The WFTDA have released the latest version of their minimum skills, and have split opinion within Derby. In this Article Go-Go-Gadget-Skates and Buffy Boiler will look at the implications from the perspective of a skater and a referee.
Buffy: First of all, I'd like to address what the new minimum skills actually mean for non-WFTDA leagues. Basically, they are as big a deal as your league wants them to be. The first page of the document has some interesting stuff to say that I think a lot of people are forgetting:
The minimum skills are:
- Required for charter team skaters playing WFTDA sanctioned games.
- Strongly recommended for skaters playing in interleague scrimmage or games.
- Strongly recommended for skaters playing in intraleague (home) scrimmages or games.
- Recommended for new skaters to graduate to contact drills and intraleague (home league) scrimmages.
What this means is that if you're a new league or for whatever reason just don't yet have a sufficient number of skaters to field a team who all meet the new minimums you can still scrimmage, and even bout, as long as you agree it in advance with any prospective opponents. The goal of this update is not to turn Derby into a game for only elite-level skaters, but it is definitely a move to ensure that WFTDA tournaments and games between WFTDA members represent a good standard of play.
I do expect that in the near future the new minimums will become the standard for interleague competition, as more and more teams are able to meet them - but remember that as the standard of play rises so will the standard of coaching available. The way up for a new league hasn't suddenly become longer, but it does maybe need a little more thought now.
Gadget: So early April saw the release of the updated WFTDA Minimum skills assessment to a very mixed review from my fellow skaters.
First and foremost, I’d like to echo what Buffy has so rightly pointed out, these minimums are only compulsory for WFTDA leagues! Of course they are strongly recommended for all others. If a league plays under the WFTDA ruleset, it would make sense for that same league to start updating their minimum skills for the league as a whole, whether WFTDA or not.
Buffy: The old minimums were built primarily with safety in mind; though I think it's fair to say that was never their sole purpose. For instance 25 in 5 was not a safety requirement, but it helped ensure a base standard of athletic ability which was necessary for competitive play. Just as 27 in 5 represents the increase in the general athleticism of the sport today.
Gadget: Lets look at what’s been added and taken away. We see the addition and subtraction of various skills. Like so many other skaters, I am glad to see the back of the unnecessary baseball slide fall. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone use this fall in active gameplay. The new minimums focus very much on specific skills that, if you were brought up on the old minimums, you very quickly learned you needed to succeed in the game. As well as skill, it is upping the expectation of speed from the skaters, with the addition of 27 in 5 and being able to complete one lap in 13 seconds from standstill. Other skills that have been introduced are reverse crossovers, transitions. A lot of the minimums now have clearer descriptions on what is expected, thus making it far easier for leagues to interpret and teach to their aspiring future derby players.
Buffy: Derby is no longer simply a game about skating fast and turning left. The sport has evolved in ways few people could have anticipated in 2009, when the minimums were last updated, and as a result the modern game changes pace and even direction very quickly. So I think it's right that things like transitions are now seen as part of the core skill-set. As many of us will have seen, a poorly executed transition can lead to serious injury. Putting too much torque on the ankles can lead to anything from strains and sprains to spiral fractures (where the bone is broken by twisting it, not snapping - which almost always requires surgery). To say nothing of the obvious risks to suddenly changing direction and falling in front of other skaters.
This aside, the bulk of the minimums have actually been streamlined - the section on "sticky skating" (or skullcrushing as some called it) has been condensed to one line: "Propels self while keeping all 8 wheels on the floor." Skaters now simply have to be able to competently land legal hip and body checks while skating at a decent speed. It's less about box ticking and more about ensuring that people are comfortable and, most importantly, safe on skates.
Gadget: Personally, at first I was disheartened at seeing the addition of 27 in 5, particularly because I remember how long it took me to achieve in the first place then again when returning from injury. However after some reflection, I think it’s a great addition. Having 25 in 5 before wasn’t really that good of an indication of a skaters endurance. Yes they can skate fast for 5 minutes, but could they skate fast for multiple jams in a row? Most of a period? A game? Unfortunately for some skaters, the answers to these questions are no. I also feel that new and old skaters alike will benefit greatly from the inclusion of these skills, making them better, more skilled derby players in the long run. I love that I can transition, not particularly fast, but I can. And I look forward to the day that I do this on track without having to think about it.
Buffy It's probably been apparent that I'm all for this change, especially as the WFTDA have been careful to be inclusive in their approach. They are not saying you must be able to skate this well to play, they are simply saying that this is the standard expected in their own competitions. I've seen skaters who could technically pass their minimums thrown into bouts well before they were ready, this is disheartening for the person concerned - it's easy to keep a nice strong stance when you're asked to do so for a minute or two in order to be assessed on it, it's quite another to be able to maintain it while keeping up with a fast pack and trying to not be taken out by an opponent.
As a referee I technically do not need to be able to pass minimum skills, the required standard of skating for referees is entirely up to the leagues they train with. Most leagues will use the minimums for skaters as the basis for referee training, and there will be a level that each league expects before allowing a new official to start refereeing scrimmages and then later bouts. Personally, I'm an advocate of strong skating skills for referees. We need to be fast at OPR and able to quickly change pace to follow the skaters from the inside, this is particularly true of Jam Refs. We also all need to be confident enough to do all this without thinking about what our skates are doing, while making decisions which can drastically alter the game.
Buffy: The old minimum skills really were the minimum required. Some may find it disheartening to hear this but very few established skaters were struggling with any of the old skills. A skater who can pass these is actually pretty good, not merely safe to share a track with. This means that when new skaters do pass, they'll know that they're at a higher standard than the generation of skaters before them was when they first took to the track. Our sport is evolving and improving, which I think we can all agree is a very good thing.
Gadget: Yes it will take time to be able to do all of these skills. Chances are, you can probably achieve most of them, if not all already. Don’t be disheartened if you can’t. Everyone else had to learn and you can too. You need to work hard, the same as you did for your original minimums. Your league will thank you for it as you will become a better skater who is more agile, fast and overall more skilled.
My final thought is that I’d like to echo what Buffy has said, these new skills will make new skaters joining bouting ranks more equipped to deal with the state of play that is now happening at scrimmages and bouts.