Lengthy, non-impeding hand contact to opposing players?

Hi all,

We had an unusual occurrence in a non-sanctioned but WFTDA ruleset bout last weekend.

During jam lineup, the Black blockers made a standard tripod formation at the jam line (brace or ‘kingpin’ facing the jammer, two blockers with backs to the jam line forming a wall’).

The White jammer leaned over the jam line, and placed their hands on each Black blockers hips, mirroring the Black brace. They held this position for 10+ seconds until the jam start whistle. The White jammer was in a legal start position throughout.

After the jam, I overheard the Black blockers remarking that they felt the act was odd, as I was on the bench playing as part of the Black squad. The terms ‘creepy’ and ‘weird’ were used, although they didn’t escalate to their bench captain or the officiating crew at the time. There wasn’t any complaint or sense that the touch was sexual but it was certainly done to unsettle. All skaters involved were part of the same league and known to each other, to my knowlege.

I seem to recall in early rulesets there was a 3 second rule about how long hand contact would be permitted between opponents, where that contact was not otherwise illegal by blocking, grasping, or otherwise impeding.

Under the current ruleset, the closest thing I could find would be initiating with an illegal blocking zone’ however the wording for blocking actually precludes the lineup period before the jam. Given that, one would hope that ‘no contact between opposing players of any kind’ would be the prevailing interpretation over ‘any and all contact between opposing players is allowed.’

From the ruleset:
“Blocking” refers to any physical contact made to an opponent [emphasis mine], and to any movement or placement of one’s body to impede said opponent’s speed or movement, during a Jam [emphasis mine], whether or not contact is made.

As there was no gameplay impact, is this penalizable?
If this occurs during the jam, with the initiating player keeping pace with their opponent and thus no forceful contact/betterment of position is made, but hand contact persists for a lengthy period, is that penalizable?

First, as I read that rules excerpt the “during a Jam” only refers to positional blocking. Physical contact is always blocking. (See also early and late hits being considered illegal blocks.)

With that the contact is definitely an illegal block. But on its own I would no-call it for lack of impact.

If black team were to bring up that they are uncomfortable with this kind of contact, as HR I’d issue a warning to both teams and instruction to my crew that going forward this kind of contact would be penalized. Skaters have any right to not be intentionally touched in an illegal way that makes them uncomfortable.

(Given that the contact is intentional and illegal one could even make a case for an expulsion, but I’d not go there unless there are additional aggravating circumstances.)


If the intent here is to deceive the opponents into thinking that they are being braced by their teammate, while in fact it is not a brace, the introduction of intentional deception as to a skater’s role (opponent vs teammate) could be interpreted to be impactful and unsporting, using “hiding the star” and “a skater yells no-pack” as precedents.

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As it was before the jam, and persisted, the blockers were able to turn and see who was touching their backs. The jammer removed their hands at the jam start whistle, so my opinion is that this was purely a psychological intimidation tactic.