What if the star were a potato?

Passages from the 2017 WFTDA roller derby rules where the word ‘Star’ has been replaced by ‘Potato’:

Rule book:

The Jammer wears a helmet cover with a potato on it.

Skaters may not change positions during a Jam, except in the case of a Potato Pass.

The Jammer is denoted as the Skater in visible possession of the Jammer helmet cover (a.k.a. “The Potato”) at the beginning of the Jam.

If a Skater is serving a penalty as their team’s Jammer, no teammate may begin the Jam in possession of the Potato or behind the Jammer Line.

If there is neither a Skater serving a penalty as the Jammer nor a Skater with a visible Potato, then the team has failed to field a Jammer for the upcoming Jam and will be penalized accordingly.

The Potato may only be carried by the Jammer wearing it on their helmet, or by that team’s Jammer or Pivot holding it in their grasp.

Other Skaters may not control the Potato, and the Jammer and Pivot may not hide the Potato (examples include putting it in a pocket or hiding it in a uniform).

Only Skaters who begin the Jam as Jammers may become Lead (so a Pivot who receives the Potato cannot become Lead).

The Lead Jammer will lose their Lead Jammer status if they commit a penalty, intentionally remove the Potato (once it is on), or have the Potato intentionally removed from their head by a teammate.

The Pivot may control the Potato (pick it up, move it, etc.) even if they are not the Jammer; for example, to recover it and return it to the Jammer.

2.2.4. Passing the Potato
A team’s Jammer may transfer their position by handing the Potato to their team’s Pivot while both Skaters are upright, in bounds, and in play, and while neither the Jammer nor the Pivot is en route to, or in queue for, the Penalty Box.

Upon releasing the Potato into the Pivot’s grasp, the position of Jammer is passed.

If the Potato is passed illegally, the initial Jammer remains the Jammer and the initiator of the Pass should be penalized. This includes:

  • releasing the Potato into the grasp of a Skater other than their Pivot
  • releasing the Potato into the Pivot’s grasp while one of the two parties is down, out of bounds, out of play, or en route to the Penalty Box
  • releasing the Potato into the Pivot’s grasp while the Pivot is in queue for the Penalty Box (even if the Pivot is not yet en route)
  • releasing the Potato into the grasp of a Pivot who is not wearing the Stripe

If the Pivot comes into control of the Potato through any other means (for example, by picking up a fallen Potato), a Potato Pass has not taken place.
Accordingly, the Pivot does not attain the position of Jammer and thus may not put the Potato on their own helmet. They may hold the Potato in their hand, drop it, or return it to the Jammer.

Non-Pivot Blockers may not wear helmet covers or have any markings on their helmets that could be confused for the Stripe or the Potato.

Jammers only “earn” a pass if the pass occurs while the Jammer is wearing the Potato on their helmet with the potatoes showing.


The Potato:
The Jammer helmet cover, which has two potatoes on it, one on each side.

Passing the Potato – Potato Pass:
The act of transferring Jammer status, which is accomplished by the Jammer handing their helmet cover (the Potato) to the Pivot.

2017 Scenarios:

White Jammer removes their helmet cover and attempts to hand it to White Pivot. During this process, the Potato falls, touching out of bounds. White Jammer leaves the track to retrieve the helmet cover.

Outcome: No penalty.


Scenario C2.15
White Jammer removes their helmet cover and directly hands it to a White Non-Pivot Blocker. White Jammer releases the helmet cover.

Outcome: White Jammer should be penalized for initiating a Potato Pass to an illegal recipient.

Rationale: White Jammer may only pass the Potato to their Pivot. They may not pass the Potato to a Blocker, regardless of the reasons for which they pass it.

Keep in Mind: If White Jammer had not let go of the Potato, or if White Blocker had refused to accept it (by letting it fall to the track rather than taking control of it), this would be an incomplete Potato Pass rather than an illegal one. Incomplete Potato Passes are not penalized.

Keep in Mind: If White Jammer were holding the Potato and White Blocker wrested it from their grasp, it would have been White Blocker who initiated the illegal Potato Pass, and thus White Blocker would be penalized.

Scenario C2.16
White Jammer removes their helmet cover and hands it to White Pivot. Before White Jammer releases their grip on the Potato, White Pivot is knocked out of bounds. White Jammer then releases the Potato to the out of bounds Pivot.

Outcome: White Jammer receives a penalty for passing the Potato to an ineligible Pivot.

Rationale: Although White Jammer attempted to pass the Potato while White Pivot was eligible, a Potato Pass is a single point of exchange: the moment at which the Potato is released.

Scenario C2.18
Red 21 is the Jammer. They remove their helmet cover and throw it at Red 45, who is the Pivot. Red 45 (still the Pivot) catches the helmet cover and hands it back to Red 21 (still the Jammer). Both Skaters grip the Potato, then Red 21 releases it. Red 45 maintains control of the Potato and puts it on their helmet.

Outcome: Red 45 is now the Jammer.

Rationale: Throwing the Potato is an incomplete Potato Pass, not an illegal one. Catching the Potato (out of the air) is the same as retrieving it (from the floor), so the Pivot is not required to let the Potato fall to the track first. Once Red Jammer clutches the helmet cover, they reestablish their control of the Potato regardless of whether the Pivot lets go or not. They then complete the Potato Pass in a legal fashion.

Scenario C2.19
While moving through the Pack, the Potato comes off Red Jammer’s helmet and sticks to White Blocker’s wrist guard. White Blocker pulls the helmet cover free and drops it outside the track boundary.

Outcome: White Blocker is not issued a penalty.

Rationale: White Blocker gained temporary possession of the helmet cover and dropped it out of play. Because White Blocker did not intentionally attempt to remove the Potato from Red Jammer’s helmet, they should not be issued a penalty for accidentally coming into control of the Potato as long as they immediately relinquish control of the Potato. The Potato may get moved as part of normal gameplay, but may not be controlled by anyone other than the Jammer or Pivot.

Keep in Mind: If White Blocker had not touched the Potato, which was stuck to their wrist guard and allowed Red Jammer or Pivot to recover it once they are aware of it, no penalty would have occurred either.

Keep in Mind: If White Blocker had pulled the Potato off their Velcro, but not immediately relinquished control of the Potato once they removed it from their wrist guard, a penalty would have been issued.

Scenario C3.18
Red Jammer completes their first trip through the Pack and has passed one opposing Blocker when they remove the Potato. While the Potato is off, the three other opposing Blockers commit penalties and are sent to the Penalty Box. The Jam ends while Red Jammer’s Potato is still in their hand.

Outcome: One point.

Rationale: Red Jammer was not able to earn points while the Potato was off, but they still receive the point earned while the Potato was on.

Keep in Mind: If Red Jammer had put the Potato back on before the end of the Jam, they would have earned points for the other opposing Blockers as soon as the Potato was back on their helmet.

Scenario C4.60
The Jam starts and White Jammer quickly earns Lead. Red Jammer immediately pulls off their Potato and tries to pass it over their opponents’ heads to Red Pivot, but is unable to do so. Red Jammer stuffs the Potato into their jersey so they don’t have to hold it as they work their way through the Pack.

Outcome: Red Jammer has hidden the Potato from their opponents, also hiding the fact that they are their team’s Jammer. Red Jammer is penalized.

Rationale: It is unsporting to attempt to hide your role in the Jam.

Keep in Mind: If Red Jammer had held onto the Potato instead of hiding it in their jersey, no penalty would be issued because they would still be visibly in control of the Potato.


WFTDA Officials Certification System to be replaced with Magic 8-Ball

The Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) and the Men’s Roller Derby Association (MRDA) have announced the long-awaited end to the restructure of their Officials Certification System: the certification panels are to be replaced by a Magic 8-Ball.

In the past, certification panels served to assess officials’ rules and officiating knowledge and skill in order to provide certification of officials.
Certification, in turn, signifies an official’s excellence and qualification to officiate sanctioned and regulation roller derby gameplay.
The assessment of which officials are deserving of certification and have the skill to officiate WFTDA and MRDA tournaments will now be carried out by a Magic 8-Ball.

Heffalump, a WFTDA spokesperson, commented:
“We are happy to present a unified certification system that will better meet the needs both the WFTDA and the MRDA membership than the previous certification program.
We think this new Magic 8-Ball-based system will be better at identifying skill in roller derby officiating than the old panel-based system.”

“We have listened to the derby community and believe that this will be a much better, more reliable and less biased way to find the best referees and NSOs for staffing our tournaments.”

“We would like to apologise for the delay in re-opening the certification program, but we believe the wait and hard work will pay off for the future of roller derby officiating.
After the long break during the re-structure in which no certifications were processed, we are now happy to announce that we are accepting applications for officials’ certification once again.”

In answer to whether there would be any changes to the application process for officials seeking certification, Heffalump explained:
“As before, you will need to submit game evaluations and certification test results, which will be carefully considered by the Magic 8-Ball.
And, just as in the past, certification will continue to be an entry requirement for officiating the WFTDA, and now MRDA tournaments, to ensure a high level of officiating at these events.”

WFTDA rules to be translated into Klingon, Elvish and Dothraki

Already, versions of the WFTDA rule book are available in English, German, French and Spanish.

The WFTDA have now announced plans to translate the rules of flat track roller derby into more languages, including Klingon, Elvish and Dothraki.

WFTDA spokesperson Ebony and Irony commented:
“After translating the WFTDA rule book into German, French and Spanish, Klingon seemed like the next logical step.”

“We wanted to focus on languages that are relevant to the roller derby community.
We want to ensure that players, officials and fans can access the important WFTDA rules documents and information in the language of their choice.”

These new versions of the rules will be available on the WFTDA website as soon as possible but the WFTDA are looking for volunteers to help with the translation task.

Ebony and Irony commented:
“If you want to be involved in the translation process, please get in touch with the WFTDA rules committee.
You will need to include a sample of your work by translating a rule of your choice into the relevant language.”

“You can also contact the WFTDA rules committee for any further language translation requests of the rule book.”

“We are currently prioritising Klingon, Elvish and Dothraki.
But in the future we are planning translations into Latin, Parseltongue, simple English, Minion, Pirate, Newspeak, Emojis and Scottish.”

WFTDA to publish the rules of fresh meat roller derby

The members of the WFTDA rules committee have come together to develop a rule set for beginner’s or ‘fresh meat’ roller derby.

WFTDA spokesperson Onyxia commented:
‘We felt that this was a necessary step.
Adapting the rules of roller derby in this way will allow beginners to play without every player fouling out in the first five minutes.’

A summary of the most important changes from the standard rule set is exclusively shown here:

Out of Play
There are no limits to the engagement zone, the pack is everywhere.
Pack definition is not monitored and no failure to reform penalties are given.

Track cuts
There are no track boundary lines. Any lines on the floor mean nothing and can be ignored. Any potential cuts can be undone by skating back on the track.

Illegal procedures
There are no illegal reentries; players can reenter the track anywhere.

False start
There is no such thing as a false start. Players can start anywhere they want.

Penalty enforcement
Leaving the track when being called on a penalty is entirely optional.

Game parameters
Immediately after the start whistle of a jam, there will be a five second delay to give everyone the chance to clarify if the jam has really started and what those confusing whistles mean.

Verbal cues
Referees will not communicate with players beyond issuing penalties. Warnings and prompts to return to the bench are just too confusing.

Impact metrics
Finally, the new rule set will show the following diagram to clarify impact assessment in fresh meat roller derby.


Get certified for creative roller derby refereeing

This coming weekend, the Derpshire Rollergirls are putting on a WFTDA-sanctioned referee clinic with a special emphasis on creative refereeing.

The class aims to help roller derby officials put the maximum amount of creativity into their roller derby refereeing.

The advertisement for the class states:

We will teach you about creativity, innovation and change.
We want to stimulate your creativity and help you take your creative refereeing to the next level.

Be a more innovative referee; jumpstart your creativity, and don’t just go by the rules.

Learn about what is inhibiting you from calling roller derby penalties the way you want.

Think outside the box, break the shackles, push the boundaries and challenge the status quo.
The sky is the limit when it comes to creativity in roller derby refereeing.

Discover and develop your own ideas for how roller derby penalties should be called.

By the end of this course, you will be great at discovering your own ideas about roller derby rules and delivering them confidently.

This course is highly experimental and teaches you to be experimental, too, in your roller derby officiating.

You will learn to creatively work as an individual ref and you will also learn creative refereeing in a team of officials.

We will prepare you for all the situations you may encounter as a roller derby referee: gameplay, captains’ meetings, official reviews – bring your creativity to all of these.

You will be able to use these creative skills everywhere in your function as a roller derby referee, whether you are making calls, selecting crews or evaluating other referees.

There are no skills requirements for this course.
There are no grades or tests. You decide how good you are, because the only person judging your refereeing should be you.

This course also leads directly to certification, i.e you will be a Certified Creative Referee.

Here are some of the creativity- increasing concepts you will learn on this course:

Approach roller derby penalty calls in new innovative ways.
Push your limits – make calls in ways never seen before.

Have you gotten into a rut? Try calling things differently to how you would normally call them.
You may feel foolish at first, but getting comfortable with feeling foolish is just another way to think outside the box.

Shift your thinking away from your brain’s logic centers and into a more creative part of the brain, where it can be mulled over in a non-rational way.

Work backwards: start with the call you want to make and work backwards to creatively come up with a justification.
Try to challenge your brain’s normal concept of causality.

Draw on other creative sources: players, coaches and the audience may give you new ideas about how to make calls.

Invite randomness into your work. Embrace mistakes and incorporate them into your style.

Always think: what’s the worst that could happen?

Eliminate negativity. Do not limit your ideas. No idea is too ‘out there’.
If other people tell you your ideas are outside of normal, don’t listen to them.
Instead, surround yourself with likeminded people.

Keep your creativity sharp. Like any skill, creativity needs to be exercised to keep it going.
Keep thinking of new situations to apply your creativity to. Any bout is an opportunity for this.

This course will cover all of the WFTDA rule book, though special emphasis will be put on creatively calling forearms, multiplayer block, and cut track penalties.

We have many graduates who have gone on to referee at the big 7 WFTDA tournaments and other high profile roller derby events.


Contact the Derpshire Rollergirls to book your place on the creative refereeing course and bring your officiating creativity to a bout near you.

WFTDA to clarify forearm penalties

The WFTDA have published a new rules update to clarify the mechanism and impact assessment of forearm penalties.

Under current WFTDA rules it is illegal to use forearms when blocking opposing skaters.
In recent years, there have been ongoing discussions and persistent confusion about what actions should warrant a forearm penalty.

The WFTDA have now responded by publishing a roller derby rules update, including a re-definition of forearm penalties.

WFTDA spokesperson Madnitude explained:
“All contact, regardless of blocking zone, is to be re-defined as forearm contact. In some unknown portion of cases, contact with opponents will be issued with a forearm penalty. This is with the exception of any actual forearm contact, which is now legal in all cases.”

“We decided on this move to keep up with current development in roller derby game dynamics. This change simply reflects the status quo, as this is how these penalties are being called by the majority of our officials at the moment.”

“In order to match up the content of the rule book and the way the officials make calls, it was easier to rewrite these sections of the rule book than to re-train such a large proportion of WFTDA-certified officials.”

Our member leagues are strongly in favour of this move. At least now the written rules are in line with how these actions are assessed during games. Things should now also be much less confusing for audiences.”

This move by the WFTDA is coming just prior to the upcoming WFTDA Championships. In addition to determining the top team of WFTDA Division 2, this tournament will see the top twelve Division 1 teams battle it out for the Hydra trophy.

When asked about the impact assessment of these re-defined forearm penalties, Madnitude commented: “Again, we tried to keep impact assessment consistent with how these calls are currently made so as to not confuse our membership, both players and officials. Referees will decide as individuals where they draw the impact line, just as they have done so far.”

The head of the WFTDA rules committee commented: “The phrasing of the forearm penalty section in the rules is now much improved. It clearly says:

‘When an illegal forearm or hand contact is materially aiding a skater in passing an opponent in relation to an opponent’s relative and absolute position then that selfsame skater’s actions may or may not warrant the issuing of a penalty and has anyone really been far the penalty even as decided which gain of relative position to use even go opponent want to do look more like.’

“And this is how the referees will be calling it at WFTDA champs. We hope that we have cleared up the forearm question once and for all.”

Meth Lab for a Cutie, of the WFTDA- member league Derpshire Rollergirls, commented by showing a whiteboard:

I still have no idea what a forearm penalty is anymore!

Passages from the WFTDA roller derby rules where the word ‘skater’ has been replaced by ‘n00b’

1.1.1 – At most, 14 N00bz may be on the roster for a specific game.

1.5.4 – Any N00bz who are not completely in bounds at the jam-starting whistle will not be permitted to join the jam in progress.

1.8.1 – The Penalty Box Area is the designated area where penalty time will be served. Benches or seats must be provided as part of the Penalty Box. The benches or seats must be capable of accommodating a total of six N00bz (three from each team). – The Official Score must be highly visible to Officials, N00bz, and audience members.

N00b positions refer to the position a N00b is playing during a jam. A N00b is not limited in the number of positions that N00b may play during a game, but is limited to playing one designated position at a time.

2.1.1 – Blockers are positional N00bz who form the pack. – A N00b lined up in the Pivot starting position will not be considered a Pivot unless the N00b is wearing a Pivot helmet cover with a visible stripe. – A Jammer may earn Lead Jammer and so become the only N00b with the privilege of calling off (ending) the jam prior to the expiration of the full two minutes.

2.3.2 – Jammer Identification: A N00b who is serving a penalty from a prior jam in the position of Jammer will be identified as the Jammer for their team. If no such N00b exists, a N00b in possession of the Jammer helmet cover will be identified as the Jammer for their team. If no such N00b exists, one single N00b who is lined up in the Jammer Starting Position will be determined by the Jammer Referee to be the Jammer for their team. If no such N00b exists, that team is not considered to have fielded a Jammer for that jam. – Jammer Status may not be transferred by handing off the Star via other N00bz, or throwing or dropping the Star.

2.5.2 – If the Star is passed illegally, Jammer Status is not transferred, even if the Pivot has sole possession of the Star. Both N00bz retain their original status, and the initiator of the pass is penalized accordingly.

2.6.5 – If a helmet cover falls to the ground or is removed from play by any means, a qualified N00b (e.g., the Jammer or Pivot) may skate out of bounds to recover it, but only if the helmet cover is itself touching out of bounds.

2.6.6 – Helmet covers must be on a qualified N00b’s head, or in a qualified N00b’s hand, before the jam-starting whistle. – Proximity is defined as not more than 10 feet (3 meters) (as measured from the hips) in front of or behind the nearest pack N00b.

3.2.7 – N00bz who line up completely outside of their legal starting area (but fully inside the track boundary) will be issued a penalty.

3.2.8 – N00bz who line up fully in bounds but in an illegal starting position (while touching their legal starting area) are considered to have committed a False Start, and will receive a False Start warning. Once warned, N00bz who False Start must cease all forward motion until they have yielded to all N00bz in the immediate vicinity by ceding relative position to those N00bz, or they may be issued a penalty.

3.3.8 – N00bz may leave play mid-jam by removing themselves from the track, in order to remain safe. This includes but is not limited to a N00b leaving the track due to injury, or to adjust or reposition the N00b’s safety equipment or skates. N00bz who exit the track for other reasons may be subject to penalties.

3.3.9 – Airborne N00bz retain their prior in-bounds, out-of-bounds, or straddling status until they land. Note that passes achieved while airborne do not count toward gaining lead, and do not earn points, unless the N00b also lands in bounds. – Only N00bz who are in play may skate in front of an opponent to impede the opponent’s movement on the track.

4.1.2 – The N00b who initiates contact to an opponent is considered the initiator of a block. – It is possible for both N00bz to be considered initiators.

Penalties are applied to both a N00b and the position that N00b is currently playing. N00bz and teams are assessed penalties due to infractions.

5.3.10 – Flailing and sprawling N00bz who low block an opponent causing the recipient to fall or lose relative position.

N00bz often work together to execute more effective blocks on opponents. – The penalty will be issued to the N00b most responsible for the wall’s impenetrability. If neither N00b can be identified as most responsible, the penalty will be issued to the N00b closest to the Referee.

5.8.1 – N00bz must be in bounds when engaging other N00bz.

5.9.3 – N00bz are permitted to skate clockwise on the track provided they do not engage with other N00bz (e.g., block opponents or assist teammates).

5.9.7 – Skating in the clockwise direction in a way that does not affect other N00bz.

5.9.12 – Incidental contact from a N00b getting spun around as a result of another block.

5.10.2 – If the actions of a N00b, team, or group of N00bz create a “No Pack” situation, one penalty for destroying the pack will be applied to a single N00b who is most responsible or the Pivot. – Examples of illegally destroying the pack may include but are not limited to a N00b, N00bz, or a team running away, braking or coasting to drop back more than 10 feet (3 meters) behind the opposing team; taking a knee; intentionally falling; or intentionally skating out of bounds in such a manner that the legally defined pack is destroyed. – A N00b or group of N00bz is always responsible for the consequences of their actions.

5.10.5 – During a No Pack situation, N00bz will be warned that there is no pack and will be penalized if they do not immediately attempt to reform the pack. For N00bz in the rear group, this includes stepping or skating in the counter-clockwise direction. For N00bz in the front group, this includes coasting, braking, or coming to a complete stop.

N00bz cannot drop back while in play in efforts to undo or avoid Cutting the Track penalties. – An upright and skating N00b who returns completely in bounds (having previously been out of bounds) in front of at least one in-play, in-bounds and upright N00b, which results in the offending N00b having improved their relative position.

5.12.2 – Exiting the track of one’s own accord in order to avoid an obstacle (e.g., spills, debris, or downed N00bz). – Mistakenly exiting the track due to mishearing an Official’s instruction (e.g., a N00b thinking that they have been called on a penalty when in fact they were not). – A N00b who returns from the outfield to the track and misjudges their speed, causing them to exit the track on the infield, has left the track entirely under their own power. – A N00b who fully exits the track in order to avoid receiving a block is considered to be exiting the track entirely under their own power.

5.13.3 – Too many N00bz on the track. The extra N00b is instructed to return to the bench without stopping the jam.

5.13.12 – Forcing a jam to be called off due to too many N00bz on the track. If too many N00bz are on the track, the Referees will direct a N00b off the track. If a N00b does not leave the track and the jam is called off due to too many N00bz being on the track, that N00b will receive the penalty.

5.13.17 – A N00b exiting the Penalty Box who re-enters the track in a manner that would constitute a penalty for cutting, given that all in-bounds and upright Blockers are assumed to have superior position to a N00b returning from the box.

5.13.21 – Too many N00bz and/or team support staff in the designated team area.

5.14.3 – A N00b who, after having been clearly and appropriately called on a penalty, fails to leave the track. This penalty will be assessed even if the N00b is not aware that they have been called.

5.16.16 – Any contact initiated by a downed N00b that causes an opponent to fall or lose relative position, or allows a teammate to gain relative position.

5.16.18 – A N00b initiating contact or engaging an opponent before the jam-starting whistle that allows the initiator to gain a superior starting position.

Gross Misconduct is defined as an indiscretion so serious that it justifies the instant expulsion of a N00b, even on the first occurrence.

5.16.27 – A N00b who, on their way to the Penalty Box during a jam, makes forcible contact with another person (other than a teammate), or who causes a Penalty Box seat to do so.

6.1.4 – If a penalty is committed by a Non-N00b (e.g., by a team’s bench staff), the penalty will be assessed to the Captain, unless otherwise specified. – Penalized N00bz must be substituted in the case of a N00b who has been injured, fouled out, or expelled. These substitutions may only take place between jams. A N00b who has fouled out or has been expelled is not permitted to return to play and that N00b’s team must skate a N00b short for the remainder of the jam.

6.2.2 – Penalty Box Procedures, Rights, and Restrictions: When a N00b is sent to the Penalty Box, the N00b must immediately exit the track to the appropriate direction. The N00b must then skate to the Penalty Box in the counter-clockwise direction without returning to the track. – If, after being sent to the Penalty Box, all parts of a penalized N00b have passed beyond Point of No Return, the N00b must skate all the way around the track in order to enter the box from the appropriate counter-clockwise direction. – The penalized N00b will be sent to the Penalty Box as soon as there is room in the box, provided another Blocker from the N00b’s team is on the track and has joined the pack. – In the new jam, N00b substitutions from the bench are allowed, with the exception of the penalized Jammer.

6.4.1 – Fouling Out: A N00b fouls out from the game when seven penalties have been assessed to that N00b. – Coaches and managers are held to the same standard of sporting behavior as N00bz.

The team of a N00b who is ejected from a game, either due to an expulsion or fouling out, must play down a N00b in the ejected N00b’s position, as if a penalty had been assessed.

Only N00bz wearing the designated Jammer helmet cover with visible stars are eligible to score points. – The Referees are responsible for determining that both teams have the correct number of N00bz in the jam, taking into account N00bz in the Penalty Box. – If the jam starts with too many N00bz, the Referees must direct the last Blocker who entered to leave the track. If that N00b cannot be identified, the Blocker who is closest to the Referees must be directed off the track. – If the jam starts with too many N00bz, and the extra N00b cannot be directed off the track, the Referee must stop the jam. The extra N00b should be penalized. – The Referees will ensure that the N00bz are wearing all required safety equipment, the correct uniforms, and the correct N00b designations. – The Referees will determine that the N00bz are in the proper formation. – Referees will: – Exclusively use a N00b’s team color and roster number for referring to that N00b (for example, calling penalties on the N00b). – Too many N00bz on the track. After the jam has started Referees will expeditiously direct any extra N00bz so that the jam does not have to be called off. – Too many N00bz on the track that gives that team a competitive advantage. – A team has five or fewer N00bz still eligible to participate in the game. – N00bz are strongly encouraged to secure or tape down loose Velcro on pads. – If more than one jam is called off for the same N00b, the N00b must sit out of the remainder of the period.




The N00b identified to speak for the team.

Engagement Zone

The zone in which Blockers may legally engage and be engaged. The Engagement Zone extends from 20 feet (6 meters) behind the rearmost pack N00b to 20 feet (6 meters) in front of the foremost pack N00b, between the inside and outside track boundaries.


Any sort of interaction with another N00b on the track during a jam.

Established Position

Where a N00b is physically; an area of the track where the N00b has secured their place.


The first legal opportunity in which a N00b may complete an action.


A N00b or set of teammates is considered impenetrable from a certain direction when, to achieve a pass on one or more of the N00bz, an opponent would need to physically break said teammates’ bones or joints.

Out of Bounds

A N00b is out of bounds when part of the N00b’s body or equipment is touching the ground beyond the track boundary, including both arms or hands (one arm or hand does not render a N00b out of bounds), or any part below the N00b’s waist (e.g., a knee, a skate, or a hip). N00bz who are airborne maintain their prior in-bounds (or out-of-bounds, or straddling) status until they land. N00bz who are straddling are considered out of bounds, except where otherwise noted.

Pack N00b

Any Blocker who is part of a legally defined pack.

Pass (verb)

To end up in front of a N00b, such that the passer’s hips went from being behind to being in front of the other N00b’s hips.

Positional Blocking

Blocking without contact; positioning oneself so as to impede an opponent’s movement on the track. It may also be done unintentionally if the blocking N00b is not aware of the opponent’s position behind the blocking N00b.

Relative Position

A N00b’s location, when in bounds and upright, in relation to other N00bz involved in the action. Relative position is said to be “gained” or “lost” if said location changes in a way that gives or loses some advantage (for example, one N00b passing another, or being knocked down, out of bounds, or out of play).


A list of N00bz for a team, and their identifying numbers, who are eligible to play in the game.

Slide Tackling

A N00b who leaps and/or slides and extends their leg(s) or arm(s) in order to disrupt the movement of an opponent’s feet and/or legs.


A N00b not making any directional movement with their skates.


Replacing a N00b on the track or in the Penalty Box with a teammate.


A formal verbal indication from the Referee that play is improper and that a N00b must take corrective action.

Rules about penalising skater ‘closest to referee’ to be changed to penalising skater who is ‘furthest away’

The WFTDA have revealed a number of rule-changes that can be expected in upcoming WFTDA rules publications.

Currently, there are several rules which state that, if in doubt as to who was responsible for an illegal action, the skater nearest to the referee is to be given the penalty.

Examples include multiplayer blocks where, if two teammates are grasping, the penalty is issued to the grasper closest to the referee. Analogous guidelines apply if the initiator of an impenetrable link, or the skater most responsible for an impenetrable wall, cannot be identified.

Similarly for illegal procedures: If a team fields more than one designated pivot, and the pivot to last enter the track cannot be identified, it is the pivot closest to the referee handling the call who is instructed to remove the helmet cover or return to their bench. The same principle applies when a team fields too many skaters.

Finally, it is also the skater closest to the referee who is penalised if, at the jam-starting whistle, a pack cannot be identified because one or more skaters are improperly positioned.

The proposed changes state that in future, in situations where the initiator of these illegal action cannot be determined and in absence of a pivot, referees will penalise the skater furthest away from them.

WFTDA spokesperson Mental Floss commented:
“These rules have always seemed a bit lazy and imprecise compared to the rest of the rule set which, elsewhere, is anal enough to, for example, define impact as ‘Illegal forearm or hand contact to an opponent that forces the receiving opponent off balance, forward, and/or sideways but does not cause the opponent to lose relative position or the initiator or a teammate to gain relative position. For example, a slight but observable push with the hands or forearms.’.”

“Those rules about penalising the closest skater are entirely arbitrary anyway, so we thought we might as well switch them around for a while.”

“We felt that the current system was unfair and discriminatory towards skaters who commonly position themselves near the inside and outside edges of the track during gameplay, and are therefore always closest to the inside and outside referees. The skaters in the middle lanes of the track, those are the sneaky ones and should get their fair share of penalty calls. Those skaters already get away with more stuff, because they are often between other skaters and thus harder to see for referees. This rule-change should even things out a bit.”

One level 4 WFTDA-certified referee commented:
“To be honest, I mostly just give those kinds of penalties to a random skater anyway. And I’ll probably continue doing so.”

“Multiplayer block actions are often blocked from view by other skaters, so you kinda have to infer the appropriate penalty call from what you think might be happening.”

“That skater who looked at me funny probably did something shifty, I’ll assign the penalty to them.”

It remains to be seen if the general reasoning behind these rules is to be expanded to other rules. For example, if two teammates both commit a track cut, only one of the skaters (either nearest to or furthest from the referee) would be issued a cutting track penalty. Similarly for (gross) misconducts: if two team mates bite an opponent, only one would get penalised (probably the one that’s furthest away, because that’s less scary).

Roller derby referee crews to be officially classed as third team in a bout

The Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) have announced this week that referee crews will in future be officially classed as the third team in roller derby bouts.

WFTDA spokeswomen Andromedary commented: “Our membership felt that this reflects the current state of play.”

“Our referees aim for a high level of quality, uniformity and consistency. But at this point in time we are still a long way from reaching this goal. We can simply no longer pretend that different referee crews are consistent or comparable.”

“They say a good referee is one that you don’t even notice. Unfortunately, many referees are all too noticeable.”

Fool Moon, WFTDA representative of the Derpshire Rollergirls, commented: “As a WFTDA-member league, we strongly support this move. We have found that, when preparing for a bout, it wasn’t enough anymore to just train for the opposing team. We had to invest an equal amount of training time into preparing for different referee styles.”

“Our blockers have to develop walls that work for the opposing team AND for the ref crew. Different jammers have such varied styles. And different ref crews do, too. For example, against some jammers you simply cannot afford to leave gaps in your walls or they will get past you. And with some referee crews you simply cannot use your arms at all for anything, or you will get a penalty.”

“Similarly, our jammers know that against certain teams they can get past by taking risks on the edges, more than against other teams. And we know that with some referee crews, we can take risks at the edge of the engagement zone, more than with others, because some refs just do not know their 20 ft.”

“Where possible, we try to find out the names of the referees in advance and study the way they make calls by watching footage of them. We also try to arrange practice bouts staffed by those or similar refs to prepare us as best as we can.”

“For us, the referees stand between us and winning as much as the opposing team. So it makes sense for them to be classed as a team in their own right.”

Andromedary agreed with these statements: “It often takes referees much longer than players to adapt to this ever-changing game. We saw this happen when passive offence started being used. We hope that by introducing an element of competition into officiating, there will be an incentive for referee individuals and crews to improve.”

Holy Molly, captain of the Fartfordshire Rollergirls, also felt positively about this change: “Officials crews have strengths and weaknesses just like roller derby teams, and we look to learn and exploit these.
For me, the problem is this: if an opposing team has a weak players, then we will probably win against this weaker team. But if a ref crew is weaker, then we might lose because of that.”

“There have been many times where the referee crew had a greater impact on the outcome of a game than the two teams on the track. That’s why they need to be a separate team.”

Andromedary explained the situation further: “This change is really just a continuation of the current state of things. WFTDA tournaments tend to be staffed by several officials crews and they each officiate a portion of the games. The best-performing crew is selected to officiate the final game of the tournament. We do not combine several crews for the final game to create a crew with the best individual refs. We think that the experience of having worked together is needed to create a good crew. We think that teamwork outweighs individual skill – exactly as for roller derby teams.”

This begs the question: What does this say for all the bouts where the referee crew have never previously worked together?

Andromedary explained: “Those will be defined as ‘scratch’ crews or ‘challenge’ crews. They are just officiating for fun. They are ultimately not looking to officiate at a competitive level.”

“The only thing we haven’t figured out yet is how to actually ‘score’ the crews. Because, right now, we have zero honest ways to measure how good a referee crew is and how it compares to another crew.”

Roller derby game scores are completely unrelated to number of points actually scored by teams

A recent study has shown that recorded game scores of roller derby games show no correlation with the number of points that teams actually scored.

There are times when Roller derby players, bench staff and audience members seem to disagree with referee decisions during games.

A study was carried to out to analyse this problem. A panel of highly experienced officials watched live games and were provided with detailed video footage for post game dissection. The officials on the panel were asked to use the information to determine the final score of the bout.

The study showed that the points that went up on the score board during a game were completely unrelated to the number of points that jammers actually legally scored by lapping the pack and passing the hips of opposing players.

There are a number of factors that complicate the roller derby scoring process. A jammer ref has to visually assess whether a jammer has successfully scored a point by legally passing the hips of an opponent. The ref has to consider jammer lap points and NOTT points. Star passes, penalties, recycling, and occasional ref incompetence can all confound the situation further. The ref then signals the points to an NSO on the sideline. The NSO has to do mathematics as high level as addition on the go, and also communicate the score to the score board operators.

Overall, the large number of steps between (A) a jammer scoring a point and (B) that point going up on the score board means that (A) and (B) really show no correlation whatsoever.

Observations showed that referees cannot get it right, but other present parties may be just as wrong. At times, players, bench coaches or members of the audience demanded up to seven additional points for their team in a single pass or claimed an additional five scoring passes in a jam (judging by the number of angry fingers in the air).

The authors of the study hasten to emphasise certain factors that complicated the study. “It almost no cases did the research panel themselves agree on the number of points scored in a given jam, even given detailed video analysis from multiple angles.”

The report finishes with: “Ultimately, we do not really know how points are scored in roller derby. It appears that it may happen through magic after all.”