What is roller derby?This is the real deal. None of the action you’ll see is scripted or pre-planned; this is a real sport, and we play for keeps.
The best way to learn about roller derby is to watch roller derby. Come to a bout or two, and you’ll get it. There are fans galore that are willing to explain the rules, talk strategy, and otherwise bask in the glow that is our sport. You can also find Roller Derby 101, a booklet that gives a quick overview of the major points of the sport, at our merch table. Or check out the history of roller derby at Wikipedia.org!
Each game of derby, called a “bout,” is played between two teams, each with five players in a lineup at one time on the track. Each lineup is made up of one pivot, three blockers, and a jammer. The pivot is recognized by her striped helmet cover, the jammer wears a helmet cover emblazoned with a star on each side, and the blockers have no helmet covers at all (but their helmets often have a plethora of stickers). Each game is 60 minutes, made of two 30-minute periods that are further broken down into two minute jams.
The pack is made up of pivots and blockers. At the start of the jam, the pack lines up along the straightaway of the track – pivots and blockers in the front, with jammers positioned 20 feet behind. A referee or time keeper will signal the start of the jam with a single whistle and the pack will start skating, a few seconds later a double whistle will blow and the jammers will start sprinting through the pack. This is the jam.
Each jam is a two-minute race to see which jammer can score the most points. The jammer earns a point for every member of the opposing team she passes. That may sound easy, but the opposing team is doing all they can to get their own jammer through the pack while stopping the other team’s jammer cold. Derby is a full-contact sport and skaters will use all legal means at their disposal to get the job done, including hitting the opposing team with their shoulders and hips, pushing and pulling on members of their own team, and doing a cool slingshot-like maneuver called a whip to speed their jammer through the pack.
Each jammer must make one complete pass through the pack before she can begin accumulating points. The first jammer to move through the pack legally becomes the lead jammer and as such has the power to call off the jam early – a strategic advantage that allows her to score points and then call off the jam before her opponent has the chance to score. If neither jammer passes through the pack legally, neither becomes lead jammer and the jam continues on for the entire two-minute period.
Through it all, the blockers are doing their thing – blocking. Blockers can hit members of the opposing team with their shoulders, hips, and torso. It’s illegal to use the forarms, hands, and head, and the use of elbows is strictly regulated. Skaters who block illegally, start fights, or otherwise break the rules face penalties which can include everything from time in the penalty box to a complete expulsion from the bout.
Oh so much more:
There are a whole slew of rules that govern game play and regulate which moves are allowable; RCRG plays by the official Women’s Flat Track Derby Association rules, which you can download and read here.