USA Roller Sports has released the 2014 version of its roller derby rule book. This is the third major derby rules update for USARS, but the first that leaves the core components mostly intact. Though there are significant changes this year, they are more refined and focused than the wholesale makeover USARS rules saw in 2013.
Last year, USARS started to find its way with rules that did not conflict with the style of gameplay it is aiming to develop. But as USARS teams became familiar with the strategy behind the game, some of those rules showed signs of being incomplete. On top of that, the USARS game revealed that a lot of the players had incomplete skills to cope with the more challenging and tactical style of play.
This year, USARS has taken steps to fill in the gaps in both of those areas, albeit more in the former than the latter. Many weird (and boring) situations have been eliminated with a few simple changes. A much-needed dose of common sense has been introduced to reduce certain types of penalties. And a new way of calling off jams will help teams quickly learn the strategies they didn’t know they needed, as well as make games much more exciting…for the most part.
Despite the relatively small amount of rearranging done to USARS rules this year—of its ten significant pages, only about a half of a page was added or changed overall—the impact it will have on gameplay will not be small.
All of the rules changes in 2014—except one—appear to be immediate improvements in both writing and in practice. Even the one that seems a bit off in terms of gameplay on the track may be good for USARS teams and players in the bigger picture, although there is a small danger that the trade-off will not always be worth the potential headaches that could come out of it.
Before getting into the newest changes, here is a quick refresher of the major plot points of USARS roller derby rules for those that came in late:
- Game roster cap at 15 players (Team roster is unlimited)
- 90 second jams
- Stopping and clockwise skating illegal (AKA required forward skating motion)
- Pivots separated ahead of blockers in a separate box for jam starts
- Pivots can optionally become scoring players by chasing the (opposing) lead jammer; no helmet cover pass necessary
- Team at the front of the pack (if they can get there) is always the pack
- 10 foot pack proximity—no extra engagement zone
- The jammer/active pivot physically in the lead must always be lead jammer; status can (and often does) switch during a jam
- Lead jammer/pivot must be inbounds and on skates to call off jam
- Jam instantly over when both jammers are in the box (no musical chairs/jammerless jams)
- 5-minute overtime, with sudden-death 2OT/3OT jams if necessary
- Team auto-forfeits if injuries/foul-outs reduce roster to 8 players or fewer (for player safety)
The 2014 rule updates leave most of the above list unaffected, although USARS teams did trial a few things that would have but did not make the final cut. (A “jambreaker” to stop an unending runaway pack situation was found to be too complicated and mostly unnecessary thanks to changes elsewhere in the rules, for example.) But as for what got in?
USARS 2014 Rules Resources
USARS Roller Derby 2014 Rule Book (PDF) – Includes Minimum Skills and Addenda
USARS Rules “Cheat Sheet” Quick Summary (PDF Download)
Official USARS Roller Derby Rules Public Facebook Group
USARS Roller Derby Home Page on TeamUSA.org