I don’t hear a whole lot of talk in my derby world about track layout and how to use it, which is unfortunate because there’s a lot of potential advantage in knowing the ins and outs of track layout. It affects strategy and game play, so once you know how you can use all of the track like Garey Busey snorts all of the cocaine in any given room he’s in. Depending on how long you’ve been skating, you might be confused as to what difference the track could make.
The issue actually came up at a roller derby practice tonight. I shouted at my teammates to get out of the apex (I believe my exact words were ‘Not in the apex!!’, which makes the apex sound hilariously like the shunted hope of butt sex) and then things got confusing. So while discussing where shit got fucked up, I asked if they knew what it meant and we had a titllating discussion on the matter, complete with a visual demonstration.
As it turns out, defending in the apex sucks for a handful of reasons. Reason number one is that the curve of the track is actually a bit wider than the straight part of the track. Think about that for a second. It’s enough of a pain in the ass to hold back a jammer without giving them an allowance of a few extra feet. Reason number two is that the increased distance on the outside makes it harder to keep your wall straight while moving. This is becausse of the outside having to move faster to keep up and the inside having to move a little slower. Throw a little pushing behind that factor and that alone makes it way easier to break up a wall. This also gives the jammer the opportunity to draw the blockers to the outside and then juke to the inside, thereby forcing the blockers to have to move at the speed of light to have to catch her since she has the inside of the track and they are on the outside. In that scenario, it’s basically like the inside of the track is one of the speed boosters you drive over in Mario Kart. If someone runs over that and you don’t, you’re going to have a hard time catching up. A third reason is that it gives a good spry jammer the opportunity to jump the apex, which fucking sucks as a blocker. If you’ve watched the WFTDA champs and seen Bonnie Thunders jump that apex, you know how that fucking goes.
Although defending in the apex sucks sweaty herpes balls, there are some ways the apex can work to your advantage. Such as the making people defend in the apex. If you know your shit and see an opportunity to push or draw the opposing team into the apex then do it. You can skate forward if they’re the type to follow the pack mindlessly, you can skate forward slowly so as to destroy the pack without getting a penalty, forcing you to stop and them to come to teh apex if you’re close enough, or you can just fucking push them if they’re in front of you. Then all of that shit I just talked about becomes your best friend, and you can smile in mischevious glee as you watch those beautiful points being added to your total.
One less ovbvious way to use the apex is when bridging. This is another pointer brought to us by the lovely Kiki, and is also something we completely fucking forgot about five minutes after she left. Because the circumference (or distance around the curve, for those of you who are not on good terms with geomoetry) is shorter the closer the closer you are to the inside, this causes the whole going slower on the inside and faster on the outside thing. Ten feet on the inside covers a fuck ton more of the track than ten feet on the outside. If you’re confused about this point, do this at your next practice: Take four skaters and line them up with ten feet between them on the inside of the track. Pause. Consider how much track that covers (spoiler alert: about half the total track). Tell those skaters to move to the outside of the track while maintaining ten feet distance. Be shocked by how little track that covers (about 3/4 of the apex) compared to the previous positions.
What that little four person visual or exercise just did was usd a bridge, which is exactly why I’m bothering to explain the distance thing. When you bridge, you’re lengthening the definition of the pack so that you can bring the jammer (sometimes a blocker if you feel like being a dick) back further, thereby tiring her out. You want to bridge as far back as possible because the farther back she goes the more tired she will be, and therefore more shitty of a player she will be. Having each member of your bridge, with ten feet between each, stand on the inside of the track makes your bridge superhellafragilistic longer. Depending on how you want to defend once the jammer comes in, the last person can stand in the middle and be a lone man wall, or skate forward quickly to form a two person wall with the next person. Whatever floats your roller boat, really.
For now that’s all I have in mind for making the track your dirty bitch. Hopefully I can add more to this at some point, but I felt compelled to churn out at least one more info post, since it’s been super long. For that same reason I’m not proofreading tonight, so sorrynotsorry about typoss.