Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Apples to Apples: Blockers vs Jammers

I asked a provocative question on Facebook today; I asked, "Who do you think is smarter, blockers or jammers?"  With all of the reaction I got, you would have thought I had asked, "Which should we eat, kitties or puppies?"  Oh the outcry!  Oh the outrage!  Oh the boring politically correct answers of "Both are equally smart" and the more humorous ones of "Refs are the smartest." (I kid, I kid.) I know I like to start trouble, but the real reason I asked that question was because I was curious how derby folk really see the two positions.  I think how you and your league answers the question shows a lot of how you train your players.

If you are on the side of "blockers are smarter", then your reasoning most likely is because blockers have more than one job to do.  Blockers have to do offense, defense, and be completely aware of where both jammers are at all times.  Blockers have to constantly be ready to assess the pack definition, respond to out of play calls, rethink strategy when their jammer is in the box, or when the other jammer is, and what to do when their teammates are in the box.  Being a blocker is often times compared to being someone juggling flaming chainsaws.  Blockers have to work together, and they have the greatest risk of getting a crazy surprise block thrown on them, because they're probably not looking in the right direction at the right time!  Don't you hate when that happens?  Of course blockers are smart!

If you're on the side of smart jammers, your reasoning comes from the fact that jammers need to know when to call the jam, if they're lead, whether or not to "waste some time" and how to read their blockers.  Jammers know they're a moving target at all times, and have very little time to react to the ever shifting dynamics of the pack they have to play matador and bull with the opposing blockers.  Poker face?  Let's rename it jammer face, because jammers are the ballsiest bluffers I have ever seen.  I really am tempted to take a pack of the best jammers I know to Vegas and let them loose at the poker tables.
Crazy jammer is crazy.

So, which one is smarter?  Honestly, if you want to be a great player, you have to be smart in derby, period.  I hate it when a league lucks into a really talented skater and then only lets her jam.  Exclusively jamming doesn't necessarily teach skaters about pack dynamics.  Don't limit your talented skaters by making them exclusively jam!  You really can learn so much from the game by being a blocker; it raises your awareness, makes you understand how your blockers are trying to help, and it just gives you a better perspective on the game.  Don't isolate your jammers!

On the other hand,  I've noticed that so many teams only are using a small jammer rotation in most games; usually three to four jammers are put into the rotation, and I often wonder if these same leagues only train a couple of people to jam per season.  I think this is going to be a huge problem, since the new rule set looks like it was custom designed to put a three jammer rotation in the box at least seven times during a game.  Every cut against an opposing player is a major, and most jammers get sent to the box for cutting players.  What happens when two out of three of your jammers are cooling their heels in the locker room?  Everyone should receive jammer training.  It makes your footwork, mental focus, and your endurance better.  It might be a good idea for everyone in your league to be able to pick up the jammer panty with some confidence.

So who is smarter?  Who cares!  You need to be smart to be successful in either position...duh!


  1. you should practice both positions, and during a game have ppl play what they are the best at...

  2. I still say refs are smartest...

    however, I encourage all skaters to both jam and block (and ref) since playing both positions will only help you learn the game better. so many JUST want to do one or the other for various reasons and they need to step out of their comfort zone.

    and all players should at least try reffing at some point, at least during a scrimmage. we have several that try and then realize it's a lot harder than they think. they tend to give us a little more understanding when we blow a call or not, lol.

    I may write a bit more about this topic myself!

  3. my WFTDA team makes everyone train as every position, but my USARS team gives everyone a chance to jam but everyone is expected to jam or pivot since in USARS you can jam as either position

    1. Ditto on the USARS ruleset. Everyone in my league needs to know how to do both skating USARS (and be comfortable with both...note I didn't say GOOD at both, lol!).

  4. Truth! You have to be like a jammer to be a blocker unless you liked getting trapped all the time...

    I play both positions but usually jam more. I have a hard time with teamwork when I'm blocking because I get so singular minded. Horrible at offense. You're right about not isolating jammers because they need to understand pack dynamics and strategy to combat it, and they don't work alone, they have 4 other skaters on the track. they're all part of the same pack!

    like this post.