This post is for the derby geeks. These are some differences I noticed in gameplay and rule interpretation between US and UK derby while I was at Rollercon. I think these things are pretty important because what’s happening in the US always ends up filtering over to us in the UK.
Thanks are due to Roller Derby Rule of the Day who I was lucky enough to sit with during a bout and took the time to discuss many of these things with me.
1. Backwards Blocking
I saw this in almost every bout that I watched at Rollercon, and saw people using it in scrimmages a lot. It looks increasingly like we all need to be as good at skating backwards as we are forwards, and using backwards skating to our advantage. It helps you see what’s going on behind you, line yourself up for big hits, and is useful as a last line of defence as you can hold a jammer back with your shoulders.
2. Fast Packs
There’s been a lot of debate and uproar in the states about slow game-play, known as Slow Derby, Stroller Derby, or No-ller Derby. This is basically a form of really defensive play when one team tries to slow down the pack, often during a powerjam. Although it helps to win games it’s not much fun for the audience (or really for the players!). The reaction against this has been to speed up packs, to play more offensively and to keep moving rather than slowing down. I saw most teams use the tactic of trapping a goat (a member of the opposing team) behind them to slow down the pack. It takes more skill, I think, but makes derby more fun to play and to watch.
3. Destroying the Pack Penalties
This is related to point (2). Refs in the States are much, much more harsh on calling major penalties for destroying the pack. Whereas in the UK you might see one team line up on the outside line during a powerjam and kind of ‘pretend’ to be skating forwards without really moving, that shit will not fly in the States. Those blockers have to keep moving, and keep up with the opposing blockers, or they get called very quickly for destroying the pack and get sent to the box one by one.
4. Loose Walls
How often have you heard someone screaming ‘wall up!” in the UK derby scene? I certainly have, and I’ve yelled it from the sidelines myself. When I was scrimmaging at Rollercon, I kept lining up next to someone ready to form a super tight wall, only to have them skate away from me when the whistle blew. I couldn’t figure it out until I watched other bouts. US skaters are much better at skating in loose packs and loose walls, and getting close and tight exactly when they have to. Maybe they’re more agile or faster, I’m not sure, but they have a lot more flexibility and pack awareness and can manouvere around the track really fast to get where they need to be.