Rule of the Fortnight - Blocking with the Head

Rules of Derby (according to WFTDA) ask our all-knowing officials whatever you like.
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Mags Payne
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Rule of the Fortnight - Blocking with the Head

Post by Mags Payne » Wed Sep 02, 2015 12:28 pm

Hi! Welcome to Rule of the Fortnight. It was requested I space these out, so people have more time to read and understand these. So here's the first FORTNIGHTLY rule.

Today we're going to talk about blocking with the head! Please don't do it!
The head may not be used to block an opponent. Blocking with the head is dangerous for the initiator and the receiver.
Kind of obvious. It's just dangerous for everyone.

No Impact/No Penalty
No Impact/No Penalty

5.6.1 - Incidental contact by an initiator’s head, where the contact using the head forces the receiving opponent off balance, forward, and/or sideways, but does not cause an opponent to lose relative position or the initiator or a teammate to gain relative position.

5.6.2 - Positional blocking with the head.
The word 'Incidental' is important in 5.6.1 - think examples where you've maybe gone for a block, but mistimed so your head hits the player first. As long as this is not intentional and there is no impact, then it's not a penalty.

Now, you'll have recently seen a clarification about the 'Positional blocking with the head' warning. Now is a good time to discuss that. If you want to read it, it can be found here: http://wftda.com/rules/publications/pos ... h-the-head
5.6.2 states that “Positional blocking with the head” is No Impact/No Penalty. This should be understood to indicate that no penalty should be given when, during the course of normal game play, a Skater’s head happens to be in an opposing Skater’s path.
This can happen quite a lot. Just because your head so happens to be in the way, doesn't mean it's worthy of a warning.
However, 5.6.3 states that a Blocking with the Head penalty shall be given for “Incidental contact by the initiator’s head that forces the receiving opponent off balance, forward, and/or sideways and causes an opponent to lose relative position, or the initiator or teammate to gain relative position.”

The head is both an illegal blocking zone and an illegal target zone. Any block initiated using the head warrants a penalty, which makes it unique among contact penalties. Because an opponent must change their path in order to avoid contact to the head, a Skater who deliberately presents their head as the first area of contact has greater impact on the game than a Skater who presents another illegal target zone (the back or the leg). Even without contact that results in a physical block, deliberate and sustained positioning with the head has caused an opposing Skater to lose advantage.
Positionally blocking with an illegal target zone can have a huge impact on the game, as skaters (rightfully!) don't want to injure others. Also, forceful impact with the head is a VERY BAD THING.
Accordingly, deliberate positional blocking with the head warrants a warning from Officials for unsporting behavior. Blatant and deliberate attempts at positional blocking with the head warrant a Misconduct Penalty on the first instance. A positional blocking with the head warning may be issued to an entire team.
Okay, we're all nice and confused now, huh? Luckily, WFTDA have some nice examples:
Example 1

At the start of a jam, Red Blocker is facing White Jammer, bent over so that their head is deliberately positioned in front of White Jammer. White Jammer cannot gain position relative to Red Blocker without contact to Red Blocker’s head. At the whistle, White Jammer attempts to move around Red Blocker’s head; Red Blocker moves their head so it remains the initial point of contact in the path of White Jammer.
Verdict: Warning; penalty if this behavior is habitual.
Reasoning: The deliberate positioning of Red Blocker’s head as the initial point of contact impedes White Jammer’s movement, allowing Red Blocker to maintain superior position. This action warrants a warning from the Officials. If Red Blocker continues the tracking movement with their head and further impedes White Blocker, this should result in a Misconduct Penalty.
For me, this would be something like this: https://youtu.be/rquKUjeQ3fI?t=732

Watch the blue blocker nearest the camera (I can't get her number). She is positionally blocking with the head, and moves in such a way that her head is is the *only* point of contact that jammer can have against her. She should receive a warning for this. HOWEVER, the jammer initiates (you are always responsible as the initiator of a block) a block to the head, so goes off for a high block - the blue blocker should *not* receive a penalty in this instance.

However, in this video: https://youtu.be/vaArUh2KllE?t=1055 under this new Q&A, I would certainly want to see the white blocker at the front get a penalty. Why? because she not only positionally blocks with the head, she basically tracks her head around so much that the jammer cannot escape from hitting her head (note that the jammer does not initiate a block, she just tries to get past). This is very dangerous and falls under the "Blatant and deliberate attempts at positional blocking with the head warrant a Misconduct Penalty on the first instance" line in the Q&A. Obviously, this is in 'make a call, ref' territory, so other refs may disagree with me on that.
Example 2

During game play, Red Blocker is skating backwards in the counterclockwise direction, facing White Jammer. As White Jammer approaches, Red Blocker bends at the waist and leans her head toward White Jammer so that Red Blocker’s head will be the first point of contact. Red Blocker maintains that position, leading with their head, in the path of White Jammer.
Verdict: Warning; penalty if this behavior is habitual.
Reasoning: Red Blocker is deliberately positionally blocking with their head.
This is also similar to the video above - while she skates backwards with her head as the first point of contact, she doesn't impede the jammer and presents an illegal target zone. She would receive a warning.
Example 3

During game play, Red Blocker is skating backwards in the counterclockwise direction facing White Jammer. Because of Red Blocker’s stance, bending at the knees, their head is incidentally positioned as the first point of contact, but is not deliberately placed in White Jammer’s path. As White Jammer approaches, Red Blocker lifts their head and initiates chest-to-chest contact with White Jammer.
Verdict: No penalty.
Reasoning: Red Blocker was in a natural game play position and presented a legal blocking zone to impede White Jammer.
You see this *all the time*. This is just normal gameplay and would not receive a warning.

There is another example, but I'll be discussing this with the gross misconduct penalties.

Now, we don't actually have a verbal cue for this - there is even some discussion if the warning would come during or after a jam. Please note that since there is no clarification on this currently, you may receive different instructions from different head refs.

Penalties
5.6.3 - Incidental contact by the initiator’s head that forces the receiving opponent off balance, forward, and/or sideways and causes an opponent to lose relative position, or the initiator or teammate to gain relative position.
You go in for a block. Due to the force with which you block, your head snaps forward into the rear of the shoulder of the person you are hitting. This causes them to fall forward. If the referees feel that the impact with your head is what caused the player to fall over, then you're going to get a penalty.
5.6.4 - Initiating a block with the head that includes physical contact, regardless of impact or advantage.
If the referees feel that you have initiated a block with the head instead of with a legal blocking zone, it doesn't matter if you manage to knock them down or gain relative position. As soon as you contact with the opposing skater, you get a penalty. It's *that* dangerous. It's a penalty I've only given out a couple of times, but it does happen. Remember: 4.1.2 - The Skater who initiates contact to an opponent is considered the initiator of a block. The initiator of a block is always responsible for the legality of their contact.

Expulsion

Unsurprisingly, as this is a big safety concern, there are expulsion level blocking with the head penalties.
5.6.5 - Intentional, negligent, or reckless contact with an opponent by blocking with the head in an illegal manner.
Think head butts. Also see the final example from the positional blocking with the head Q&A:
Example 4

Red Blocker knocks White Jammer out at the front of the pack and skates clockwise to draw a cut. A White Blocker is skating counter-clockwise in Red Blocker’s path towards Red Blocker. Red Blocker bends over and puts their head in “ramming position” to prevent White Blocker from stopping them. White Blocker jumps out of the way in order to avoid serious harm to both Skaters.
Verdict: Gross Misconduct.
Reasoning: Even though Red Blocker did not maintain superior position or cause White Blocker to lose position, and the Blockers did not make contact, this action is still illegal and posed an extraordinary physical threat to one or both Skaters (see Section 5.16.26).
Charge at someone, head down, ramming style and you're going to get expelled. This is reckless, dangerous and could end up with a serious injury. This is not derby!

Hopefully that clears up some of the stuff with the Q&A, but as always, questions are welcome!
Head Referee, WFTDA Officials rep, WFTDA Rules Committee Member, MRDA Recognised Official.


Good? Bad? I'm the girl with the whistle.

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