The rules of roller derby continue to evolve! In 2013 we saw some significant changes, particularly the elimination of minor penalties and the move to a single-whistle jam start. April 2014 brings even more exciting changes, including that penalty times have been reduced from one minute to just thirty seconds. For more details on what’s changed, please visit the WFTDA website.
The bouts are competitions between two teams. Each bout is made up of two halves and the halves at the BCB bouts are 30 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.
During each Jam, each team fields 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. The Pivot is the skater with a stripe down the middle of their helmet. The Pivot has the unique ability to take over the Jammer position through an action called a Star Pass.
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 from each team 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.
At the beginning of each Jam the Blockers from both teams line up behind 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 whistle blows, the Blockers and Jammers from both teams start skating, and the Jammers try to get 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. The Lead Jammer calls off the Jam by tapping their hands on their hips. If there is no Lead Jammer OR if the Lead Jammer never calls off the Jam, it will end after two minutes.
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 they score one point for each opposing Blocker that they pass legally.
The team with the most points at the end of the game wins.
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. If a skater goes out of bounds, and then comes back in ahead of an opponent they used to be behind, they’ll get a “cutting” penalty.
If a skater does something illegal that has a major effect on the game, they’ll receive a penalty. Skaters will spend thirty seconds in the penalty box if they receive a major penalty. When a skater is in the penalty box their team must skate short.
For more information on the rules please visit the WFTDA website.