Posts Tagged ‘Banked Track’

RDCL Battle on the Bank VII Preview


As roller derby rolls through the spring and summer, anticipation builds as fall approaches. The autumn months are when the roller derby championship season begins in earnest, and is when all eyes are on flat tracks around the country (and world!) to see what teams are the best of the best.

For the impatient lot, the Roller Derby Coalition of Leagues has plopped its national get-together smack-dab in the middle of the year. Thanks to them, we don’t need to wait to see some bracket-busting action. We can have it right now!

This weekend, June 6-8, Battle on the Bank VII takes place in San Diego. The five founding member leagues of the RDCL, along with two guest leagues, a host of juniors, and for the first time a pair of men’s teams fill out the three-day national banked track tournament.

Banked track derby has been through a rough stretch as of late. Over the past several months, a handful of leagues have been forced to seek out or move to a new location, forced to mothball or sell their track, or forced to shut down altogether. There aren’t many banked leagues to begin with, so when things like this happen to a few, it affects the many. Even so, the spectacle of banked track roller derby is hearty, and even during trying times it continues to succeed in many places.

There is much good news to report on in this year’s battle. A team new to the tournament is getting a third chance to make a second impression. A team still-new to RDCL play is getting a second chance to get their first win. Two teams no strangers to each other are getting ready to mark a roller derby first for the second time. While victory seems inevitable for the coalition’s powerhouse, the middle placings may all be in play among the teams returning to the tournament.

That’s good news for fans, since the roller derby played in the RDCL can be downright incredible when the wheels hit the Masonite in a game between level participants. Though tournament participation is down this year, there is a still a healthy number of teams ready to duke it out in downtown San Diego across 17 half-length and full-length games.

Live streaming coverage is being provided by hosts San Diego Derby Dolls for free through the live stream page on the Battle on the Bank website. The full game schedule and adult brackets are available below, followed by a comprehensive preview of who’s who in the tournament, the kind of gameplay to expect on the banked track, and the current state of RDCL in general.

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Another Derby Extra: The RollerCon Seminar


Didn’t go to RollerCon this year? Or maybe you were there, and you couldn’t make it to Another Derby: The Seminar.

Well, that is egg on your face. Those who went saw something special, as evidenced by these actual testimonials:

• “That was a fucking AWESOME seminar, thank you!”

• “At least there are people thinking about the big picture. Thanks for continuing to care, WindyMan.”

• “Simply amazing – people who weren’t there don’t know what they missed.

• “Thank you for doing this!”

Regrets? Fret not. Now everyone can get in on the best kept secret in roller derby: Roller derby itself.

Find out the hows and whys of the game, from the pack, to the pivot, to power jams. Discover what all roller derby rule sets, past and present, have in common. Then see how this knowledge can be applied to the modern game in a way that benefits everyone. (WFTDA, I’m looking at you!) Even if you know derby—or rather, if you think you know derby—get ready to love the game you love in another brand-new way.

The 75-minute seminar has been enhanced with full diagrams and video overlays, so you’ll know exactly what’s happening through every concept and video as it’s happening.

Check it out below:

Thanks for watching, and thanks for spreading the knowledge. Knowledge is power!

Battle on the Bank VI Diary: The Most Interesting Jam in the World

Heading into Battle on the Bank this year, there was little doubt that the L.A. Derby Dolls and their Ri-Ettes all-star team were the runaway favorites to repeat as banked track champs. Having destroyed both their closest rivals earlier in the year, the San Diego Derby Dolls Wildfires and the Arizona Derby Dames Hot Shots, Los Angeles did not have have much in the way of resistance to claim the title for the second straight year.

And so they did.

The L.A. Derby Dolls, winners of three out of six Battle on the Bank tournaments and two in a row. But this isn't about them.

The L.A. Derby Dolls, winners of three out of six Battle on the Bank tournaments and two in a row. That’s great and all, but this story isn’t about them.

Despite the winner being a foregone conclusion, there was still a lot to look forward to a few steps lower on the bracket.

At the bottom, the Sugartown Rollergirls and Penn-Jersey Roller Derby got their first taste of the RDCL national tournament. In the middle, Tilted Thunder and the OC Rollergirls showed that they are not too far off from competing for the podium, putting in a good showing against the top teams after putting on a great show against each other. And off to the side, the juniors of the RDCL demonstrated that it won’t be long until they replace the players occupying their eventual spots on the senior rosters.

But back to the top steps. Though San Diego was seeded ahead of Arizona, it wasn’t an easy pick to say who would overcome the other on the way to the finals. But it was all but certain that which ever one did would lose to L.A. in the finals, making the battle between them a race for second place.

The double-elimination format of the tournament virtually ensured both teams would face each other twice: Once in a 30-minute game in the winners’ bracket on Saturday, and again in a full tilt the next day for a place in the grand final.

Thank goodness they did. The two AZ/SD games, by a fair margin, featured the most engaging, most fascinating, most exciting roller derby I have seen at Battle on the Bank out of the four editions I have attended. Dare I say, it was the most compelling action I have seen in the Doll Factory in two or three years—a period which includes all-star appearances by Gotham, Rocky Mountain, Team Legit, and Team Bionic, among many other top-tier teams that have rolled through in that time.

A bold statement, that, but there are numbers to back it up. In ninety total minutes of gameplay between the two teams, leads larger than 20 points were a short-lived luxury. Sustaining a low double-digit lead was about as good as either team could manage throughout. In the 60-minute semifinal game, teams were averaging less than 2 points each per jam. Two! Factor out power jams, and it was even closer.

Close scores are one thing, but with the 2013 RDCL rules having almost eliminated “cheap” points gifted to teams during goating and power jam situations, it was literally back to the case of every point mattering and every point needing to be fought for tooth-and-nail.

The sausage non-engagement tactic has, for all intents and purposes, been eliminated in the new rules. Front-loaded defenses were at a formidable advantage, forcing both teams to engage and assist offensively to break through. Packs were moving at a reasonable speed, allowing a defense trapped ahead of a goat time to lock on to, match speed with, and slow down an opposing jammer wanting to complete a pass, making goating itself less effective and no longer an easy play to complete a full pass.

This restored competitive balance to gameplay, but it also created a most exciting side-effect. If two equal teams both have an equal chance to play defense, are equally proficient at playing offense in the pack, and have jammers of equal speed and skill levels, odds are that both jammers are going to frequently complete their initial pass equally—or simultaneously, as it were.

That is exactly what happened in the Arizona/San Diego games. I don’t have an exact number, but I can almost guarantee that their games saw the highest number of close double-jammer breakouts all weekend, by a fair margin. In fact, a good percentage of jams had jammers within a quarter-track of each other or closer after completing the initial pass, leading to a hard and fast jammer race back to the rear of the pack. This often led to low-score, and even no-score jams, but not for a lack of action.

As both teams began to realize that uncontested scoring passes were rare, the only thing they could do was gain every millisecond of advantage they possibly could with the jammer race on the track and against each other in the pack to secure a favorable position for the scoring pass. The AZ/SD games at Battle on the Bank were brilliant examples this kind of hold-your-breath gameplay.

However, they also showed clear signs that the strategy behind jammer-race contested scoring passes is yet-to-be discovered by many teams in roller derby, not just those in the RDCL.

There was one jam in particular that demonstrated this.

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2013 RDCL Rules Analysis


RDCL banked track games are going to look a lot better in 2013.

Anyone attending a Roller Derby Coalition of Leagues banked track game last year—particularly in Southern California, the nerve center of organization—would have seen many of the same gameplay problems that have been recently plaguing the WFTDA flat track game. Slow, boring, and sometimes unfair gameplay; blocker disengagement and no-packs during power jam point-go-rounds; and lengthy official timeouts to clarify calls or communicate penalties between jams.

Though the problems were very similar between derby disciplines, the urgency to fix them is much, much more paramount in the RCDL. Operating expenses for banked track leagues are exponentially higher than those of their flat track sister leagues, and as the only realistic place the income to cover those expenses can come from is fans and the sponsors they attract, something quickly needed to be done to get things back on track and make it fun for fans to watch once again.

For me personally, watching an RDCL game was often an exercise in tolerance. In the latter half of 2012, some games in L.A. got to the point where I couldn’t tolerate them anymore and had to walk out during the third quarter to save my sanity. It was not a good situation to be in.

In response to these issues, the RDCL released an updated ruleset late last year for use by its banked track roller derby leagues. The document wasn’t final at the time, with the first half of the new year pegged to be a working beta period to iron out the kinks.

A few weeks ago, the updated and finalized 2013 rulebook landed. Now at version 2.3, it may have very well hit the sweet spot how it juggles the unique issues the organization and its member banked track leagues are currently facing.

The biggest issue of all, one exclusive to the RDCL, is that the number of banked track leagues using their ruleset is extremely small—about 15, give or take—and is not liable to grow in number any time soon. The small talent pool available means that teams of vastly different skill levels will have no choice but to play each other, for lack of options, requiring a ruleset that makes potentially lopsided games competitive, yet action-packed and fun to watch during all phases of play.

Having seen quite a few banked track games played under the ruleset this year, let me be the first to say it: Mission accomplished. Games are fun to watch again!

Here is a look at some of the major points in the 2013 RDCL banked track roller derby ruleset, including how they have simplified and improved flow for uninterrupted gameplay, how they have made things more fair for teams in various phases of play, and yes, the solution they have cooked up for putting the jam back into power jams.

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WRDN Gamecast: San Diego DD vs Sugartown RG


Oh yeah! It’s time for another WRDN Gamecast!

It’s a look into last weekend’s RDCL banked track game between the San Diego Derby Dolls and the Sugartown Rollergirls, straight from the beaches of Ventura, Calif.  It’s also a great look at the 2013 RDCL roller derby rules, which promote faster, more open play and (mostly) prevents blockers from becoming tackling dummies in a split pack. This was fun game to watch (especially compared to last year’s Gamecast under the old rules) with a fair amount of action.

The team San Diego fielded was a mixer team of league players and rookies, some of which played in their very first game. Sugartown’s roster is also a mix featuring some of their all-star players and guest players from the L.A. Derby Dolls, necessary fill-ins as quite a few of STRG’s rostered skaters were out with injury.

This game might provide an insight as to the kind of gameplay we might expect on the undercard at next month’s Battle on the Bank VI in Los Angeles, as both San Diego and Sugartown will be in attendance.

To view the game, head on over to the WRDN Gamecast page, or just press play below.

WRDN Gamecast: L.A. Derby Dolls vs. Sugartown Rollergirls

Last weekend, the Sugartown Rollergirls hosted the L.A Derby Dolls in their second-ever interleague banked track roller derby game. Lucky you, it’s now available to view in a very special WRDN Gamecast!

Sugartown, a banked track league based in Oxnard, Calif., has been in existence since about 2010. Their first game was a few months ago against the Reno Rollergirls, whom they defeated 186-97. For their second game, L.A. Derby Dolls came rolling into town. L.A. didn’t send in their big guns, opting to sick a team of subpool players (those not yet drafted onto an LADD home team) on STRG.

The game was well-attended, and the crowd showed their support for the home team. There was even a guy with a vuvuzela, which sadly, could not be edited out of the broadcast. But there was roller derby, and it was a rough-and-tumble(-and-slow) game to see.

Here it is, for your viewing pleasure:

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Battle on the Bank V Preview

While the WFTDA and flat track roller derby doesn’t get to see playoff action until September, banked track roller derby’s biggest playoff event is happening this weekend.

Battle on the Bank is now in its fifth year, and after stops in Los Angeles, Austin, San Diego, and Phoenix, it’s now Seattle, Wash. and the Tilted Thunder Railbirds playing host to the summer interleague tournament.

Eight banked track teams from five different states will be fighting for the really big Battle on the Bank trophy in 12 games over three days. Of the teams accepting their invites to Seattle, seven played in last year’s Battle on the Bank and have at least two years’ worth of tournament experience; four had played in the first BotB five years ago; three are returning champions; and one team, the Salt City Derby Girls, are playing in their first banked track battle.

The weekend is scheduled to have four games on Friday, six games on Saturday, and then two full-length games on Championship Sunday to determine the top three. Sunday will also feature an interleague junior derby bout in the morning between the L.A. Junior Derby Dolls and the Tilted Thunder Railbird Peeps. Click the image to the right for the full schedule in printable bracket form (PDF) to keep track of the action.

Though there are only two, or maaaaaybe three teams that have a legit chance of starring in the championship final this weekend, the action in the middle of the pack should be very, very interesting to watch, with some of the stronger teams beginning to slip and the up-and-comers firing on all cylinders. This may be the first time in a while where the majority of 30-minute games on the schedule will be relatively close and competitive.

Alas, although all of the teams are winners in our hearts, only one can be a winner on the track. So which team has got the stuff to take it all this year? Let’s find out…

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Victory Through No Pack of Effort (v2.0)

This article was originally posted on November 6, 2011. It has been reworked for ease of reading and clarity, and updated with new examples and a more direct conclusion. It’s like a Blu-ray special edition!

During the the Windy City/Naptown game at the 2011 WFTDA North Central playoffs, there was a sequence of events that, as a sports fan and a roller derby fan, that I truly appreciated.

Behind on the scoreboard during the second half, Windy City sent Jackie Daniels out to jam. Jackie got a fiver on her first scoring pass, but as Windy City bench coach and DNN editor Justice Feelgood Marshall recounted, when she went for her second run at the pack…

…she tries to go around a nearly stopped Sarge[ntina of Windy City] to the right, just as Sarge moves to the right. Sarge is what the military would classify as a hard target. Physics happen and Jackie goes from like 60 to 0 in an instant, hitting the floor on her back super hard. Everybody in the room goes “OOOOH” at the same time. As any derby player knows, the collisions you don’t expect — the ones you’re not braced for — are the ones that fuck you up.

So Jackie’s on the ground. Doesn’t move for a couple seconds but it feels like ten. Her jam ref is standing over her and looks like he’s about to call the jam on injury. Sarge is also obviously concerned. I’m sure Jackie’s got to be relatively seriously hurt, because otherwise she’d call it off, right?

But no. Jackie slowly rolls over, slowly gets up, and keeps fucking going. Amazingly. She is really interested in that scoring pass. She’s slower than she was before and obviously in some pain, but she’s also Jackie. She gets the 4 points and calls it off at 9-0.

When Jackie gets back to the bench, our lineup manager Angel Dustt and I immediately check to see if she’s ok. She’s gasping and holding her chest and can hardly talk; she sits down heavily in the back row of seats and unbuckles her chin strap.

Angel says something to her right then, something along the lines of “Nice jam” or “Are you trying to kill yourself?” I do remember exactly what Jackie says back to her in between ragged breaths: “I wanna win. I wanna win.”

The final score of that game?

Windy City 128, Naptown 117.

Due to the extraordinary effort of Jackie Daniels, that 9-0 jam was damn near the difference between Windy City winning and losing the game. The team ultimately achieved victory through no lack of effort on their part.

A case like this is a reminder that team sports rely on individuals to do their jobs to the best of their abilities. From start to finish, an individual’s best effort is needed to help the team succeed. However, just like a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, an individual not putting in their best effort, or effectively quitting on the play, can be disaster for the well-being of an entire team.

Had Jackie not dug deep to keep going, she could have left those points on the table. She could have also been given three jams off for a medical stoppage, preventing Windy City from using her in their normal jammer rotation and opening up the possibility of losing out on even more points in future jams through unfavorable jammer match-ups.

It just goes to show that effort in sports is rewarded. If you work harder than your opponent (assuming your opponent is of similar skill and ability), or at the very least give it your all 100% of the time, good things will happen to you and your team. Even when it looks impossible, you never know what can happen if you never give up.

As the saying goes, winners never quit, and quitters never win.

However, the current state of modern roller derby, both flat track (WFTDA) and banked track (RDCL), quitters can win.

The rules make it that way.

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3 Thoughts on Moving Derby Forward (Literally)

The last few weeks have been good for roller derby fans. While the flat track season has yet to get into full swing, the banked track community is running full steam ahead with great games left and right. They’ve been having so much fun early in the year, flat track teams and skaters have been wanting to get in on the action.

Last month, the Oly Rollers came down to San Diego for their first-ever game on the bank. Last week, the WFTDA Champion Gotham Girls went Hollywood to take on the L.A. Derby Dolls. This past weekend, the March Radness exhibition bout at the Doll Factory featured some of the country’s top skaters sprinkled into the Los Angeles/San Diego rivalry.

For a derby fan like me, it’s heaven. For a derby advocate like me, it’s also heaven.

In a wonderful coincidence, these three games are perfect examples of why roller derby is at its best when players are in motion. A pack that naturally and constantly rolls forward (and rules that actively promote such happenings) makes banked track games faster, more dynamic, and a whole lot of fun to watch.

Though the style of play is different, the WFTDA and flat track roller derby in general could take a few lessons from the world of the tilty-trackers. After all, roller derby is still roller derby regardless of the surface it’s played on.

With that in mind, here are three observations from the last three banked track games played in Southern California.

Slow packs and rear blocker walls work great…until they don’t

Oly 123, San Diego 102
February 18 at the Del Mar Fairgrounds

As is their style, San Diego heavily relied on rear blocker walls throughout the game in an attempt to trap jammers, goat blockers, split packs, and keep the pace of the pack nice and slow for their own jammers to pile on the scoring passes against Oly.

To facilitate this, the Wildfires blockers began almost every single jam with three or four of their blockers butting up against the rear of the blocker start box. As a result, San Diego usually started with the Oly jammer behind a 3- or 4-wall at the back of a very slowly moving pack.

This is a stiflingly effective a defensive tactic, one that’s very common in flat track play. The argument could be made that it’s even more effective on the banked track, as their rules make it illegal to skate backwards. This can make it nearly impossible for a team getting too far ahead of a slow pack to retreat and help their teammate through.

However, for as well as the rear wall strategy can benefit a team using it, there were two jams early in the game that demonstrated how devastating it can be for that team if it backfires.

This first example shows what happens when the San Diego rear wall breaks down. Psycho Babble, the Oly jammer, manages to slip around it and get lead jammer relatively easily. Here’s a video (no audio):

This left San Diego in the worst possible position. Their jammer was stuck behind Oly’s 4-wall at the front. The SD blockers couldn’t just let the pack split; not only would they get a clear penalty, it would give Psycho more time to make her scoring pass. Worst of all, they couldn’t do very much to break up the front 4-wall since Oly had position and were good in staying in front to keep it.

This made it easy for Psycho to get a full five points on the play. She could have gone for another pass or two had she not called it off early, actually, as there was still a decent amount of time left on the jam clock by then.

This jam shows the negative of an all-hands-on-deck rear wall blocking formation. To put it simply, if the wall is defeated before the pack splits, that team is fucked.

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The Pack Solution

There’s been a problem brewing in modern roller derby. If the last few months are any indication, it’s a problem that’s been getting worse and worse.

I’m talking about jams during flat track games that take a while to get started…if they get started at all. Slow-pack starts, pack no-starts, non-jams. Whatever you call them, a lot of people are starting to not like them. Unless something is done about them, there’s no indication of them going away. In fact, the trends are pointing to the problem getting worse before it gets better.

At first, jams were going several seconds before teams crossed the pivot line to start the jam. But then, teams realized they could kill penalties during the time they slowly moved forward, eventually leading to slow jam starts of 30 seconds or more while a team stood around to burn off penalty time. As teams countered this by skating forward to start a split-pack start, good teams realized that they could take advantage of this and hold the rear of the pack, which was proving to be more and more advantageous. As jam delays were starting to hit the 45~60 second range, teams realized that once a jam was started, the only way to not give the team in the back an easy advantage was to never move forward themselves, ultimately leading to at least two instances of entire two-minute jams expiring without the jammers being released.

Although these extreme slow starts are somewhat rare in the grand scheme of derby (so far), the fact that they can happen at all, and have been starting to happen more frequently as of late in high profile games, should be a sign that there’s some changing and tweaking needing to be done with the rules to make sure that they can’t happen to begin with. Any good rulebook should be written to account for the ordinary and the extreme, and the ever-evolving WFTDA roller derby rules aren’t quite there yet on the extreme side of things.

Even so, there are those some out there that think that little oddities like the occasional dose of inaction isn’t too big of a deal. I suppose that’s true, in a way. After all, there are things that some people may like and other people may not like. You can’t please all the people all the time.

However, a group of people you absolutely must please are the spectators who come to watch and support roller derby leagues. If their booing is any indication, they don’t like it when nothing is happening on the track. If anything, making sure the paying patron is pleased at what they see (without compromising the legitimacy of the sport, of course) should be of the utmost importance.

So whether or not you think this is a small problem or a big problem, it’s still a problem that bears further investigation. But before we can do that, we first need to identify the real problem. As I’ll demonstrate, trying to fix the “problem” that a team or teams are not moving off the start line may lead to more problems down the road. This isn’t because the solutions will or will not work. It’s because the solutions being thought up for it are being applied to the wrong problem.

In this white paper for consideration of the derby community, I’ll break down what’s really causing these slow-starts and non-jams to occur, explain what’s happening with other loophole-inducing derby tactics, and offer my own custom solution for the derbyverse to take into consideration to eliminate all of these issues in one fell swoop.

Casual readers of this blog may want to turn away now, because this isn’t your run-of-the-mill blog post: This is a serious and detailed investigation of WFTDA rules and the tactics of the players who play the game within them. If you want to bail now and click somewhere else, I won’t blame you for doing so. But if you’re serious about improving roller derby on the whole, and are in a position to do something about it, please consider this article a contribution to the cause and your efforts.

As always, I thank you.


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