What is Roller Derby?
This page provides some crash course information about roller derby.
Roller Derby Overview
Most Roller Derby today is played on a flat track and follows the rules and regulations put forth by the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, often just called WFTDA (sometimes pronounced Wiff-Dah). Co-Ed and Men’s leagues also follow these rule sets. Many men’s leagues are a part of the Men’s Roller Derby Association (sometimes pronounced Mur-da).
The Game of Roller Derby
The game of Roller Derby consists of two 30-minute periods. Each period is divided into “jams.” Each jam lasts up to two minutes, with a 30 second break in between. The 30 second pause between jams allows skaters time to get into their correct positions.
To receive points, Jammers must pass opponents while UPRIGHT, in bounds and without committing a penalty.
If an opposing player passes the Jammer, no points are scored when the Jammer repasses that player.
Points are not scored for passing an opposing Jammer even if she is being lapped.
Blocking is permitted using body parts above the mid-thigh, excluding forearms, hands and head. Blocks from behind are not permitted.
A player cannot block with extended arms or elbows.
If a player commits an infraction, such as a cut track, illegal block or unsportsmanlike conduct, penalties are awarded. A penalty requires the player to serve 30 SECONDS in the penalty box.
Good Pointers to Know...
Jammers must start behind the jam line. Jammers score points for their team.
At the whistle, they leave their starting area with the goal of being the first jammer through the pack. The first jammer to legally (without penalty) pass all opposing blockers on the track is considered to be the “lead jammer.”
Earning lead jammer is important because that jammer can call off (end) the jam any time they wish. This can be before the two minutes are up.
Occasionally, neither jammer will earn lead jammer status. When this happens the jam will last the entire two minutes.
Lead jammer status can also be lost if the lead jammer commits a penalty and is sent to the penalty box during the jam. If this happens, the jam goes the full two minutes.
Photo Credit: Derby Menagerie,c,
Jeremy Wren 2018
Jammer: The point-scoring player. Designated by a star on the helmet. Each team fields one Jammer per jam.
Blocker: An offensive and/or defensive player. Each team fields up to four Blockers per jam (provided there are no Blockers sitting out for incurred penalties).
Pivot: A special kind of Blocker, designated by a stripe on the helmet. A Jammer may pass their own helmet cover to their Pivot, who may then become the Jammer. (This is called “Passing the Star.”) However, Pivot-turned-Jammers can never be awarded Lead Jammer status.
Referees: Check out our Team Zebra page for a quick reference for officiating position and duties
Who is on the track?
Blockers and pivots can start anywhere in between the jam line and the pivot line (see image left). If all skaters are not in position at the beginning of the jam, the jam starts without them, and the team will skate short.
Blockers have plain helmets or a helmet with a stripe on it.
The stripe indicates that the blocker is a Pivot Blocker. The Pivot Blocker has all of the same abilities as a regular blocker, however they can also turn into a jammer if needed.
Sometimes a team of blockers will be so successful at stalling and keeping the opposing jammer stuck in the pack that they aren’t able to escape to score points. If this happens the jammer can remove the helmet cover with the star on it and hand it off to the Pivot Blocker.
Only the jammer and Pivot Blocker can touch the star helmet cover. For example, if it falls on the ground it cannot be touched by anyone else on the team!