Refs Explain: Lead Jammer and No Pack


Hey Bruiser Blog Readers!

Last time I broke down the basics of how roller derby is played. This time I’m going to go over some of the situations that can cause confusion when watching roller derby and explain what’s going on.

1) Lead Jammer. Hey, that Jammer committed penalties AND became Lead Jammer. What’s up with that?

The rules say that the first Jammer to legally pass all Blockers in bounds and exit the Pack is the Lead Jammer. However, the Jammer is not limited to one chance at that legal pass. For example, if the Jammer illegally blocks Yellow Blocker, falls down, gets up and then legally passes Yellow Blocker, she has met the criteria of a “legal pass”. Likewise, if the Jammer passes Yellow Blocker legally, falls down, gets up and then illegally blocks Yellow Blocker, she has already passed her legally once and that legal pass is not cancelled out by the penalty. In a nutshell, if she passes all of the Blockers at least one time legally, she is eligible to be Lead Jammer

Other times the Jammer may commit a foul against the opposing Jammer; however, Jammer on Jammer penalties do not effect eligibility to become Lead Jammer.  They only need to pass the Blockers legally.

Lastly, if a Jammer false starts (is on the wrong side of the Jammer line at the Jammer starting signal), she will receive a penalty, but that penalty also does not effect her eligibility to become Lead Jammer.

2) “No Pack! Pack is Here!” Why do the Refs keep saying that?

The Blockers from both teams make up the Pack. The Pack is the largest group of in bounds Blockers that are skating within 10 feet of each other, containing members from both teams. For example, all of the Blockers from The Fast Skaters are 12 feet away from all of the Blockers from The Hard Hitters, there is no Pack.

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However, if all four of The Fast Skaters Blockers are skating in front with one Blocker from The Hard Hitters, but all other Hard Hitters Blockers are more than 10 feet away, the group that has Blockers from both teams is the Pack:

Likewise, if three of the Blockers from The Fast Skaters are far up front, and three of the Blockers from The Hard Hitters are way in back, but one Blocker from each team is in the middle and they are skating next to each other – those two Blockers are the Pack (it’s the biggest group that has Blockers from both teams):

When there is no pack, the referees yell “NO PACK” and put their arms in the air what looks like a “field goal” signal.**

Once the Pack reforms, they yell “PACK IS HERE” and show where the pack is by holding out their arms.

The reason all of this is important is not because I wanted to show you dorky diagrams and awesome pictures of refs. During a NO PACK situation, it is illegal for skaters to block or assist anyone. If they do, they will receive a penalty.  Also, after the ref yells “NO PACK” all of the Blockers are obligated to immediately reform a Pack. If they don’t, they will receive a “failure to reform” penalty.

**Photos from the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA Rules, Appendix C: Hand Signals).

J.C. Chaotic, Head Ref, BCB


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