Are you new to derby or just looking to brush up on your rulebook skills? Wayne Mooney is your man! This week, he’ll explain direction of gameplay penalties.
Recently the media has been filled with stories of scientists’ discovery that rollergirls’ vision, like that of Jurassic Park’s mighty part-frog Tyrannosaurus rex, is based on movement. (Despite persistent rumors, however, only a very small percentage of rollergirls were found to actually contain any significant amount of frog DNA.) Since this news broke, I’ve seen no end of people suggesting that rollergirls should hold still on the track in order to avoid being seen, and while the surprise attacks would be an excellent strategy, the fact is that rollergirls were aware of this handicap long before science turned its stethoscopes and Geiger counters toward our sport, and they wrote rules prohibiting exactly such a play.
Skaters are allowed to stand still without consequence, but they must be moving either laterally or counter-clockwise when executing a block. There’s no requirement that the movement be a certain speed, and they don’t need to be skating; stepping is perfectly legal (and can be very useful, especially at the start of a jam). The rule also doesn’t say that they have to skate facing forward, so blockers sometimes skate while facing backwards in order to keep their eyes on opponents behind them. Whether a blocker is moving or not is determined by her feet, so skaters are even allowed to lean clockwise into their hits as long as they continue to roll in the correct direction. The other side of all this is that while a skater is standing still, her opponents are still allowed to hit her, and many rollergirls have learned to use their other senses to identify the locations of stationary blockers. That’s why jammers sometimes pump their fist in the air: they’re using their highly developed sense of touch to detect changes in air currents caused by the presence of invisible, stationary blockers.