next year, the teams that qualify for the WFTDA Championships playoff tournaments will no longer be the top ten from each of the four current regions. Instead, all 159 members leagues will be lumped into one group, with the top 40 teams based on performance and ranking invited to play for the Hydra.

The geographical regional playoffs will be no more, to be replaced with four of what the WFTDA is now calling the Division I Playoffs, “Division I” being the new name for the top 40 WFTDA teams. Everyone else ranked 41 and below at the time the championship invites are sent will be considered “Division II.” The WFTDA says there will new tournaments added so another 20 teams in D-II will get more competitive action.

Fans and skaters have been wanting the WFTDA to put teams into competitive divisions for a while, and at first glance that’s what the organization has finally decided to do. But look past the “division” moniker and you’ll notice that the WFTDA has just made sure the true top (inter)nationally ranked teams are guaranteed a shot at playoff glory.

Teams will not be segregated by performance any more than they already have been, as being “in the playoffs” (Div.I) versus “not in the playoffs” (Div.II). However, now comparatively weaker teams in the bottom ten of a region, like the South Central, will not get into the playoffs over stronger teams at the bottom ten of stronger region, like the West.

Since the new playoff format will seed teams without regard to where they are located on a map, it will provide a level of competitive consistency across the playoff season. The inevitable blowouts will likely be limited to the first day of each tournament. As seed numbers get closer together, the probability increases that there will be more competitive games.

Strictly from a competion standpoint, this is a very good move by the WFTDA. This format means all four tournaments are sure to have good matchups, the games will get better as the tournaments progress, and the 12 teams that advance to Championships will definitely be the best 12 roller teams in the country (or the world, as it is) based solely on their performance. This is critical if the WFTDA hopes to grow its WFTDA.tv platform, making it easier to sell pay-per-view passes to the common fan if they know they won’t see too many bad games.

It’s also great news for the Hydra-have-nots, as more WFTDA-sanctioned tournaments will be added for the teams that just missed out on the Big Dance. This may be a consolation for the handful of teams that would otherwise be squeezed out of the top 40 due to the killing-off of the regional-based invite system, but I think it’s great that the WFTDA is making sure there’s going to be another event where the small guys can have their chance to shine—and to win.

But in thinking about it, there are a few initial concerns that I would hope the WFTDA has taken into consideration.

Immediately, the question must be raised on how the top 40 teams will be determined in the first place. When regions were voting for their own regional rankings, it wasn’t too much to ask of a league to vote for, at most, 40 leagues nearby them. Surely, the WFTDA isn’t going to expect its population to rank all 159 leagues from top to bottom. Perhaps a system similar to (human) college football rankings will be implemented, where teams assign ranked votes to the teams they think are in the top 40 i.e., 40pts for 1st, 39pts for 2nd, 19pts for 22nd, etc. Total points would then determine rank.

Assuming a viable ranking system is put into place, the next question becomes how leagues are going to afford potentially sending their travel teams to a tournament venue that is very far away from their region. Since geography is no longer part of the criteria for who goes to a specific playoff site, you could get situations where a team like Rose City needs to go to Florida for their playoff opener, or London to a Los Angeles playoff site.

S-curve seeding snakes down columns of seeds (numbers) to find the teams that go in each (part of the) bracket. Now you know!

If the WFTDA is going to go with a rigid S-curve draw, you could have a lot of teams travelling a lot of taxing miles due to how the seeds fall and where the tournament sites fall. On top of that, a team won’t know exactly where they are playing until the final rankings (or the brackets) are released, not giving them a lot of time to plan for the logistics of flying and lodging 20 roller girls to a faraway city.

Finally, there’s the matter of fan support and crowd atmosphere. If a team has to travel a long way, will their cheering sections also make the trip? Since events are more likely to have teams coming in from all around the country (or world), it will by default create a more neutral crowd. Also, a lot of derbyfolk like cheering for their region if they can’t cheer for their team. But when there’s the very real possibility that a tournament located in the south may only have one or two teams based in the south participating, that could lead to issues with marketing and/or event ticket sales, or worse, a mostly disinterested patronage.

So there are a lot of unanswered questions from this announcement. Potential pitfalls, too. However, since I’m a guy that only wants to see good roller derby happen on the track, I’m positive on this news. I like the fact that each site will have a mostly equal distribution of top-, middle-, and bottom-ranked teams. I love the fact that there will be an opportunity non-playoff teams to have a shot of taking home a WFTDA trophy of some kind.

The WFTDA will be releasing further details on their new playoff structure following next month’s 2012 WFTDA Championships, so we’ll see if there are already contingencies in place to guard against some potentially big issues with the new format. While no one can know how this, along with the forthcoming rules update, will shake things up for 2013, there is something we can do to get some insight into what we could expect come next September.

We already know who, roughly, the 25 best teams in the WFTDA were before the playoffs, thanks to the DNN Power Rankings. Just for experimental purposes, we can fill out the remaining 15 teams with an in-no-way-100%-accurate ranking of the remaining teams got in to their regionals. (Yes, this is leaving out some teams from other regions that would have been in the new Top 40, but that’s not what this about.) With this quick estimation, we can ask:

Which teams would have likely reached the WFTDA Championships if the new playoff format were applied this year? How competitive would the weekends wind up being? What would each of the four regional brackets have looked like? How much travel would teams have to do in total?

Before we can answer those questions, first things first: The 2012 Pre-Playoffs Forty are…

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USARS Finalizes Derby Rules, Launches Olympic Aspirations

After months of planning, tweaks, beta tests, and input of feedback, USA Roller Sports has approved its first official set of roller derby rules for submission to the the USARS executive committee for final review. They are also to be used in USARS roller derby member leagues, effective immediately.

This marks yet another important step in roller derby’s international growth. Recognized by the U.S. Olympic Committee nationally, and the International Roller Sports Federation (FIRS) internationally, USARS is—by law—the only organization in the United States that can launch a legitimate push for top-level international competition or Olympic inclusion of roller derby, or any rollerskating sport in general.

That’s good to know, especially with the re-emerging news that the International Olympic Committee has short-listed roller sports (which includes roller derby) as a possible addition to the 2020 Olympic Games.

Eight sports made the list for consideration. The competition roller sports faces include baseball, softball, karate, wushu, wakeboarding, sport climbing, and squash. There’s only room for one of these to make the cut, however, since the Olypmics have already committed to adding golf and rugby to the Games starting in 2016. Too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the soup, and all that.

Derby’s Olympic chances at this early stage in the game are likely slim. A final decision on which of the eight sports will make it in is to be made sometime in 2013. That’s too soon for the world (and men) to catch up to the sport’s explosive growth here in the United States. You can’t have an Olympic event without high-caliber athletes from all over the world taking part, after all.

Then again, all disciplines of a sport will be taken under consideration by the International Olympic Committee. Derby may have an outside chance at coming along for the ride if roller hockey, roller speed skating, and roller figure skating are deemed viable for the Summer Olympics, just as their ice skating counterparts have been part of the Winter Olympics program for decades.

Even if it’s too soon for derby to make it all the way, there are still thousands of amateur athletes within the USARS membership that have an opportunity to apply their skills to the sport of roller derby.

So that we know what those men and women might be getting themselves into, let’s familiarize ourselves with the style of roller derby USARS is bringing to the table.

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WFTDA Rules Beta: No Minor Feat

A few weeks ago, the WFTDA announced that they would be “beta testing” a new ruleset that does away with the minor penalty. The beta section 6 (PDF) of the updated rulebook simplifies things so that something is either a penalty or not a penalty, whereas previously it was either a major penalty, minor penalty, or no impact/no penalty.

To accommodate this, some minor penalties have been upgraded to a major and a trip to the box, and other minors have been tossed out altogether to make them no impact/no penalty actions. DNN has a nice summary of the changes (and a lengthy discussion about them via reader comments), and I recommend you check them out for the full details.

There will be seven games played under the beta penalty rules, one of which has already been completed. Three will be held during East Coast Extravaganza in late June, including a high-profile game between Charm City and Windy City. In July, Rocky Mountain will play two games within their home teams to also put the new penalty rules through their paces.

There are a few revisions to the rules and the general consequences as a result of the changes that I’d like to highlight and discuss. You can read that as well as the full no-minors beta test game schedule after the jump.

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