| ]

Photo courtesy of ICanHasLeadJammer?
If you're like me, you're probably still getting used to WFTDA's 3.1 ruleset.

In particular, the penalties for cutting the track under section 6.2.10 are stiffer, and are making life as a jammer a lot more interesting.

In this article, we'll take a look at some strategies for staying out of the box and on the track.

First, the official text of the rules from WFTDA:

A skater that is in-bounds need not yield the right of way to an out-of-bounds skater.
Skaters that are out-of-bounds must find an entrance back into the pack that does not require in-bounds skaters to move. When blocked out-of-bounds, an opponent must reenter
the track without bettering her position relative to other skaters. The skater may not return in-bounds in front of the skater who blocked her out-of-bounds, unless that skater is considered “in the box,” having been sent off the track for a penalty (see Section
Cutting the track penalties are issued when any part of the returning skater's skates, body or
equipment are touching the floor inside the track boundary.

No Impact/No Penalty A skater cutting around a downed or out-of-bounds player is not bettering her
position. A skater cutting around a player who is “in the box,” having been sent off the
track for a penalty.

Minor Penalties A skater improving her position by re-entering the track from out-of-bounds in
front of one skater.

Major Penalties A skater improving her position by re-entering the track from out-of-bounds in
front of multiple skaters. A skater improving her position by re-entering the track from out-of-bounds in
front of the foremost opposing Blocker."

It's a fairly brief and straight-forward seeming list, but it requires skaters to adjust their play accordingly, particularly jammers, and this is where confusion sometimes mounts. Let's address some common questions here:

So what's the easy-to-remember version of 6.2.10?
When re-entering the track from out of bounds, if you enter in front of any skater that you were not previously in front of, you get a penalty. It's a minor for entering in front of one skater, a major for entering in front of more than one skater, and an automatic major if the person you enter in front of happens to be the foremost opposing skater in the pack, the so-called "last line of defense" (such as entering in front of the opposing pivot). However, cutting in front of your own pivot would only draw a minor, as long as she's the only one you cut in front of.

If you're entering in front of a skater that is down, or out of bounds, or a skater that just got sent off to the box, you're free and clear. Just make sure she really is down, or really is skating off to serve a penalty.

And remember, you can't cut in front of your own skaters just because they're on your team. Cutting in front of your teammates will still earn you majors and minors.

When do I get the penalty?
You are assessed a penalty upon re-entering the track. Whether you get called or not will depend on how you come back in-bounds.

What about my teammates? They don't count, do they?
In fact, they do. If you cut the track in front of one of your own girls, you'll still draw the penalty.

What about downed skaters?
Leave 'em in the dust. You can cut around a downed skater with impunity.

What if a skater is out of bounds?
Out of bounds skaters, such as perhaps the blocker who hit you out of bounds, or skaters making their way to the penalty box, don't count. But be careful; if you're planning to cut in front of a blocker whose check has carried both of you out of bounds, make sure that blocker has both skates outside the boundary line before you make your move. Otherwise you're likely to get called.

What if I put a hand down inside the track in front of someone? That's doesn't count, right?
It does, indeed. As soon as any part of your "skates, body, or equipment" touch the floor inside the track boundary, you can get a penalty. So keep those flailing limbs under control!

Adapting your play

Now that we've covered the ins and outs of the rules, let's look at some ways to work with them.

The best way for any skater to avoid cutting the track penalties is to avoid being forced out of bounds. This means being pack-aware and using your skating skills; veers or cuts, crossovers, hops and speed control, to avoid a block.

If you're being leaned on and pushed toward the track boundary, you can always try slipping in front of the opposing skater by stepping in front of them with one skate and veering to that side. Then drop your shoulder forward of theirs on the same side, sliding it in front of and across their body. Finally, follow through with your hips, and can-open that chick.

Don't forget that a big part of checking, counter-checking, and avoiding checks is mental. Make good use of feints and don't give away where you're moving next by looking around obviously or flinching in that direction.

Despite your best efforts, though, you're likely to get blocked out of bounds at some point, so you need to have a strategy in place for dealing with it.

When you find yourself on the other side of the track boundary, you should make your first priority slowing down, or more accurately, letting in-bounds skaters pass you, especially if you've been blocked to the infield. You don't want to be traveling forward much when you're out of bounds, because that usually means you're passing other skaters and are going to get nailed with a penalty as soon as you step back in bounds, particularly on the inside.

The quickest way to do this is to simply turn around while out of bounds. Turning yourself around not only creates a brief pause in which skaters still on the track can pass you, but it signals clearly to the refs that you are consciously making a move to enter behind in-bounds skaters. With practice, you can even do this when being blocked out of bounds by "rolling" off of the check in the same way a football running back spins off of opposing tackles. Try it out by making a quick 180, a small loop or a 4-step turn in the direction of the track.

A quick note on turning around or skating in a small circle to rejoin the pack; if you check an opposing skater or make contact with her in any way when you re-enter, be advised that you can be penalized for picking up momentum for a block while out of bounds under section

Sometimes, turning around won't be possible due to your positioning or obstacles like other skaters and you'll have to make a quick decision to slow down. A good decelerating technique to use when forced out of bounds is to knee slide. A quick touch can slow you down and point you in the right direction to get back into play legally. You can also T-stop or snow plow to scrub off some speed so you can quickly re-enter the track. If you're inside on one of the corners, where your momentum can rapidly carry you out of play and then back in, be aware of your speed. You may need to do a double knee slide or a baseball slide and come almost to a stop to make sure you can re-enter play without getting a penalty.

In general, make sure to re-enter behind the skater who hit you. Use the blocker that forced you out as your rule of thumb. If you get back in the pack behind her, you're usually in good shape.

Cutting the track penalties are extremely important to avoid on the inside, since that's where they are easiest to get. You can be hit over the boundary by just a little and then position yourself in front of another skater before you realize you've gone out of bounds, especially if the track boundaries are not very raised. You can even be propelled across the infield at the apex of a turn by a block or even an assist from your team. It's also easy to quickly pass several skaters by rolling forward just a foot or two while in the infield. To top it off, the refs have an excellent view of what you're doing, so you'll need to be extra careful.

Finally, when in doubt, just wait for the pack to pass. It's better to put the brakes on and enter behind the entire pack than get a major or draw a fourth minor, especially for jammers.

For a look at a referee's perspective on cutting the track penalties, check out Pallbearer's article over at Fracture Mag.

I hope you've enjoyed this post, and that it helps you understand and avoid cutting the track penalties!

Questions? Have your own experiences with cutting the track penalties? Leave me a comment!