Rose City vs. Denver at RollerCon putting the no-block strategy into action. Photo: Jason Santti
Any time leagues from all over the world come together, new strategies explode across the map, gaining prevalence until one movement comes up and defines the year. Last year, it was the no-start. This year, it's the no-block.
I first saw it at Wednesday’s bout between Team USA and Team Australia. With the Australian jammer in the box, and the USA jammer coming around for her scoring pass, her blockers came to a near complete stop, in a line, a few feet behind the opposing wall. The jammer came up against the wall and pushed them to the 10-foot limit (more than 10 feet between two solid groups of players and the group "destroying" the pack is called "out of play," meaning they can't legally block any player) while the USA blockers kept back.
USA pulled this strategy out a couple more times throughout the bout, but it wasn't until I saw two other completely separate teams try the same thing that it was clear: this was the new move.
Because I have a terrible mind for strategy, (artsy folks, can I get a hella?) I had to wait until I could sit down with Bruiser Ego, former Red Rockette and current asskicker at Wasatch Roller Derby, and get her to dissect the play. Here's how it goes:
So, the pack speed has already been established as being super slow, almost stopped, like when the jam starts and everyone inches forward. Because the opposing jammer is in the box, your team is only concerned with making it all the easier for you to rack up the sweet power jam points. They go as slow as possible and move to the side to make room. Then, when you slam into the opposing team's blocker wall, you start pushing them forward. Now, not only are they destroying the pack by breaking the pack speed, you will (hopefully) push them past the 10 legal feet, and the referees will call "out of play." You are free to glide on by, and you just scored some points! You are awesome.
The great thing about this new strategy is that it's a culmination of several moves, developed over years as the sport of derby is refined. It expands on what we've learned about controlling the pack, destruction, and switching instantly between offense and defense.
What this means for roller derby in 2012 is a higher focus on all of those things. Every year, derby becomes a more precise sport, taking the raw passion of its players and applying it to strategies like these. For the spectators, expect to see a more in-control game with calculated hits and even more fire.
I'm a first-timer at RollerCon, but I have seen so many amazing things in only the first two days. With three left, I can't wait to have my mind blown all over the place. At least I'll have kindred spirits and teammates ready to help scoop up the pieces.
Photos by Jason Santti.