Ask A... Photo by O'Durgy, Image by Veronica Scars, Skater Trix Ann Riots

Published on October 21st, 2013 | by Jam Slanders

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Photo by O'Durgy, Image by Veronica Scars, Skater Trix Ann Riots

Ask Jam Slanders: I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’

Hi Jam Slanders,

We are a new rec team trying to work on strategy.  We had the opposing team Conga Line us during their power jams this weekend.  What is the best defensive strategy against this?  We are having a disagreement – some say the defenders should engage the jammer as far back as possible in the Engagement Zone to slow her down and keep her in the EZ longer, a few others say to move to the front of the pack to avoid the point scoring.  I think this second strategy is bogus, as the jammer as she can skate right through most of the pack and only has a few strides until the defenders are out of pack.  Thanks!

–Not Gloria Estefan fans

 

Greetings Conga defenders,

Jam is presuming you are playing under WFTDA rules. (Jam no speaka the USARS.)

There are several strategies to try, none of which is perfect. Let’s look at the two strategies you propose. First, trying to engage the jammer as far back as possible in the engagement zone (EZ). This scenario requires your wall to be behind the conga line and then get pushed in front of it. Yes, this is a great situation IF you can get your defensive wall together behind the conga line. This can be somewhat effective IF 1) you can time it right and quickly reassemble your wall behind the conga line before the conga line can skate backwards; 2) your wall can do so without drawing any clockwise blocks skating backwards; and 3) you have enough players on the track to both defend the wall against the jammer from the back and any retreating conga line bodies from the front.

Unless the other team doesn’t know what’s going on, however, IF you manage to get your wall behind them, they are not going to stay there in the conga line 10 feet in front of your wall and then watch their jammer push 10 feet, push the length of the conga line, and then keep pushing until there is a no pack situation and/or blockers are out of play. Rather, your opponents’ conga line can of course recycle backwards. This will distract your wall as people are skating at them, and eventually, as the conga line gets back behind you, it will put your wall back in front of the line. The other downside is that during this process (or any time you skate backwards on the track and draw the pack backwards), you are shortening the track for the opposing jammer and enabling her to score more points on your team.

The second scenario you suggest is more common, where the wall is no more than 10 feet in front of the conga line. Of course, once the jammer forces that wall forward, the wall is out of play. The key is that the front wall needs to use its members to bridge the pack. That is, they need to leave one player behind at that 10 foot mark to legally maintain the pack and extend the engagement zone while the others stay on the jammer. If there are 4 people in the wall and one bridges, that now gives the remaining 3 another 20 feet from the bridging skater to try to contain the jammer. Alternatively, a second person can bridge 10 feet from the first bridging skater, and then the remaining two have twenty feet (or the third person can bridge 10 feet from the second person and the last defender then has twenty feet). When executed effectively, this can slow down the jammer considerably and minimize the number of points she scores. Or, better yet, you knock the jammer out of bounds and can skate backwards to force her to re-enter behind her.

The key here is that you have to practice (and practice and practice) that bridging process and make sure it’s being executed promptly and maintained effectively. Otherwise, the moment the jammer hits the wall, your entire team will be pushed 11 feet, the ref will call no pack, and you will no longer be allowed to initiate contact. It is also likely one of your teammates may be called for destruction or failure to reform, and then you have one less blocker to help you defend against the jammer.

 

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Jam Slanders

Jam Slanders is here to tell you what to do with your life. She's here to answer your questions about psychological, interpersonal, and social questions and issues related to playing derby, training questions, and other fun stuff (just not how you can get rid of that itchy rash you picked up at your last afterparty). She consults with a broad range of skaters, liquors, and knowledgeable media sources (“Always bet on black!”—Wesley Snipes, Passenger 57) to bring you the answers to all of your derby-related questions. All questions you pose will be completely anonymous, so feel free to come up with your own fun pseudonym or Jam will make one for you. Send your questions to advice@derbylife.com.


About the Author

Jam Slanders is here to tell you what to do with your life. She's here to answer your questions about psychological, interpersonal, and social questions and issues related to playing derby, training questions, and other fun stuff (just not how you can get rid of that itchy rash you picked up at your last afterparty). She consults with a broad range of skaters, liquors, and knowledgeable media sources (“Always bet on black!”—Wesley Snipes, Passenger 57) to bring you the answers to all of your derby-related questions. All questions you pose will be completely anonymous, so feel free to come up with your own fun pseudonym or Jam will make one for you. Send your questions to advice@derbylife.com.



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