The Basics of Flat-Track Roller Derby

Roller derby is a fast-paced, full-contact sport. It is among the fastest growing sports in the world today. Check out this video from the Women’s Flat-Track Derby Association for the basics of how roller derby is played:

A Jam might go like this:

  1. Blockers line up behind the Pivot Line and in front of the Jammer Line.
  2. Jammers line up behind the Jammer Line.
  3. At the Jam-Starting Whistle, the Blockers skate forward and compete for superior position. The Jammers skate forward and try to get through the Pack. Each Blocker simultaneously tries to prevent the opposing Jammer from getting past, and to help their own Jammer get through.
  4. One Jammer exits the Pack and is declared Lead Jammer, earning the right to end the Jam when they decide. This Jammer races around the track to get into scoring position.
  5. The same Jammer begins to work their way through the Pack for the second time, and the opposing Jammer makes their way out of the Pack for the first time.
  6. As the second Jammer to escape the Pack comes around into scoring position, the first Jammer calls off the Jam.
  7. The first Jammer has scored several points (up to four), and held their opponent at zero points. Meanwhile, the opposing Jammer (by getting into scoring position) held the first Jammer at only those points, as they could have scored more points on subsequent passes.

Common Roller Derby Vocab:

Roller Derby – a sport originally created in the style of endurance races on skates, that has morphed into a very different sport today. There are many versions, some that are played on banked tracks, some on flat tracks, some are staged and some are real sports.

Bout – A term for games. You play in a bout, you skate a bout instead of saying play a game or skate in a game.

Blocker – A skater in the pack that is NOT a pivot or jammer, there are four blockers per team allowed on the track at a time.

Fresh Meat – A term for a new  skater, they can be advanced in skating skills, but if you are new to the sport you are “fresh meat” then you move to rookie, then you are just a derby skater.

Hip Check – a bump delivered using the hips while skating immediately next to the target.

Hip Whip–a form of assist in which a player (usually the jammer) grabs her teammate’s hips to swing herself forward.

Jam – a term for time that skaters are in play, maximum two minutes at a time, but can be shorter if called off.

Lead Jammer – The first of the two jammers to legally pass through the entire pack. This is the only skater that can call the jam off before the two minutes are up.

No Pack –  When there is not a pack on the track because the skaters are not skating within proximity to each other.

NSO – a nonskating official. The NSO helps with various referee duties during the outs, including penalty tracking, timing the penalty box, keeping track of points, and collecting data for later statistical analyses.

Out of Play – When a blocker that is more than twenty feet from the pack or is out of bounds or down. A Jammer is out of play when they are out of bounds or down.

Pack – The largest group of blockers containing members from both teams, jammers are not considered part of the pack.

Panty –  Also called a helmet cover.  This is the  cover that is placed on helmet of jammer and pivot. The pivot’s panty has one stripe along the center of a contrasting color. The jammer’s panty will be of the same contrasting color combination but with a star on each side.

Passing The Star–a strategic play in which the jammer removes her helmet cover (the star) and gives it to the pivot, enabling the pivot to become the new jammer and thus score points.

Pivot or Pivot Blocker – The blocker that wears the panty on her head with a stripe. He or she typically directs the members of the pack on her team, and is the only skater that the jammer can pass the jammer panty to during playing of the jam.

Power Jam–a situation wherein one team’s jammer has been sent to the penalty box, and thus only the team with a jammer on the track can score.

WFTDA – Abbreviation for Women’s Flat Track Derby Association – which is the international governing body for the sport of women’s flat track roller derby.

 Zebra – a nickname for a referee.