What is Roller Derby?
The Game: Each game of derby is played between two teams, each with five players in a line-up at one time on the track. Each line-up is made up of one pivot, three blockers, and a jammer. The pivot is a special blocker to can become the jammer and is recognized by her striped helmet cover. The other blockers have no helmet covers at all. The jammer wears a helmet cover with a star on each side. Each game is 60 minutes, made of two 30-minute periods that are further broken down into two minute jams.
The Pack: The pack is made up of blockers. At the start of the jam, the pack lines up in a designated area on the straightaway of the track – pivots and blockers in the front, with jammers positioned behind the back line (jammer line). A jam timer will signal the start of the jam with a single whistle and the skaters are off! This is the jam.
The Jam: Each jam can last up to two-minutes but can be called early by the Lead Jammer (see below). It is a 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. 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. Offense and defense can be played at the same time.
Scoring: 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. This gives her 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.
Blockers: 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 forearms, 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 game. Each penalty means 30 seconds in the box and seven penalties will see a skater foul out of the game.
So what is a penalty?
• Back blocking (pushing from behind)
• Deliberately falling in front of another skater
• Use of elbows as a weapon
• Use of forearms to push an opponent
• Blocking 20 feet ahead of or behind the pack
• Grabbing or pulling a skater from the ground
• It is illegal to GRAB, HOLD or PULL an opposing player – so hands off!
Officials: Each game will be staffed by a team of skating and non-skating officials (NSOs).
The skating officials can be recognised by their black and white stripes and are referred to referees. Up to 7 of them will officiate a game – 2 inside pack refs, 2 jam refs and 3 outside pack refs. These officials will call skaters on illegal actions and signal them off track with special hand signals. The NSOs take care of the admin – recording penalties, timing box trips, noting players on track and timing the game. They may not be part of the action but the game doesn’t happen without these volunteers!