When I left Southern Illinois in summer 2013, I returned to my hometown in Franklin County, Missouri and was thrilled to see there was a new roller derby league starting up there. The at-the-time unnamed league was only a few months old, and still trying to find its identity. When I joined up, there was a lot of discussion about what ruleset to follow, because for whatever reasons, most of the skaters were uninterested in WFTDA. This was puzzling to me. Everything I had previously known about derby had come directly from SIRG, so the thought of trying a new set of rules did not appeal to me at all.
After much discussion/deliberation/debate, at our league meeting last November, what became known as Franklin County Fury voted unanimously to go MADE and skate under the Modern Athletic Derby Endeavor ruleset. Well, I should say nearly unanimously—I was the one stubborn skater who abstained on this vote because I could not see possibilities beyond skating the rules I had worked so hard to learn and understand with SIRG. I was hellbent on sticking to WFTDA. “Ninety-nine percent of teams skate WFTDA!” I argued. “Nobody knows what this is!” I was skeptical, to put it mildly.
Nevertheless, that night after the vote, I sat down with my MADE rulebook and got ready to play.
The first major difference a former WFTDA skater will notice when switching to MADE is the size of the rulebook. MADE’s rules are six pages long—seven if you count the cover page. It’s very bare-bones, which I’ll admit can feel frustratingly vague to some, but the simplicity can be encouraging to others.
Gameplay, at its essence, is still derby, but a MADE game looks a little different than WFTDA.
Probably the biggest difference with MADE is that either a jammer OR a pivot can score points for her team. Stay with me here, because this was one of the things I rolled my eyes at a year ago, but it’s actually really fun and simple. So, if Team A’s jammer gets through the pack first, as soon as that happens, Team B’s pivot can break from the pack and become her team’s Active Jammer. No star pass nonsense, the pivot just GOES. Of course Team B’s jammer can still try to get through, but whichever one of them (Team B’s pivot or jammer) gets 20 feet ahead of the pack first becomes Team B’s Active Jammer. (The other hangs back as a blocker.)
And then it’s ON. Because another difference in MADE derby is that lead jammer status can change throughout a jam. Whoever’s in front is the lead. So ideally, if you’re lead and the other jammer is on your tail, you wanna call it before she gets to you, otherwise you just lost control of the jam. You must be upright and in bounds to call the jam too, which is another significant difference between WFTDA and MADE.
What I really like the most about the MADE ruleset is that it just feels more like teamwork to me. As a jammer, my pivot has my back in case I get held up in the pack for too long. As a pivot, I can help my team every jam by keeping in the front of the pack either to hold the opponent’s pivot back or to prepare for my own breakaway. And as a blocker, I’m kept on my toes watching for two potential scorers on the other team instead of just one. The game moves faster. MADE derby moves only counter-clockwise, so there aren’t any passive offense stops on the track or reverse-direction soul-crushing. It makes things simpler for both skater and spectator once you get the hang of it. As a new league especially, I think going MADE has helped our skaters get into the game more quickly without feeling overwhelmed by rules for so many different pack situations.
I could go on about the differences between WFTDA and MADE, but someone else has already done a good job of that elsewhere.
Now that I’ve gotten a couple of Fury games under my belt, I’m willing to publicly proclaim that I’ve come to prefer skating MADE. I will admit that it IS a new way to derby, and it IS still finding its legs, but those aren’t necessarily bad things. MADE’s reach is expanding throughout the Midwest—there will be an All About MADE session at Beat Me Halfway this year, and our Nationals tournament will be held in Lebanon, Missouri the weekend of October 24-26. I learned so much from skating with SIRG, and now I’m excited to be a part of a new conception of roller derby—I’m excited to see what the future holds for both MADE and Franklin County Fury.
Dolly Bomba is a former SIRG skater who currently skates for Franklin County Fury in Union, MO. She enjoys helping fresh meat and is working on perfecting her can-opener.