The Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) develops and publishes the rules of Flat Track Roller Derby in Française, Español, and Deutche. Please visit the entire 2020 Rules of Flat Track Roller Derby.
This month’s topic is all about Pack Definition and Destruction, which are covered in separate sections of the 2020 WFTDA rules (section 2 “Game Play” and 4.2 “Game Structure Penalties”)
Let’s talk about the Pack. The Pack has a major impact on game play as it defines the area in which Blockers may legally engage and defines a “trip” on which the Jammers can make points.
WHAT IS THE PACK?
The Pack is the largest group of in-bounds and upright Blockers in proximity and containing members from both teams.
In bounds means the only points at which the Skater is touching the floor are on or between the track boundary lines, except one arm or hand beyond the track boundary is not out of bounds.
An upright Skater is as Skater who is not down. A Skater is down when part of the Skater’s body or equipment (aside from skates) is touching the floor. One hand on the floor is not considered down.
Proximity means not more than 10 ft apart, as measured from the hips parallel to the inside track boundary (see graphic below), in front of or behind the nearest Pack Skater.
Note the Pack is defined only by Blockers, not Jammers. Additionally, Skaters who are penalized are considered no longer on the track and do not count for Pack definition.
No Pack means there is no group of in-bounds and upright Blockers from both teams skating within 10 ft of each other, or where there are two or more equally numbers groups of Blockers not skating within 10 ft of each other. (In other words, there can only be one Pack; if there are two groups of equal numbers of skaters from both teams that are more than 10 ft apart, the Pack is split.)
In a No Pack situation, Blockers may not give or receive blocks that have impact.
IS THE PACK THE SAME THING AS THE ENGAGEMENT ZONE?
No, but the Engagement Zone depends on the Pack. The Engagement Zone is the area of the track in which it is legal for Blockers to engage or be engaged. Engaging means any sort of interaction with another Skater, including blocks and assists. The Engagement Zone extends forward and backward 20 ft from the foremost and rearmost Pack Skaters, respectively.
WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR MAINTAINING THE PACK?
All Blockers from both Teams must work to maintain a Pack.
If there is no Pack, Blockers from both Teams must act to reform the Pack. For Skaters in the rear, this includes stepping or skating in the counterclockwise direction. For Skaters in the front, this includes coasting, braking, or coming to a complete stop. If these immediate actions are not sufficient to reform the Pack, the Blockers must make additional effort. Blockers in the rear group must accelerate up to a sprint towards the front group until the Pack is reformed. Blockers in the front group must actively brake until they come to a complete stop, but they do not need to skate clockwise.
WHAT IS DESTRUCTION?
Intentionally destroying the Pack is called “Destruction” and is illegal. A Blocker may not make a sudden movement that destroys the Pack, such as skating backwards, intentionally skating out of bounds, or taking a knee. If the Pack is moving counterclockwise or stopped during a Jam, it is illegal for a Blocker to skate clockwise if doing so will destroy the Pack.
WHAT PENALTIES ARE ASSOCIATED WITH THE PACK?
A Skating Official will define the pack by extending both arms and using their hands to indicate the front and back of the pack. If there is No Pack, the Skating Official will give a No Pack warning by raising both arms with elbows bent and forearms vertical.
A Skater who fails to attempt to reform the Pack after a No Pack warning will be given a Failure to Reform penalty.
Blockers who are outside of the Engagement Zone will be given an Out of Play warning with one arm held up with the elbow bent at 90 degrees. They will be issued a Failure to Return penalty if they do not immediately attempt to return to the Engagement Zone. Blockers ahead of the Engagement Zone are only compelled to skate clockwise to return to the Engagement Zone if the Pack is stopped or moving clockwise.
Any Blocker outside the Engagement Zone is out of play and cannot engage or be engaged. A Blocker who initiates a block or assist while out of play will receive an Out Of Play Block penalty. A Skater, including a Jammer, who initiates a block on an out-of-play opponent will also receive an Out Of Play Block penalty.
A Destruction penalty will be issued is a Blocker makes a sudden intentional movement that destroys the Pack. There is no warning before a Destruction call.
OK, BUT WHAT DOES ALL OF THIS MEAN IN GAMEPLAY?
The Pack is best understood through examples. The WFTDA Casebook includes some helpful scenarios, below.
In the image below, there is currently a Pack because there are Blockers from the White and Red Teams within 10 ft of each other. White Blocker 2 is not in the Pack but is in the Engagement Zone.
• Since White Pivot is defining the Pack, they will be penalized for Destruction if they make a sudden movement that destroys the Pack, such as skating backwards or taking a knee.
• If the Red wall skates forward (more than 10 ft ahead of White Pivot) while the White Blockers stand still, “No Pack” is declared. There is no penalty yet. Blockers from both Teams must act to reform the Pack. Red Blockers must coast or brake, including coming to a complete stop if necessary, to reform the Pack. White Blockers must step or skate in the clockwise direction, including accelerating up to a sprint if necessary.
Red Jammer and White Pivot are skating in front of the Pack. Once they go more than 20 ft ahead of the Pack, they are outside the Engagement Zone. An Official gives an Out of Play warning to White Pivot.
• If White Pivot blocks Red Jammer, White Pivot receives and Out of Play Block penalty. They received an Out of Play warning and failed to immediately attempt to return to the Engagement Zone and blocked Red Jammer. Note that Red Jammer can legally counter-block.
• If Red Jammer initiates a separate and distinct block on White Pivot which causes impact on White Pivot, they will receive an Out of Play Block penalty.
White Blockers form a four-person wall, blocking Red Jammer at the rear of the Pack when “No Pack” is declared.
• If one White Blocker skates forward to reform the Pack but does not do so for several seconds, the remaining three White Blockers are illegally continuing to block during a No Pack situation. One of the three White Blockers who was actively blocking Red Jammer should be penalized for illegal contact.
• If the Pack had been reformed immediately, no penalty should be issued.
• If all the White Blockers had been accelerating in an attempt to reform the Pack, no penalty should be issued, even if they did so while maintaining their wall and holding Red Jammer back.
By Ruth Slayed-Her Ginsberg