I recently received a PM on Facebook from an area derby skater:
Could you explain the “star stash” strategy to me please? I think I understand some of it but not all of it.
The “star stash” is a flat track roller derby term describing the action of a team’s Jammer removing her Jammer helmet cover during play and keeping it from view for a period of time. A typical star stash involves the Jammer returning that cover to her own helmet after completing an initial pass, but it may also result in a Star Pass (as described in the rules under section 2.5). Star Stash was first coined by Double H (aka Erica Vanstone, Head of Broadcast Operations for the WFTDA) during the 2014 season and came into popular use during the WFTDA.tv broadcast of the WFTDA 2014 Playoff Season.
At the end I’ll give you the tldr; version, but I’m going to take you through the whole strategic reasoning. When we want to understand strategy, we start with the rules. So let’s look at all the rules around this play:
- What determines a Jammer?
- What can a Jammer do that they can only do wearing the helmet cover?
- Who cannot become Lead Jammer?
- What can a Jammer do not wearing the helmet cover?
- What other rules apply to the stash strategy?
- What benefits come with “stashing” or hiding the cover?
The following rules citations are based on the 2015.01.01 version of the WFTDA Rules of Flat Track Roller Derby.
1. What determines a Jammer?
2.3.2 Is the current rule regarding Jammer Identification and it works in order of priority as to who is a jammer for a team and they are all based on status at the beginning of a jam.
A. Skater who is serving a penalty in the position of Jammer
B. Skater in possession of the Jammer helmet cover
C. A single Skater who is lined up in the Jammer Starting Position
D. if none of the above then that team has not fielded a Jammer
So, if there’s a Jammer in the penalty box, that’s the jammer. If there’s no jammer in the penalty box then someone on the track who has the Jammer cover, regardless of where they are on the track is the Jammer. If there is no skater with a helmet cover but there is one and only one skater in the jammer start position (the 150’ starting in front of the pivot line and extending to the leading edge of the jammer line) then that person is the jammer.
2. What can a Jammer do that they can only do wearing the helmet cover?
When a Jammer is not wearing a helmet cover, they are considered an inactive jammer and there are only two things an inactive jammer can’t do that an active jammer can do. An inactive jammer cannot score points or earn Lead Jammer status (2.3.3). They can also remove the cover – but at that point, if they have Lead Jammer, they forfeit that status of the ability to earn it.
3. Who cannot become Lead Jammer?
A. Once a Lead Jammer has been declared, the opposing team’s Jammer cannot become Lead Jammer.
B. A Jammer who has been issued a penalty in the current jam.
C. A Jammer who has intentionally removed the Jammer cover or whose teammate has removed the Jammer cover from her helmet.
D. A Jammer who has gone out of bounds before reaching the Engagement Zone (very rare in the current strategic environment).
4. What can a Jammer do not wearing the helmet cover?
The rules don’t spell this out. These things are allowed mostly because they’re not disallowed.
- Everything a blocker can do – block, assist, take assists
- Complete the initial pass
- Complete scoring passes (but only score with the cover on)
- Skate outside the Engagement Zone (they are not part of the pack and they are not required to stay in the Engagement Zone)
- Engage the opposing Jammer outside the Engagement Zone (something Blockers cannot do – note, however, they cannot engage Blockers outside the engagement zone.)
- Pass the Jammer cover to the Pivot making the Pivot the Jammer (inactive util cover is worn then active once the cover is worn)
5. What other rules around a cover pass apply to the stash strategy?
- A Jammer who removes her helmet cover may pass it to the Pivot. One the Pivot has the cover grasped in her hand when the Jammer releases it becomes the Jammer (2.5.1).
- A Jammer who removes her helmet cover may put it back on her helmet and resume active Jammer status (126.96.36.199).
6. What benefits come with “stashing” or hiding the cover?
- It is difficult to identify an inactive Jammer that is not wearing the cover.
- A team that mixes up fake Star Passes and real Star Passes consistently creates two targets in a pass – the active Pivot and the inactive Jammer.
A Jammer who has not completed their initial pass who is ineligible for Lead Jammer status (see 3), has no viable benefit to keep the Jammer cover on their helmet but all the benefits of not having the cover on their helmet (see 6). Inactive Jammers (either original Jammers or original Pivots) can complete the Initial Pass without the helmet cover because Jammers can complete passes without the helmet cover on but they won’t score. The only things you cannot do while not wearing the cover are score (doesn’t happen in the initial pass during regular play) or earn Lead Jammer (we’re only talking about a Jammer that’s not eligible).
If a jammer has just completed their Initial Pass and earned Lead Jammer, the other Jammer can remove the cover and work on completing their Initial Pass without the big star bullseye on their head OR they can fake/not fake a pass to the Pivot which creates two targets for the defensive blockers.
The Star Stash became a more viable play when the rules around Star Passes were changed to make the Pivot the Active Jammer the moment she grasped the cover and the original Jammer released it. Previously, Pivots did not become the Active Jammer until the cover was on their helmet and, as Pivots, had to remain in the Engagement Zone. With the ability to put the cover on ones helmet while returning to the Engagement Zone for a first scoring pass regardless of it being the original Jammer or the Pivot, the greatest danger of the cover pass was eliminated. Neither skater must keep the cover visible (at this time). So stashing is legal and makes for some pretty exciting Cover? Cover? Who’s got the Cover? action in the pack.