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You all asked me not to. I put it off for ages, ignoring the way things were gathering dust. I pretended it didn't matter because I told myself no one was looking. I tried not to do it, but I just couldn't see any other way.

I deleted this blog. Sorry 'bout that.

Yeah, for about three days, there was no Fishnet Burnns. But you...you clearly crazy people just wouldn't stop visiting this musty old thing. I always figured the traffic would die down one day and I could let FB die a natural death. Put it out to pasture. Give it the Old Yeller treatment. Just a quiet death rattle that would send it the once-beloved but now obsolete way of things like the drive-in movie theater and the mixtape cassette.

But oh, no! Nary a post for years and years and thousands of you diseased flat-track freaks are still showing up every month and you just won't go away. I get it, I get it...you kids still like the roller derby. I still like it too. And I still like that smell of sweaty pads and burnt nylon and the shrill chirp of Fox 40s and having wheels on my feet.

Here's the thing though. I just can't write about it like I used to. What I can do though, is build websites and make cool internetz stuff. After all, I quit derby to go back to school, among other things.

Speaking of which, this thing is broken crap right now. You guys deserve better and I can make it better. I put the smack down on the spam around here for starters and I'd like to get things remodeled, as it were. But I really cannot do it on my own.

So I'll make all you fellow misfits a deal: You write. I'll make it work and get it into the hands of as many derby people as we can muster. 

Here's what I'm asking you to do:

Send your article submissions to reizerburnn@gmail.com. If you can write something that would help others out there in Derbyland, do it. Something short, something clear and something good. And let's have some personality in it, please! Just get it in.

Ask your coach or your captain or your favorite ref or your derby wife or whoever you've got to do the same.

What's needed most are updates to these articles:

Newest version of WFTDA rules

How To Never Get Busted Back Blocking

How To Never Get Caught Cutting The Track

The New Derby Skater's Ultimate Guide to Gear Pt. 1

The New Derby Skater's Ultimate Guide to Gear Pt. 2

If you feel like you can take on writing an updated version of one of these pillar posts, send me two or three sample paragraphs!

What Now?

Got comments? Hit me. You want to raise Fishnet Burnns from the dead? Let's get some necromancy going like it's D&D night.
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If you follow this blog via RSS or Blogger or Twitter. You're probably a bit surprised right now. Surprised because the last post I wrote was about 3 years ago, and it was about quitting derby.

I let this blog lay dormant for along time, and even considered deleting it all together. What kept me from wiping it off of a server somewhere forever was the fact that people still read this crazy thing. I still get comments, emails and Twitter follows. People still refer new skaters to my basics posts on gear, training and techniques. So I felt bad yanking that resource away from the community just because I wasn't doing anything with it. The work I did on this blog also contributed to my tipping point. The one that pushed me off the track and back into a classroom for the past few years. So in a lot of ways, it felt like kicking a loyal dog who had only ever been my friend.

Now I'm thinking about bringing it back to life. I'm thinking about how useful some new articles and maybe a forum would be. I'm thinking that there are still freshies and coaches and captains and board members out there, who could use a little burnn now and then.

So, you're probably wondering, has ReiZer come back to roller derby? Nope. Am I planning on it? Nah, not really. I've still got lots of interest in the sport, but just like when I decided to retire, I have zero interest in the games. You know the ones. The ones that make you feel like roller derby would be just fine if the league just weren't part of the picture.

Which got me thinking: I've been up to quite a bit since I last posted here. I went to school for a tech degree (Look Ma! Now I can make websites for real!) and certifications. I learned a bucket load. Not just about academics, but about myself. I sort of set out on an intense self-development journey. It was painful. I almost ruined my relationship and had to rebuild it. I took myself apart from the inside out and put the pieces back together again. When I was skating and training and being a captain and board president...well I look back now and it's astonishing, and even laughable how small and narrow my focus and my thinking had become. Roller derby was good for exercise, and in a lot of ways at the time, good for my spirit, but it ended being bad for my personal growth and my life goals.

The interesting part, is that a lot of others ex-skaters and volunteers have had the same experiences and insights I've had. I see now the reasons why the typical problems that exist in many leagues flourish, but I don't think it has to be that way. I think broken leagues can be put back together the same way a relationship can be mended, or a flawed way of looking at things revised. And just maybe, some of you are interested in talking about that. Maybe there could be a platform where league issues and growing pains could be discussed with the same solution-focused collaboration that derby people talk about deconstructing skills and strategies with.

I also think that in every league there are skaters and leaders with a lot of good things to share and teach, and maybe they don't have the time or desire to create their own platform to do it and would appreciate a space where they can do so as guests.

So how about it? Anyone interested in Fishnet Burnns coming back? Any aspiring roller derby writers or sages of the track out there? How about league leaders with an interest in making things better? Let me know what you think.
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I've been M.I.A.

It's remiss of me, I know, but my life circumstances converged in such a way that it just couldn't be helped.

I'm going back to school to pick up some current tech certifications, and between the chronic injuries and illnesses (I know you guys know all about how fast a bug runs through the league), the stress, the late nights and long weekends, I just had to let something go.

I had to quit the league. Not an easy decision to be sure, and one I vacillated over for a long time, but ultimately vital to my personal health, mental well-being and school career.

Does it mean I don't still love the shit out of roller derby? No. Does it mean I will never return to skating? Certainly not. It just means I had to put some activities and priorities on hold. Take some time for professional development, for myself and my relationship, and possibly, for a less demanding hobby.

So what of Fishnet Burnns??

I know I've been away from this blog for some time, but I just can't continue to let it sit idle due to all the comments, Twitter sign ups, emails and other communication I get from all you derby folk. I know there's still a need for this kind of blog so I'll keep giving what I can.

Today, I want to talk about burnout. We all feel it from time to time, and for some leagues it becomes such a chronic and pervasive problem that numbers dwindle and completing projects and putting on events becomes near-impossible. For other leagues, burnout seems almost a non-issue and turnover is small.

What's the difference? What makes skaters feel ready to take on the derby world and what makes them want to hang up their skates?

I want to hear from YOU on this issue, because even though it seems an incendiary topic, a mere footnote in the world or roller derby, I think it's not that at all. I think it's a bigger issue than we want to admit because we love derby so damn much. I also think it's one of the main differences between leagues that struggle and leagues that flourish and one the factors that will determine if the roller derby resurgence passes away as another fad, or grows to engulf the nation the way it once did.

Post your comments. Send me your ideas. Call your captains and board members and your injured or retired teammates and ask them to sound off on the issue. Let's get a dialogue going that might save a tired rollergirl, or maybe even save roller derby.
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WFTDA rules set 4.0 is finally here. Some will cheer in victory, others will weep and hide their faces, but all WFTDA sanctioned bouts must use the 4.0 revision as of June 1st, 2009. Which, in effect, means not only WFTDA leagues will be using it by that date, but most WFTDA-aspiring leagues as well. Essentially all flat-track leagues that bout interleague can be expected to be on-board by this fall.

So what do skaters really need to know? What dirty deeds can we no longer get away with and what get-out-of-jail free cards have been issued? Read on for a very un-official overview of the major changes.

Let's start with the biggest and most anticipated changes first.

Cutting the Track

The Derby Goddesses have smiled and the WFTDA rules committee has finally seen fit to fix the broken, needlessly anal Nazi-ism that was 6.2.10.

The fix comes in the form of redefining re-entry. Under the 3.1 rule set, cutting the track penalties were issued upon re-entry to the track, which was defined as "when any part of the returning skater's skates, body or equipment are touching the floor inside the track boundary."

This caused skaters to be penalized even in situations where they were down (and incidentally, according to the rules, out of play. How you could be 'improving your position' and also be out of play always escaped me), or otherwise not actively trying to pass other players. Under the old definition, there was no room for legal intent.

The new rules, now under section 6.8, state that
"downed players that have re-entered the track are subject to applicable cutting the track penalties when they return to an in bounds, upright and skating position."

Can I get an amen?

Now you actually have to be skating, in bounds, and otherwise in play to get a cutting the track penalty. Although getting knocked across the infield may still subject you to tripping or blocking out of bounds penalties, so remember to fall small. Still, it's great to see this rule now phrased in a saner fashion.

New handling is also given to the issue of a skater straddling the boundary line. Previously a skater with one foot in bounds and one foot out was given cutting the track penalties immediately upon passing other players. Now these penalties are assessed once that skater no longer has a skate out of bounds (new section 6.8.2). A skater that is pushed or blocked over the line while in forward motion now has a chance to drop back and re-enter legally as long as she corrects herself before she ceases contact with the out of bounds area. So in this case, going completely out of bounds and re-entering legally is kosher, but just picking up the out of bounds foot will get you nailed with a penalty.

The final change to cutting the track rules is regarding entering behind the initiator of a block or other wise out of play skaters. Previously, if a blocker took an opponent out, and herself in the process, she could still force her opponent to enter behind her or suffer a penalty if she re-entered play first, creating a race to get back in bounds.

That rule has been changed, now stating in sections - that a skater may enter in front of a player that blocked her out of bounds "When the initiating skater [goes out of bounds / downs herself or falls / exits the Engagement Zone] at any time after the initiating block."

No longer will we see a player get a major cutting the track penalty for cutting around the 'last line of defense' if that foremost skater is out of play.

All in all the changes to the rules surrounding cutting the track are brilliant, and have restored some much-needed balance to the universe. While not exactly in the realm of ushering in world peace, it has without a doubt prevented many riots from breaking out on Saturday nights in warehouses and arenas across the United States.

Jammerless Jam

Like peanut butter with no peanut, WFTDA has taken up the stance that the jammerless jam is silly. Or at least boring, and better avoided from now on.

Instead of restarting the jam with blockers now sporting the stars when both jammers are penalized, the new rules opt to instead spring the jammers from the Sin Bin early. Like parole, but without the community service. Section 7.4 states "When the second Jammer is seated in the penalty box, the first Jammer, who has already been serving her time, is released back into play by the penalty box official. The exact amount of time the first Jammer served before she was released will be the exact amount of time the second Jammer will serve before she is released back into play."

So if Jammer numero uno goes to the penalty box, and the opposing jammer then makes a trip to the penalty box and is seated 35 seconds later, the first jammer is set free as soon as the second jammer's cheeks hit the seat and the second jammer serves a penalty of 35 seconds before being released herself.

While personally, I found nothing wrong with the old rule, this new take on the jammer-free situation serves to keep the action of the game moving at a better clip while lessening the chances that I will suddenly and unwillingly be saddled with the star. I know some of you know what I mean, although at least one die-hard fan and announcer will mark the passing of the grand 'ol jammerless jam with a tear-stained shot or two.

Destroying the Pack and the Death of the Split Pack

Under 3.1 when a split pack situation existed and no pack could be defined, no one was legally allowed to block or assist. Referees would call for the pack to immediately be reformed, but by then a team could have just given their jammer a gratis pass through the pack. This was most easily accomplished by every girl on a team simply taking a knee and letting the other team get stride or two ahead.

This tactic was perfectly legal and was even seen used in innerleague play by top WFTDA leagues, such as Rat City. Although in the opinion of many fans and players, and apparently now the WFTDA rules committee, it was cheap and dirty and should have been punished.

With WFTDA 4.0 rules, that's where new section 6.5.7 comes in. "If a player, team, or group of skaters intentionally destroys the pack with a conscious and orchestrated effort, one penalty will be applied to a single player who is most responsible (or the Pivot per Section 7.1.2 and 7.2.4)."

It goes on to further clarify what intentionally destroying the pack means in section "Examples of intentionally destroying the pack, or creating a “no pack” situation, may include but are not limited to: one team running away, one team braking or coasting to fall more than 10ft behind the opposing team, a skater taking a knee, intentionally falling, or intentionally skating out of bounds in such a manner that the legally defined pack is destroyed."

Gone from the rules is the concept of the "split pack", to be replaced by "no pack". Either there is a pack, or there isn't, and if there isn't somebody has to answer for it as described in 6.5.13: "If the out of play action causes harm or has a measurable consequence for the game, it is treated as a major penalty."

Please note that this does not eliminate the strategy of trapping an opposing player and then speeding or slowing, as this still fits the legal definition of the pack. It simply gets rid of the ability to create a free ride for your jammer by falling behind or accelerating away from the other team.

Other changes

There are quite a few additional rules and clarified rules in this weighty revision, some of which will apply mostly to officials or team captains and alternates, but here's a look at some of the other items that have changed in WFTDA 4.0.
  • Gone is the "4, 16, carry-the-one" business for minors and majors that can be earned in a period. Now it's just 5 trips to the box in a half and you've fouled out. Easy peasy.
  • Players may now re-enter a tournament if they are subbed out of a roster for an earlier game.
  • A bout now consists of two thirty minute periods; gone is the option of playing three twenty minute periods.
  • The official period clock and jam clock must now be clearly visible to the referees, players and audience. Take note, leagues running without a score board!
  • All helmet covers used by a team in a bout must be the same color scheme. No mixing home and away panties because someone misplaced a set.
  • It's no longer required for blockers to line up in two rows behind the pivots as long as they are behind the pivot line and forward of the jammer line. The pivots are still the only blockers allowed to line up on the actual pivot line.
  • A skater exiting the penalty box before her time is up will earn a major, unless she was instructed to do so in error by an official.
  • Removing required safety equipment, such as a mouthguard, is now an automatic major and no longer left to referee discretion.
  • A major misconduct penalty will be earned for "the use of obscene, profane, or abusive language or gestures directed at an official, mascot, or audience member" and for "the excessive use of obscene, profane, or abusive language or gestures directed at an opposing player, manager, or coach." So remember, you can give the bird to your opponents, but not excessively.
  • A gross misconduct expulsion will be earned for "the repeated use of obscene, profane, or abusive language or gestures directed at an official, mascot, or audience member" or for "the repetitive and excessive use of obscene, profane, or abusive language or gestures directed at an opposing player, manager, or coach."
  • While we're on the subject of misconduct and bird-flipping, excessive or otherwise, it should be noted that coaches and managers are now held to the same standard of conduct as players. If a coach or manager is expelled, that team's captain must serve a one-minute penalty (though it doesn't count toward her 5-for-the-period cap).
  • Official Reviews must be requested before the following jam starts. Only the immediately preceding jam is subject to Official Review. So speak now or forever hold your piece.
  • Protective gear, such as mouthguards, must be worn while skating to and from the penalty box, or a major penalty will be issued.
  • Hockey style face shields or cages are now prohibited. So much for bringing sexy back.
Thanks for reading this overview of the WFTDA 4.0 rules set. Feel free to leave your comments and rants below. Please note that my previous Rule Smarts guides which have been affected by 4.0 will be updated soon to reflect the new rules.

Other resources:

From the horse's mouth, the official WFTDA rules version 4.0
Derby News Network's look at the new rule set
Also, from Derby News Network, a geek-a-licious spreadsheet of the revisions and clarifications (God bless derby nerds!)
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In roller derby, the jammers may be the 'stars' of the show, but we all know where the real excitement is: Big. Fat. Hits.

It's what birthed our very sport, it's what the fans came to see, it's the blocker's bread and butter and it puts the quake in a jammer's knees on the start line.

So how do you hit really hard? Particularly if you're small? With the help of some other skaters, I've broken down the key elements of effective blocking for you.

Find your center

First and foremost, you've got to get balanced, and balance comes from two things: proper skating stance and core strength.

A proper skating stance is one that's low and wide. You knees should be deeply flexed, your ass should be down, not up in the air, and your torso should not be hunched over your thighs. You should always be centered in relation to your skates. You'll notice that if you ever get the majority of your body weight in front of your toes, behind your heels, or past your outside wheels on either skate, you become unstable. So first, make sure your stance is solid, and that you're comfortable staying centered, even when you are putting more weight on one skate than the other.

The second element of balance, and the one that tends to get overlooked is core strength. What is your core? Simply put, it's the very center of your body and the power source behind any thing you do that transfers momentum. Your body core is made up of the muscles in your abs, hips, glutes and lower back.

Consider a baseball player throwing a ball, a golfer swinging a club, or a soccer playing kicking a long pass. The power for these actions doesn't come from the arms or legs alone, or even primarily. The power comes from the core. Twisting the torso, driving the hips and contracting the abdominals all provide the necessary force.

The same is true for blocking in roller derby. You don't hit someone with your shoulder, you hit them with your whole body, contracting and expanding your core like spring to put the 'pop' in a J-block. The power to veer into a check doesn't just come from your legs, it comes from driving your hip toward your target.

You can build up your core by working your abs, your lumbar region, your glutes and your hip flexors and abductors. There's plenty of info on the net about how to do this but a sampling of effective exercises would include crunches and side crunches, leg lifts, back hyperextensions, seated rows, kickbacks, side lunges and wide-legged squats. A personal trainer would be a huge help in targeting these areas, but with some preparation and discipline you can also do it effectively on your own.

Bodybuilding.com is an awesome resource to find exercises that target specific muscle groups and the options run the gamut from body weight and free weight exercises to machine exercises.

Don't sweat the technique

Make sure you know your basic blocking form. Familiarize yourself with the J-block (rising into a block from a squat when using the shoulder), the correct form for a hip check (more on that later), and how to properly execute a can opener. Have an advanced teammate or coach watch you and critique your form so you're not wasting energy practicing the wrong moves.

Be light on your feet

Footwork is probably more important to effective blocking than size. No matter how big you are, if you skate like a bus low on steering fluid, you probably won't hit anyone because they'll have all day to get out of your path.

Blocking power can come from speed instead of mass, so use your skating skills to your advantage. You have probably done drills where you cut from one side of the track to the other, or where you veer through cones placed in a wide zig-zag pattern. That's the move you need to use, that quick cut from one side of the track to the other.

Make sure you lead with the foot that's on the same side you are blocking toward. Turn that toe and knee out toward your target and focus the weight on that foot into the outside of your heel. You should be able to lift your front wheels clear off the floor once you get comfortable with it. At the same time, dig in with your other foot and carve a half circle toward the side you are blocking on, like when you skate with all eight on the floor. The weight in that skate should be focused on the inside edge and you should push through the heel, almost pivoting on the front wheels.

Really drive your hips into it like you're skiing and remember that the deeper you scissor your legs from front to back and from side to side, the faster you can cut. Lead into it with your hip and really commit to the block.

Again, make sure you are skating in a proper stance. This makes you hard to knock down, and when you're hitting someone, most of the time it's the lower, more stable skater who will stay on their feet.

Good footwork is not just important in performing a block, but in strategically lining one up as well. If you can intersect a skater much faster than she can anticipate, you will have the upper hand. Work on moving around the track quickly, by veering, hopping, crossing over and running through corners to build the type of explosive agility that will catch opponents by surprise.

Block smarter, then harder

Use the corners to your advantage. When you block with a quick cut from the inside of a corner to the outside, where centripetal force is on your side, you don't need a ton of power to knock down a larger skater, and a smaller skater is often easily floored.

Watch for the way the pack often stretches out into a near line around corners, particularly with newer leagues/skaters, exposing an irresistible hole to a jammer taking the outside. Meet her in the middle of this gap and give her your regards.

If you're smaller, don't forget you can work with your teammates on whipping and pushing you into blocks for more power. This is especially effective if you have a 1-2 blocker combo where you have a larger, power hitter, and a smaller, agile blocker. The power blocker can take on the big girls and focus on forceouts, and the agile blocker can move quickly for surprise hits or to get in front of a jammer for a positional block, lining her up for a takeout by the power hitter. The bigger skater knows to whip and throw the smaller skater into the jammer, and the smaller skater knows to use the bigger skater as a screen and line up hits for her.

Less can be more

I love putting girls on the floor as much as the next derby player, but don't forget that as a blocker, your job is not always to knock opponents down, nor is it always the best use of your energy. If you can distract an opposing blocker or draw her out of position with a quick jab of your hip or shoulder so your jammer can sneak by, then save your steam for when you really need to make somebody polish the sport court.

Use 6.2.10 to your advantage

Make the opposing skater, particularly the jammer, cut the track by blocking her to the inside, especially on the corners where she can easily re-enter illegally before she can stop herself. I've also seen lots of blockers hit a jammer out of bounds and then slow almost to a stop, making her wait to re-enter or get the penalty. Although personally, I think it's a rule loophole that will likely be fixed in a future revision, you will usually get away with it.

Be sneaky

The hardest hit is the one you don't see coming. So hit girls on the side they aren't looking on. A great place to do this is on the corners when blockers look over their left shoulders for the jammers. As soon as you see the back of an opposing blocker's helmet, knock her into the infield.

Be unpredictable

Don't telegraph your block by looking at the girl you want to hit, tensing your body, and lining her up. She will see it coming a mile away and you'll whiff the block big time. Use your peripheral vision and work on your timing, so you can move at the last second and still connect.

Be ruthless

Use your strongest weapons against their weakest points. In roller derby that usually means a hip check to the mid thigh. You'd be surprised at how many skaters you can take out with a hard block, low in the legal zone, when you could shoulder check them all day and just bounce off.

A great way to use a hip check is actually to aim for the inside of the opposing skater's thigh, on her outside leg. So you actually cut in front of her body and hit on the inside of her leg instead of hitting her in her side. Time it right and it will usually take a skater right out.

Take that, rewind it back

If you want to take your blocking to the next level, do yourself a favor and learn to block backward. Not only in the sense of blocking to the front of the body, but in the sense of making a quick and very sharp veer that carries you at a 90 degree angle toward another skater. Master this move so that you are just this side of actually skating clockwise to block and savor the surprise of your enemies.

Charge the front line

I can't stress enough how important blocking to the front of the body is. I don't even try to check girls shoulder to shoulder anymore because it's a waste of my energy. Instead, I focus on using my shoulders to hit girls in the chest, or if you get low and swoop upward, in the solar plexus, which is even better. For hip checks, hit them in the front of the thighs, crotch, or stomach, which will really mess up their skating stance and force them out of balance. The can opener (using your shoulder to strike backward against the front of an opposing skater's body) is an absolutely indispensable move that every skater should master.

Bring the pain

Lastly, don't be afraid to hurt somebody. Legally, of course.

Far too many new skaters under-commit to blocks, pulling back at the last second. If you've never practiced checking a blocking pad, try it. It helps let go of the anxiety of injuring someone and lets you feel the full power of your efforts and determine where you need more follow through. Borrow a little wisdom from martial arts and imagine your target on the other side of the skater or blocking pad you are hitting. Don't strike at your target, strike all the way through it for maximum power.

Excluding scrimmage and drills where you are told to block at low power, don't be scared to open up your entire can of whoop ass and serve it cold with a straw. It's a great compliment to another skater to clean her clock, and to borrow a bit more from martial arts, kendo practitioners talk about the zen involved in receiving a really hard hit, because for one second, their mind is completely clear. Make 'em say 'om'.

Portions of this article were originally posted in a thread on the Skatelog forums. Special thanks to the participants of that thread, some of whose ideas have been incorporated here.
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A penalty for back blocking can seem difficult to avoid, especially since smart derby players know how to make opposing players commit the penalty, like drawing a foul in basketball. But if you know what to do, avoiding the situation is easier than you might think. Here are some tips for staying out of the box.

Know the Rules!

This is always your first step to understanding how to avoid a penalty. Let's look at the rule section for back blocking (may I also use this as an opportunity to say how much I love that the rules actually use the word 'booty'?):

Hitting an opponent in the back of the torso, back of the legs or booty is prohibited (refer to Illegal Target Zones Section 5.2.2).

No Impact/No Penalty Incidental contact to the back from an opponent that does not force the opponent to adjust her skating stance or position in any way.
Hitting an opponent, with a legal blocking zone into a legal target zone, while positioned behind said opponent.

Minor Penalty Any contact to the back of an opponent that forces the receiver off balance, forward, and/or sideways, but does not cause her to lose her relative position.

Major Penalty Any contact to the back from an opponent that forces the receiver out of her established position. This includes forcing a skater down, out-of-bounds, or out of position.

So what's the easy-to-remember version of 6.2.1?

No harm, no foul is the thing to remember here. If you don't knock the opposing skater off balance, or make her change her skating stance, there is no penalty. So a little incidental bump shouldn't get you in trouble. But if you cause the skater to stumble, or propel her in any direction, you're looking at a minor. If you actually make her fall, push her out of bounds, or make her lose her position in the pack, it's a free one-minute break.

Now for the tricky part!

There's another rule section that comes into play when you're talking about back blocking, and that's the section regarding use of hands and forearms. Let's take a look at it now:

Forearms or hands may never be used to grab, hold, or push an opponent.
Incidental forearm contact between skaters is acceptable when the arms are pulled into the body to absorb the force of a block. During forearm contact between skaters, the following are indications that a push has occurred: The initiating skater extends her arm during contact The receiving skater is propelled forwards or sideways

No Impact/No Penalty
Incidental contact of forearms or hands that falls within legal target zones, that does not force the opponent to adjust her skating stance or position in any way. Contact made with the forearms when forearms are pulled in to the body to absorb a hit. A block initiated with the should
er, in which there is forearm contact to the
opponent, but no observable push with the forearm.

Minor Penalty Illegal forearm or hand contact to an opponent, that falls within the legal target zones that forces the receiver off balance, forward, and/or sideways but does not cause her to lose her relative position. This includes: A slight but observable push with the hands or forearms.
A block initiated with the shoulder, in which there is either a simultaneous or subsequent push with the forearm. A push is indicated by the initiating skater extending her arms while making contact with the forearms, resulting in the receiving skater being propelled forward or sideways.

Major Penalty Any illegal contact with hands or forearms above the shoulders. Any illegal forearm or hand contact to an opponent that forces the receiver off balance, forward, and/or sideways and causes her to lose her relative position. This includes: Contact with hands or forearms, as indicated by the initiating skater extending her arms, resulting in the receiving skater being propelled forwards or sideways.
Use of hands or forearms to grab or hold an opposing skater impeding that skater’s mobility, causing her to lose advantage and/or forcing that skater to the ground.

So how does 6.2.3 affect back blocking?

If the refs think you've pushed an opposing skater from behind, you're going to get a penalty. Now, they may call it back blocking or they may call it pushing, but the sin that will have done you in is all about illegal use of hands or forearms.

When it comes to blocking, pulling your arms into your body is usually enough to show the refs you're playing fair, but when it comes to contact from behind, if they even suspect they saw you push the other skater a teeny bit with your arms ( A slight but observable push with the hands or forearms.), they'll be quick with the whistle.

The point is that if you get your arms out of the way, it eliminates the possibility of being called for illegal use of hands or forearms when you're in a situation where you might be called for back blocking. One less thing to worry about.

So remember: No touchy!

Avoid the Slowdown

The best way to avoid a back blocking penalty is to avoid getting caught behind opposing skaters. So steer clear of positional blocks by using your footwork and veering or crossing over to quickly get around opposing skaters. Don't forget to use the fake-out. A good feint, especially if timed when the blocking skater is turning her head from one side to the other, will go a long way toward breaking you clear of the pack or getting you back into position with your fellow blockers.

Do Some Damage Control

So you're boxed in and about to run an opposing skater over, now what?

First, slow down, preferably with a snow plow stop that will keep you low and wide, so you don't totally cream the girl. If you have to, you can absorb some of that other skater's energy by bending your knees and letting her butt come back into your crotch so you don't push her forward. Next, reach for the sky and get those hands out of the way. Get 'em nice and high to show the refs you're being a good girl. Finally, get ready to move quick when a hole opens up so you can get around your opponent.

Make Your Escape

Don't forget that you can utilize your teammates here, especially as a jammer. A good waitress whip can quickly turn the tables and get you clear of opposing blockers. Or just signal one of your bruisers to take the obstacle out while you roll on by. Practice some scenarios as a pack and see what works for you.

If you're jamming, use your teammates assistance, look for your holes, and use your crossovers and lateral hops to slip through gaps. If you're blocking, you may just want to get into a better position to engage the other skater. Practice stepping over a blocking skater's leg when she's nice and wide and holding the line. Once you've got a leg in front, you can shove one hip and/or shoulder across and block to the side or front of her body, since the rules allow hitting an opponent in a legal target zone even if you're behind her. Be aware that you must have good skating stance and balance to legally block a skater from behind, so practice your basics first.

Play Like a Brainiac

If you don't mind being an evil genius, you can mess with the other skater's head to give yourself the advantage. Try giving the blocking skater in front of you a little bump with your hips, but not hard enough to knock her down or push her visibly and wait for her to turn and look at the refs to see if they caught it. If you've done it right, you won't have committed a penalty, just made the other skater think you did. While she's gaping at the zebras, make your move to the outside. Don't forget to smile and wave.

It also helps to know your penalty status, so you know if another major is going to get you booted from the period, or if you'd like to go ahead and commit the fourth minor to clear them out. Pay attention to the penalty tracking board and to your captain/co-cap/alternate for guidance.

Skate smart!

Photo courtesy of I Can Has Lead Jammer?
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A little highlight footage from the Gotham Girls 2008 intraleague season.

Because when you're this cool, why not?

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So your skates fit your feet just fine, but your heels or your ankles slip, and you're tired of feeling like you're slopping around in your boots?

Here's a wildly ingenious and wonderfully cheap solution from Dr. Hell, of Canberra Roller Derby League, using beer koozies. Seriously.

Dr. Hell says "Aside from the fact that it is far superior in tastiness and flavour than wine, if it weren't for beer and my large collection of stubbie holders, I would still have slippy ankles in my 125s. I'd tried extra thick socks, heel cups, ankle braces, I'd sewn a pair of neoprene booties but to no avail. I was seriously considering a pair of Bonts for the mouldable-ness, but found a $4 solution.

I got two 4mm neoprene bottle holders at the bargain store, cut along the side seam, and then undid the seam around half of the bottom so I had a base circle of neoprene, with two flaps of neoprene coming off it. A perfect heel cup and protection from diggy counters and sharp boot edges."

I know what you're thinking. How can I too, harness the goodness of my favorite beverage to make my skates fit better?

Enter Hot Lips Cruelihan, of Sydney Roller Derby League, with an awesome pictorial tutorial of Dr. Hell's beer koozie method. So easy even a ref could do it. Peep the deets.

Ingredients: Humorous beer koozies (assorted); scissors.

Step 1: Cut down side seam (or for bottle holders, along each side of the zipper).

Step 2: Unpick or cut around base of stubby holder. Mine were glued under the stitching, so I wound up just cutting them.

Step 3: Voila - one heel cup. The vertical neoprene is attached around half the circumference of the base. The flaps just fly free.

Step 4: Insert into back of skate. I've put this one in inside out, cos the colour makes it easier to see, but it makes a little lump at the base of the heel. This may or may not matter to you - I'm putting an insole over the top which covers that edge.

Action shot!

Not pictured: Step 5: Trim to not look stupid.

There you have it. Custom made heel cups on the cheap. The bad news is that they might inspire a hankerin' for a cold one every time you put your skates on, but the good news is that they don't break WFTDA rule 9.4.2.

Could it be the beer that's making these Aussies so smart? Maybe I should start drinking Foster's...

via Skatelog Forum
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The always awesome Bonnie D. Stroir of the San Diego Derby Dolls explains how to do a leg whip and demonstrates it for us on both flat and banked track.

If you've already got your one-footed glides around corners down pat, and you can hold a nice little arabesque, then you can do a leg whip.

This type of whip can be very powerful when done right, lets you whip your jammer from further away, it's often unexpected, and of course, it's a real crowd pleaser.

Check out the vid for the breakdown.

Click here for a sweet photo montage of the Rat City All Stars' fair-haired power duo, Blonde An' Bitchen and D-Bomb, doing a leg whip at last year's Nationals.
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For those of you who weren't able to be at Northwest Knockdown, I'd love to make you feel better about missing it, but it was freaking amazing! The women competing for the top slots have surpassed rockstar status to become superheroes. In fact, I'm sure that some of the ladies I saw possessed super strength, the power of flight, or yes, even invisibility.

Not only did fans enjoy the pinnacle of derby athleticism, it was a damn posh production, too. Big ups to all the competitors, refs, statisticians, mascots, volunteers, coordinators, vendors, photographers, journalists and of course fans who made the event HUGE!

Don't forget to support Fracture Mag by dropping by to check out my coverage of Nationals. If you like it, let them know, and they may send me to capture other derby goodness for you!

Also, I've a got a few lovely pics to share with you from the weekend, so head on over to my Flickr album to check those out.

Disclaimer: I am not a photographer. I do not have a fancy camera. These are not super awesome derby photos in which you can see the sweat flying off Rice Rocket's brow. They are more like the photos you would probably take if you were there. Which, in a way, I guess makes them kind of cool.

FRACTURE magazine
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The Orgeonian was caught flat-footed last week when they received questions from fans and readers as to why they hadn't covered Northwest Knockdown in the sports section of their paper.

I mean, seriously, national championship roller derby in your backyard and you don't even send out a junior journalist with a point-and-shoot?

Boneheaded but true, so now the Oregonian is wondering if they should start including some flat-track goodness in their C section.

I think you know the answer. Tell 'em what's what.

via Derby News Network
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This drill comes to us from Punk N' Pi of the Queen City Rollergirls and is compiled in Frankie Facebreaker's drill book. When Punk N' Pi does it, they call it "G", "PG" and "R".

When my league does it, we like to call it "Safety, Risky, Danger".

Safety, Risky, Danger

This is a three-stage drill meant to help jammers find holes in the pack, teach them to break through blockers without assistance, and build their confidence.

As a bonus, it teaches blockers to form a cohesive pack when at a disadvantage and helps them understand the importance of communication and passive blocking.

This drill works very well with smallish groups and is just as good for the experienced jammer as it is for the player who is starting to make a transition to jamming.

I've found this drill works best if you explain the rules one portion at a time, and then have the skaters do the drill the way you just outlined.

Phase 1: Safety

Make a pack of about 10-15 blockers and get them moving at a normal pack pace (I have also done this drill with as few as 6-8 blockers, though it is not as challenging for the jammers if they are experienced).

The pack has to follow these rules:
  • Blockers can move laterally (from side to side) on the track in any way they want. They can hop, veer, crossover, whatever, as long as they do it often and randomly.
  • Blockers cannot look behind them. The rear of the pack has to let the front of the pack know when they are getting too far ahead. This is probably the most difficult rule for the pack to follow at this point.
  • Blockers cannot talk about or verbally communicate the jammer's position to the rest of the pack.
  • Blockers are not actively trying to stop the jammer, they're just presenting moving obstacles.
Now, send your jammers through one a time, a few seconds apart. Encourage the jammers to watch the movement of the blockers' hips so they can anticipate the holes, and to keep their speed up as they hit the pack. This should be like a game of Asteroids for them, where they are just avoiding the moving players.

To keep the pack engaged in the drill, remind the blockers that this is their chance to be working on their agility by moving quickly around the track, and to practice staying packed up tight. Encourage them to change positions within the pack.

Run this for 5 minutes or so, or until the jammers start feeling confident or the blockers start getting bored.

Phase 2: Risky

The jammers job is till the same, but the pack now follows a new set of rules:

  • Blockers can now look behind them.
  • They can now communicate the jammer's position to the rest of the pack.
  • Blockers can also now try to actively stop the jammer, but NO CHECKING! Only booty blocks (or passive blocking or The Ass of Fury, or whatever your league likes to call it) are allowed.
The jammers are going to feel more challenged by this, but they will find that the first round has made them more able to see holes.

This phase is great for encouraging blockers to talk to one another, since they've just seen what a handicap it is when they don't communicate, so remind them to do so. The blockers should also be working on their "smear" or "swipe" (veering across the jammer so that their booty goes right into her crotch, throwing her off balance) and practicing their snow plow like crazy.

Once again, run this for about 5 minutes, or until antsy-ness is evident.

Phase 3: Danger

It is, as they say, "on". Jammers are still going it alone, but now the blockers are off the leash.

  • Blockers can now check the jammer. Observe the evil grins when you declare this new rule.
You may, depending on your players, remind your girls that since the jammer is a lone ranger, as it were, to keep their checking to say, 50% power, if you don't want them breaking each other before a bout. Use your judgment and knowledge of your skaters.

Your jammers will no longer be having be having the sort of cats-away-mice-will-play fun they were having at the beginning of the drill, and you may even hear a little whining. Punk N' Pi suggests reminding the jammers that if they can make one legal pass through a pack of 10-15 vengeful blockers alone, they should be able to get through the toughest pack in a bout, when they will have help.

Jammers will typically do very well in the last stage, and may even surprise themselves, since the first two phases have forced them to focus on exploiting holes and getting through while keeping their speed up.

Only run this for a couple minutes, especially if your jammers are getting bounced around a lot. If you like, you can run it from the top a second time, either keeping the same groups, or changing them up.

Via InterDerby
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So here's the deal. Starting Friday I will be covering all the crazy action at Northwest Knockdown.

Not here on FB though, you'll have to head on over to the radness that is Fracture Magazine to catch the coverage, so go check it out, and stay on top of the bouts as they unfold.

I'll be Twittering from the event as well, so if you want scores at halftimes and "ZOMG! So-and-so just got their clock cleaned!" moments, follow me!

Don't forget to stick around Fishnet Burnns itself, because I'll have more tasty derby articles up, still hot and fresh from the oven! I'll also be posting some peek-tures from Rose City that you won't want to miss.

All in all, it's going to be a crazy exciting weekend and I can't wait to bring you all the derby goodness from Portland!

Feel like helping me out with my travel expenses? You can make a contribution for the good of derby below :)

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