Fer Chrissakes Start Going Long When You Are Down Big

Every weekend, every single weekend, I get myself worked up because a team I am cheering for is down big and calling jams off 0–0 — playing point denial and hit and quit when they are down by 100+ points. I don’t think there is anything in current derby that bothers me more. What the hell are you doing!?!

To start, I fully place blame on coaches not jammers. Coaches should prepare their team for any eventuality in game and switching strategy in game when you are getting blown out is one of them. Repeat it 1000x — you should not be using the same strategy in game as the team that is beating you by 200 points.

Somehow, in 2016, total points is still a mystery to the majority of roller derby — either that or this is just teams and coaches being too “proud” which I have no use for either.

This is a break down of the “why” and “when” you should shift strategies so hopefully I can see less of this in the future.

Total points in game is to the power of 3 in the score. If you score 66.67% of the total points in a game you grab 2 of 3 and that 2 is x the other team’s weight x 100. Ex. 66.667% total points = 2 x 2.5 hypothetical teams weight = 5.00 x 100 = 500 WFTDA score. On the other end, the other team would receive the “1.” Results like this, and these numbers should be referred to as “the 2” and “the 1” — as in, X team is close to getting “the 2.”

These are great goalposts for trying to understand when your team should be shifting strategies to go long, although it won’t always hold up (ex. if you are outside the top 10 and playing Gotham you should just be going long on lead every chance you get). Still, this will hold true for the vast majority of games.

If you are at “the 1,” or below, 20 minutes into the game, or at half, you need to adjust your strategy. If the other team just put up 200 points on you and you are struggling to hit 100, the magical comeback is probably not going to happen. Also, if your lead jam percentage is below 33% — that is another sign that you need to maximize the track time where you have lead and minimize it for the other team.

That is the “when” of using this, the why is because it will help your overall total points a lot more than hit and quit will — even if you end up losing some jams. If we use the threshold of the 2 and the 1, if a team has 200 points and the other team 100, this is how a jam breaks down if they go long (in increments of 4) as opposed to hit and quit.

Begin at 200–100 = 33.33% total points

204–104 = 33.76% total points (4–4 jam)

208–104 = 33.33% total points (8–4 jam)

208–108 = 34.17% total points (8–8 jam)

204–108 = 34.61% total points (4–8 jam)

212–108 = 33.75% total points (12–8 jam)

212–112 = 34.56% total points (12–12 jam)

208–112 = 35% total points (8–12 jam)

216–116 = 34.93% total points (16–16 jam)

216–112 = 34.14% total points (16–12 jam)

212–116 = 35.36% total points (12–16 jam)

220–120 = 35.29% total points (20–20 jam)

220–116 = 34.52% total points (20–16 jam)

If the score is 200–100, you can lose a jam 20–16 and still come away with more total points than if you hit and quit at 4–0. In all of the scenarios above you either tie or come ahead in your total points from when you started the jam, which should be your metric for a successful jam when you are down big (the other teams metric is to deny you the ability to score — so friggen’ score ya doofus!)

If the total points is any worse than that, going longer just yields even better results — even if you lose in jam. If you are really getting crushed (below 20–15% total points) there is no reason or advantage to ever call the jam off.

Even if you lose the jam, the time you just burned off the clock while controlling lead was worth it as well. Lead management, clock management and total points management should all be part of the same strategy when you are down big. Playing a point denial game when you are down big only helps the winning team. The next jam will start and they will continue to use their lead jam advantage and clock time left to keep running up the score.

Beyond these two advantages preparing your jammers for this scenario can also save them from risk of injury. Hit and quit scenarios can be high risk injury scenarios as jammers attempt moves, at speed, to grab points and rob the other team. If you are down big and your jammer gets injured trying to call off a jam 2–0 that’s a lifetime of bad derby karma for you coach. It simply shouldn’t ever happen.

You can use those scores as guide. As long as your jammer is physically out front of the other jammer you for sure should not be calling the jam — even if the other team is scoring points. If they get one pass ahead you should wait to kill as much clock as possible before calling that jam. Never simply hit and quit.

Beyond just preparing teams for this scenario coaches should also be working on lots of offensive strategies and counters. WFTDA scores and rankings would be tighter if more coaches fully understood the points system and used it to their advantage and also if more coaches worked on offensive counters after their first move has been busted. If your offense stops at one attempt at a sweep there is a problem.

If you do passive offense AND hit and quit when you are down big I can’t watch your team play roller derby. If you do all of those things and your jammer gets hurt trying to hit and quit when you are down by 200+ you should receive a lifetime ban from coaching.

The only downside is the risk you take in your jammer grabbing a penalty while going long. Still, that is a risk worth taking and the jam going a full 2 minutes is better than just ceding to the other teams control of the clock and lead. This way you at least give your team a shot.

I won’t call out any team in particular but I will positively point people to the Terminal City v Arch Rival game at the Big O this year. Terminal City was down 163–30 (15.54% total points) at half against Arch Rival, who have been rankings killers for two straight years. Terminal shifted strategies at half and prioritized going long alongside clock/lead management in the second half. Their half time WFTDA score was just 172 — a score which would have seriously hurt them in the ranking. By playing smart and going long in the second half they brought the score to 308–126 (29.03% total points) and salvaged a 392 WFTDA score which was just 6 below their average at the time.

Differentials don’t matter and win/loss isn’t the main metric — total points is everything within WFTDA. Understand how it works, use that to your advantage and fer chrissakes stop doing what the other team WANTS you to do!