Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Jam Ref Basics

Alternative names: --
Objective: This drill teaches a series of drills and patterns already used by many top jammer refs. These drills will help jam refs of all levels to do their jobs more easily and more accurately.
Typical length of drill: Time to study the drill before starting, then 15 min off skates, plus 30 minutes on skates. These need not be back-to-back on the same day.
Materials needed: For part 2 (off-skates): A track drawn on paper (at least 4 sheets) or on a dry-erase/chalk board. Markers with team colours and numbers representing skaters. Two markers have jammer stars.
For part 3 (on skates): finger whistle and lanyard whistle for each ref, 3-10+ Skaters on the track, with readable numbers on their arms/back. If there are more than 4, it would help if they’re in light and dark colours. These skaters can do their own training and ignore the refs, provided they are skating on the track and in a pack most of the time. If you talk to the head trainer well in advance, this should be possible without interrupting their training. This can also be done during scrimmages.
Skill level required: Skating skills, rules knowledge, and they should all review the section on Scoring. Solid proficiency with skills from Pack Refs Part 1 (Call it NOW!) and some familiarity with the pack ref drills learned in Pack Refs Part 2 (Where’s the pack?).

Description: This drill has 3 parts: homework, off skates, on skates.

Part 1 – Homework – Jam reffing is best learned and done as a series of “drills”. This makes many of the small tasks easier to learn and perform, and allows the jam ref to concentrate more of his mental energy on watching his jammer. If you watch the jammer refs during regionals or nationals, you’ll see them going through these drills. “Wait a sec, don’t I study enough just learning the rules?” Trust me, time spent learning this will greatly accelerate your development as a highly skilled jammer ref. You will learn this more quickly if you go through the physical motions and think about what’s happening on the track as you read through the steps.

The drills to be memorized and performed are:
1. At the start of the jam, check how many minors your jammer has. Put your lanyard whistle in your mouth. Put your right hand behind your back, and show the number of minors to your jammer with the fingers of the left hand. In training, we ask another ref how many minors, just to develop the habit. Your right hand is a physical reminder that she’s on her initial pass. If she gets called for a penalty during this pass, you’ll return your right hand behind your back after the call so that when she gets out of the box, you’re reminded that she’s still on her initial pass.
2. Identify the numbers or distinctive features of all opposing blockers (see
3. When your jammer starts, watch her go through the pack. If she passes anyone illegally or while out of bounds, note which skater that was, as your jammer could potentially re-pass and still gain lead jammer. Skaters don’t often deliberately drop back to re-pass, but sometimes they are knocked down and come through the pack again.
4. If the other jammer is called lead at any point, spit out your lanyard whistle. This is a reminder that she cannot achieve lead jammer.
5. When your jammer passes the lead opposing in-play blocker and meets all other criteria, call her lead jammer immediately (whistle, hand signal). You will now keep your lanyard whistle in your mouth as a reminder that she is lead jammer. If she has not met the criteria and the other jammer is not yet lead, wait until she’s 20’ ahead of the pack to signal “not lead”. (she could still re-pass and get lead until then)
After the initial pass...
6. Remove your right hand from behind your back once she clears the front of the engagement zone. This is a physical reminder that she is no longer on an initial pass. As soon as she reaches the back of the engagement zone on her first scoring pass, put your left hand behind your back to count points on your fingers.
7. As you jammer approaches the first opposing skater, look for NOTT points or penalized skaters that she will also score for. When she scores her first point, award these points, and start thinking in terms of “who’s left”.
WHO’S LEFT is a mental list of the skaters who she doesn’t yet have points for. You can do this by number “33, 543, I4I” or by description “red helm, pivot, and blue skates” or anything that works for you. The purpose is to track who exactly has not been scored on. It is possible, for example, to never get past more than one skater at a time, and still score 4 (or more) points on a given pass.
8. If your jammer goes into the penalty box, IMMEDIATELY remind yourself “who’s left” to ensure you know who she can still score on once she gets out of the box. When her penalty is almost done, or if the other jammer gets a penalty, quickly identify where these skaters are.
9. When her pass is complete (beyond the engagement zone), call her points and indicate them with your left hand.
When the jam ends...
10. Look for OOP points for opposing blockers ahead of the pack. Then immediately indicate any points the jammer has earned since your last point indication. Even if that score is Zero. And even you just indicated a completed pass score 3 seconds before.

Part 2 – OFF Skates – Using the “tiny track” and markers, the refs demonstrate situations and practice their homework “drills” with one another. This is easier with paper models and no real skaters present, and allows the refs to generate a degree of practice before practicing in front of skaters. After 15 minutes or so of this, we’ll take it to the track...

Part 3 – ON skates – If planned well, this part can be done simultaneously with your team's regular skating drills. Or you can recruit skaters specifically to play the blockers in this drill. One ref will play the role of “jam ref”, while another plays the role of “jammer” (naturally a willing skater could also do this, but that interrupts her training). The “jammer” can skate around the outside of the pack instead of blocking his way “through” the pack, but at first he should pass the pack slowly so that each point and skater passed is distinct. If the jammer scores all 4 points within a split second of one another, the jammer ref won't have time to practice keeping his mental "who's left" list in order. The Jam Ref practices his drills and calls lead jammer / not lead as appropriate. After each round, the Jam Ref gets feedback from the referee trainer. This should be repeated until it’s as automatic as skating.

Additional notes: Credit for inspiring this drill goes to Johnny Zebra, who shared a lot of valuable information with the European referee community during Roll Britannia. Obviously, there are a lot of complications and rules details not covered here. This drill doesn’t teach the rules or every possible complication (penalties, for example).

If you find a way to improve on this drill (or any of the drills in this series), please add your input in the comments section.

Lire cet exercice en fran├žais!


  1. Hi there, just a quick note on acquiring Lead Jammer. A Jammer has to pass all in-play Blockers legally, including their own. LJ can only be announced once they pass the foremost in-play Blocker, not the foremost in-play OPPOSING Blocker.


  2. Could this drill be updated according to the new ruleset? :)