Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A US Scrimmage (or two)

The other day, I NSO'd for two scrimmages here stateside.  One in a nice little practice venue, the other in the bouting venue with a floor big enough to fit 6 tracks with OPR lanes, when the seats were retracted.  Three key things were ran differently to what I've seen in the UK.

  1. Player Rotation

    Basically, the skaters formed a queue where the 'bench' would be. The front 5 decided amongst themselves who would be jammer and who would be pivot. Should penalties dictate that fewer than 5 would skate, those further back in the queue would step out, regardless of skating skill.

    This was amazing! All skaters, regardless of how "good" or not they were got a roughly equal amount of time on the track. As well, those still working on their skills got paired up with (and against) much more talented skaters. What a learning opportunity! Sure it occasionally led to lop-sided jams, but anyone concerned about the score in a scrimmage has his/her priorities seriously, seriously wrong.

  2. Static Recycling

    Recycling the jammer has been explained to death. Everyone knows it, everyone does it. Thing is, these girls did it differently. Basically, when the jammer was hit out, one skater would jet back about 20' to recycle her. The others would immediately form a wall at the back of the pack ready to catch the jammer once she'd come in. No one went back to help the recycler, she sort of expected that the jammer would beat her one-on-one. She'd try, of course, but she'd expect to join the wall as soon as the jammer came back in.

    This meant that the pack was roughly stationary on the track, as the one teams movements were backward when the jammer was out, and only slightly forward when the jammer was in. The team defending the actively scoring jammer was thus limited to a short engagement zone and forced to sacrifice blockers to bridging. It wasn't at all the boring stand-still derby, it was exciting. Loads of contact, skaters jostling for position, and key walling skills. It just didn't orbit the centre.
  3. Jamming on the Margin

    There was one jammer who had this down to a T. She was fast as hell, could juke and jump like a champ. So, needless to say, her first pass was often less than 10 seconds between the double whistle releasing her and lead jam status. Her opposing jammer would usually exit the pack about 40'-50' behind her. Now, conventional logic says to call off the jam just before the non-lead jammer arrives at the pack. Save points, right? I'm a fan of it, and I know others who value saving points almost above all else.

    However, this girl had done her maths. If she gained a 50' advantage on the first pass, she should be able to trust her pack to hold the opposing jammer for just as long on the second. Thus, when she's on her second pass, she should have about 100' of advantage. If she does well to not get held up, and her pack works brilliantly, she may even be able to get a grand slam in on the second or third pass.

    It's a risky play. If she gets held up on her second pass, then she may concede as many points as she scores. But if she goes flying through the pack before her opponent even engages, then she has the time to go around and increase her marginal lead. It was beautiful to watch.
All in all, the quality of derby was comparable to what I've seen in the UK.  There were just these few key things to make it a bit more interesting to watch.  As well, there were no bench staff anywhere to be seen.  I don't know when they practice with their skaters, but it wasn't at these scrimmages.

That's my first report from the States.  Roll on!

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