However, there is another sport that has substitutions just as free as roller derby, and a similar time limit. I'm talking, of course, of American Football. In the NFL and college, teams have 40 seconds between plays, and in high school it's 25 seconds. That means 25 seconds to shift who your 11 players are, and get ready for the start of the play. Sound hectic?
It's not! Most football teams have a core group who, bar injury, are on every single play. Thus, substitutions are just to fine tune running backs, wide receivers, etc.
So, how can we make it so that derby lineups work as smoothly as football ones? There are a few options:
This is where you write out a chart, jam-by-jam, and send that group in each time. You set the lineup for jam 3, as written on the chart, on the next-jam bench as soon as jam 2 gets underway. Problem is, by the 5th or 6th jam, penalties will likely start to foul the chart.
This is why the lineup manager is usually stressed right here. Drew up a nice plan, plan didn't work. Oh, hello stress, where ya been?
As this system leads to guaranteed stress, unless your team commits 0 penalties, it is flawed.
This is where you rate your skaters with A, B, C, and D. The goal is to have D skaters on as rarely as possible, and as high a value as possible every jam. Thus, if there are 2 As, 2 Bs, 1 C, 2 Ds and 2 Jammers on the bench, the next lineup would just be the As and Bs.
This system is really low stress, as it's remarkably easy to determine the next lineup. There are a few major limitations, though, including endurance and flexibility.
The skaters ranked as As will skate every other jam. This means that they will be worked much harder than the Cs and Ds. They will undoubtedly experience fatigue, and eventually this will reduce their ability to the point of those Cs and Ds who have been waiting on the bench. And, if endurance isn't an issue in a given bout, that means you're not skating hard enough. If you're not being pushed to the limit, then you're not playing difficult enough bouts.
What about jammers who are also good at blocking? I mean the true double threats. They're likely ranked as As for blocking, which means that if the system is applied rigorously then they won't have enough time to recover after jamming. To use this system with double threats takes a high degree of planning ahead. It's a potential source of stress.
Ice hockey also has free substitution, and they do it by "lines." A line is a full rotation, similar to a lineup in derby, who practice and work together. I attempted to use it in derby, to some success, but it will take some more development before it's done. Here's the setup: