If you don’t know what a power jam is, then it’s pretty weird that you’re here. You should consider reading the first few paragraphs of my previous post about power jam offense, and then go and put on your excited pants in preparation for this titillating piece on power jam defense.
Have you ever seen, maybe on a medical television show, someone get CPR who has a huge bleeding wound? If you’re having trouble with the visualization, it’s like a little gory geyser that spurts out blood every time the chest is pumped. That little gory geyser is a pretty accurate metaphor for what can happen in a power jam when the defending team doesn’t have their shit together. It’s a continuous bleeding out of points, and can make a devastating difference on the score board. If you want to keep from being that sad metaphor, it’s important that you have a basic grasp of what to and not to do.
Probably the primary rule that underlines most strategies in a power jam is the speed, for which the ideal is contingent on whether you’re offense or defense. If you read my previous article on power jam offense and graduated 1st grade, you can probably use process of elimination to figure out what I’m going to say. That’s right, my rock ‘a’ rollin’ friends, you want to go fast as defense. Just like going slow is advantageous offensively in a power jam, gong fast is advantageous in a defensive power jam. Going quickly around the track makes it so the other team’s jammer has to go faster in order to catch up and score points on you thus minimizing how much she’ll be able to lap you and score points on you. It also acts to tire out the jammer, which is overall a great strategy, and something I’ll probably end up writing another blog post about altogether. Maybe. Eventually. For now, though, I’ll leave it at that.
An important addendum to hauling ass around the track is to be conscientious of the pack definition. What I’m saying is don’t destroy the pack, because then you get to haul ass the penalty box. When you increase your speed, don’t pretend play like you’re a pack of Usain Bolts and just take off. You’ll destroy the pack, and the referees are going to call a penalty on one of your team members on the basis of your sudden increase in speed. You want to increase speed in a gradual enough way that the rearmost skaters are going to have to run forward or be called for destruction of the pack.
I just now tried to find a demo video on youtube for a visual of how to increase pack speed without getting a penalty, but alas, I could not find it. So if you’re unclear on a good pack speed, get together with your refs and have a pow wow about penalties and increasing pack speed. Referees are a sadly under utilized resource, so take advantage of them if you have them.
If you’re up against a good team during your defensive power jam, it’s probably a safe assumption to expect some counter strategy geared towards slowing you down. The most common way roller derby teams attempt to slow down the defense is to get a heifer, where they essentially attempt to capture one of your skaters in order to form the pack. When they form the pack, they can control the speed and keep you from going fast around the track.
Regardless of whether or not the other team is attempting to get a heifer, it’s good practice to know what to do in that case. The most common counter strategy for that situation is to skate in something called a Kill Line. Sounds intense, doesn’t it? A Kill Line is a line with the best blockers in the back, closer to the other team, and the not so best in front, farther from the other team. This way it will be harder for the other team to get a heifer, and if they do, your blocker will have a better chance of fighting her way out of the trap. Additionally, it’s advantageous to skate as close together as possible in order to leave the other team as little space as possible to get between you and your teammates. Also, you’ll want to stay closer to the inside of the track than the outside, because it will be harder for the other team to get ahead of you and pick off a heifer if they have to do it coming from the outside. And finally, be aware of the other team so you don’t destroy the pack, keeping about 9 feet in front of them.
If the other team succeeds at getting a heifer, you have a few options. One is to let your blocker fight her way out , which is a decent strategy if the heifer is a good blocker. It’s a bad strategy though if the heifer is as good at getting around people as the federal government is at budgeting, in which case you should skate behind the other team and form your wall there, enabling the heifer to just skate back and join you.
Or you can just Regina George it and block without that heifer. If you don’t have enough time to form a wall up behind the other team, you might have to channel your inner mean girl and let the heifer suffer while you get your block on.
That covers the bulk of power jam defense. There’s not a lot of intricacies in it, but being able to recognize what’s happening on the track amidst all the chaos and react with the most appropriate strategy takes practice. As always comment or message with corrections, questions, or whatever.
Until next time,
PS, for those who caught on in one of my previous articles, I’m finally back on skates.