Understanding Roller Derby

01
Mar
2011

Hey, I’m J.C. Chaotic, Head Referee of the Brewcity Bruisers. Let’s talk about roller derby.

Sometimes people have to come to a few bouts before they understand what’s going on, but not anymore! Here is a run down of how the sport is played.

1) The Game. The bouts are competitions between two teams. Each bout is made up of two halves and the halves at the BCB bouts are 20 minutes each. The halves are divided into multiple Jams where the teams compete to score points. The longest a Jam can last is two minutes and there are 30 seconds between each Jam.

2) The Skaters. During each Jam, each teams field 5 skaters. There are four Blockers and one Jammer.

The Blockers work to help their Jammer score points while they simultaneously work to prevent the opposing Jammer from scoring.

The Jammers are the only skaters that can score points for the teams. You can pick them out because they have big stars on their helmets.

There is a special Blocker position called the Pivot. She’s the skater with a stripe down the middle of her helmet.

3) The Pack. The Blockers from the two teams make up the Pack. The Pack is the largest group of Blockers from both teams that are skating together. If there are two groups of skaters with the same number of Blockers that are skating more than 10 feet apart, there isn’t a Pack and the skaters aren’t allowed to do anything. Boring. That’s why the Blockers all skate close together.

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4) Jams. At the beginning of each Jam the Blockers from both teams line up at what is called the Pivot Line. Thirty feet behind the Pivot Line is the Jammer Line. The Jammer from each team lines up behind the Jammer Line.

The Jam starts when an official blows one whistle. Once the all the Blockers (the Pack) cross the Pivot Line the official will blow two whistle blasts. That’s the signal that the Jammers can start their sprint to and through the Pack.

The first time the Jammers go through the Pack they don’t score any points. Instead they are working to achieve the position of “Lead Jammer”. The first Jammer that passes all of the Blockers legally and skates out of the Pack is the Lead Jammer. The Lead Jammer is the only skater on the track that can call off (end) the Jam. She calls off the Jam by tapping her hands on her hips. If there is no Lead Jammer OR if the Lead Jammer never calls off the Jam, it will end after two minutes.

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After the Jammers’ first trip through the Pack, they race around the track and go through again. And again. These are called “scoring passes”. When the Jammer goes through the Pack on a scoring pass she scores one point for each opposing Blocker that she passes legally.

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The team with the most points at the end of the game wins.

5) Penalties. When the Blockers are working to help their Jammer and stop the other Jammer from scoring points they aren’t gentle. But hopefully they are following the rules. If a skater doesn’t follow the rules she will receive penalties.

Like most sports, it is illegal to make contact to an opponent’s back, head and knees (and lower). Skaters must also use legal parts of their bodies to block. It is illegal for them to use their head, feet, knees, elbows, hands and forearms to block. They also can’t block once they are out of bounds. Speaking of out of bounds, if a skater goes out of bounds, and then comes back in and cuts anyone (comes back in front of someone that she used to be behind), she’ll get a penalty.

When a skater does something illegal that has a minor effect on the game, they will get a minor penalty. If they do something that has a major effect on the game, they receive a major penalty. Skaters will spend one minute in the penalty box if they receive a major penalty or if they receive four minor penalties. When a skater is in the penalty box their team must skate short.

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6) The Referees. The referees are awesome.

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If you want to learn more about roller derby rules, check out www.wftda.com/rules. Next time we’ll talk more about the rules and how they affect roller derby strategy.



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