In my last post I mentioned the term ‘awkward salmoning’ and I realized that eventually I have to explain that. While brainstorming for a general topic under which it would fit, I decided on the subject of starting jams.
This literary conquest didn’t seem too terrible when I started, but holy shit guise, lemme tell you what. There is not an abundance of accurate information on the interwebs concerning jam starts, and a lot of this is because of the ever evolving nature of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association rules. Shit used to be a lot different from what we know it currently, so the majority of jam start tips and tricks don’t make any god damned sense. Someone needs to message google and tell them to update their search algorithms to account for this. But in the mean time, I’ve done you the solid of wading through the ocean of bullshit jam start articles and picking out the succulent relevant bits. So enjoy, my friends, and derby accordingly.
Whether you’re a jammer or a blocker, waiting the last few seconds before the jam whistle as you’re crouched in derby position can be nerve wracking. If you’re smart, which I assume you are because you’re making the effort to read this, you can mitigate the stress by reading up a bit and planning out some strategy with your team. Hopefully this humble blog poost can help you on that way. There are a lot of aspects to offensively starting a power jam, but hopefully I’ll do an alright job of breaking it down.
The first thing to remember is that unlike power jams, regular jams are both offensive and defensive. Although I’m focusing on the offensive aspect of it for now, it’s not entirely offensive. When both teams have a jammer on the track it’s a constant switch between offensive and defensive, so you have to be able to adjust depending on what happens on the track. If you have an offensive plan that’s contigent on your strongest blocker and the opposing jammer happens to line up right behind your strongest blocker, that plan needs to be flexible enough to adjust for that.
If you you and your team are big on defense and don’t want to compromise your defensive line at the whistle, then don’t worry, I have some shenanigans for you, too. There are some mischevious offensive tactics that you can employ before the whistle. They involve a certain simile about a salmon that I’ve been referencing. And alliteration, apparently.
Before get into how fantastic awkward salmons are I must give due credit to Truckstop Trixie. This wee wild cat came to us from a bank track league in Texas. She brought with her the hilarious technique called awkward salmoning, so any and all credit for the move goes towards her.
The excitement of the awkward salmon was brought up during a team discussion of rules, and whether or not certain tactics were legal. The specific tactic being talked about is also one worth trying out for offensive strategies before the whistle, and was brought ot us by Kiki Urhaz. She mentioned that sometimes when she jams, she’ll wait until about three seconds before the whistle and poke an opposing blocker square in the asshole.
Do you need to reread that? Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Now that we’re clear on what I typed, I’ll explain. If you don’t have your imagination pants on still from last time, go ahead and put them on again. Imagine being a blocker in front of the jammer line, waiting for the whistle. You’re in derby position, as you should be, watching the jam timer, and you feel a surprising but definite poke that’s centered on your asshole. You’re probably going to straighten up a lilttle bit and look behind you to try and figure out what the fuck is happening that apparently involves your asshole. Can you see how that’s ideal as a jammer? The blocker is temporarily distracted and puts herself in the ideal position to be knocked the fuck over. Even if she doesnt stand up, that momentary distraction will break her focus on maintaining the wall and give you an opportunity to bust through that shit like the kool-aid guy high on crack.
The team discussion centered around whether or not that’s a legal move, the conclusion of which being unclear in Europe. Although we play by the same rules as the States, European refs call shit weird sometimes, so starting a power jam with a poke to the brownie maker is a risky move. Nekromancer, the head ref for the Pikes Peak Derby Dames, Castle Rock n’ Rollers and Team Bionic (basically someone who really knows his shit) said that stateside it’s completely legal as long as the engagement doesn’t last more than three seconds and doesn’t better relative position. While it may seem like the move betters relative position, it’s not the move itself but rather the skater’s reaction that gives you th e advantage, and that’s what makes it legal.
During one of these discussions Truckstop likened the move to something that the bank track does called awkward salmoning. You wait until a few seconds before the whistle, shove your hand between the thighs of the blocker in front of you and violently wiggle your hand like a salmon out of water. Like an awkward salmon. It has the same effect, and can be used by either a jammer or a blocker who’s trying to make a hole for their jammer. Or as a hilarious way to get someone to jump up and shriek a little bit. Or as an awkward way to say hello. I’ve done both, both to people at roller derby and work. No regrets.
If you’re not done yet with creatively innapropriate names for jam start tactics yet then I have one more. This one is called a ‘dick arm’, and it is not related to the porn remake of Edward Scissorhands (surprisingly). The core of this tactic is to put your forearms together, lightly clasping your fists (but not interlocking your fingers) and wiggling your way between two blockers enough to drop your shoulder and get your body through. If you don’t get why that’s called dick arming, then I feel bad for you. One effective way to start a dick arm is to start at the thighs. Blockers can mash their hips together all they want, but there will always be space a little above their knees. You can start there, ram your dick arm in, and wiggle your way up. Alternately, you can start by standing on the line until a few seconds before the whistle and drop your wheels back while keeping some of your body and your dick arm in that spot. Unless the blockers move forward, they can’t push you back and close the space without getting a penalty.
Those are a few offensive tactics that don’t involve team coordination as much as how close you’re willing to get to someone’s no-no parts. It’s worth trying out, either in a scrimmage or a match where you’re at an unbelievable point deficit and don’t give a fuck. If you dig it ask your captains to bring it up with the refs at the captain’s meeting to establish the legality and go for it. It being assholes and thighs.
While we’re on the topic of things that jammers can do to kick off the jam offensively, it’s worth noting that distance from the jam line is something worth playing around with. Some jammers like starting right up in there, while other prefer to start a meter or more back, This gives them more space to jump around and confuse the other blockers with where she’s going. If you’re not sure what your preference is then play around with it during scrimmages, and see what style floats your boat.
There are of course other strategies that involve a more thorough understanding of WFTDA rules. One of the more common tactics that you might have seen in some of the many WFTDA matches you’ve been watching is the no pack situation. Just before the whistle the foremost team might skate forward. When they do this it destroys the pack and the other team is either forced to bridge the gap thus losing a blocker, or skate forward as fast as possible to reform the pack. Both of these scenarios assume that the rearmose team knows what the hell is happening, because if they aren’t paying attention or aren’t familiar with the strategy they’ll probably continue to block and get a penalty. All of these situations benefit your jammer. If they lose a blocker to a penalty or bridging then that’s one less blocker. If they skate forward to catch up to the foremost blockers a quick jammer can outskate them and get past with minimal effort.
That tactic is one of the more straightforward ones, but if you’re creative you can come up with others. One strategy I came across while wading through that ocean of outdated strategy bullshit was the collective false start tactic, dreamed up by some michevious little peice of shit on a forum. I say peice of shit endearingly because although this strategy is shady as fuck, I like shady as fuck. This person brought up the idea of every blocker on the team doing a false start. False start if when you’re on the track but you’re not in the right position. When you’re lined up waiting for a jam whistle and your teammate tells you to watch your wheels, they’re probably politely telling you to not get a fucking false start penalty by letting your wheel wander behind the jam line.
I posted this on our league forum to try and verify whether or not it’s in fact legal, and I found out it is not. Sorry/not sorry to get your panties wet prematurely, guys. Our beloved referee, John E Crash, hit us with some sweet sweet knowledge by pointing out some clarifications WFTDA had made that would result in this scenario reulting in the jamn not starting and your captain getting a delay of game. Woops.
Our head NSO, though, brought up another strategy that is sneaky and therefore appeals to me. If you have enough jammer helmet panties, have everyoine line up in front of the jammer line wearing a jammer panty. Right before the whistle, everyoine but the actualk jammer can take off the panty and the jammer drops back. This takes time away from the oppposing team to figure out where and who the jammer is. If it’s done quickly and not clumsily like that time I fell down the stairs last week, it can be effective.
A much more simple way to kick off a jam offensively is to just have one of your outer blockers push in. Once you get good at it, it can be devastating to their wall. Have the inside or outside blocker (preferably the one farthest from the opposing jammer’s start position) line up just a little to the side of the blocker in front of them. When the whistle blows that blocker immediately starts pushing the opposing blocker to the inside, making a hole for your jammer while your fellow blockers are (hopefully) busy holding back the opposing jammer. It takes a bit of practice to be ale to effectively lock someone and push them. It also helps if you can throw your ass out and stop them should they get ahead of you a bit and try and get a hit in as the jammer’s passing through. But again, practice, and a huge amount of awareness about where everyone is. You have to be able to switch from offense to defense in a heartbeat.
If you want to go with the above strategy of pushing someone in it helps your jammer to let her in the know. An easy way to do this is to have a code. You can do it with hand signals, like your offensive blocker making an O with their hands so the jammer can see (and behind her back so everyone else and their mother can’t see), or you can do it with code words, like asking ‘Who’s going to the afterparty?’ and whoever answers is the blocker about to make a hole for the jammer.
You can also experiment with the positions of the blockers as a way to increase your effectiveness, both offensively and defensively. You can start as truck and trailer or in the London wall, for example. If you watch WFTDA matches on WFTDA.tv, you’ll notice that not a lot of professional teams start in a four wall. They’re fond of London walls.
As I find more strategies I’ll try to add them on. There’s probably some spelling mistakes and some shit missing from this article, but since it’s been a while since I’ve published anything you can deal with it.
If you like any of the possibilities laid out for you in this post, play around with them at freee practice or scrimmages or whatever. It might end up being something your team loves, and could be an asset in a bout. As always, message me or comment with questions or tips. To the woman who asked for examples to be posted, the hubs and I are still working on the camera situation, but we’re getting there.
Until next time,