WHAT IS DERBY?
Roller derby is a contact sport played by two teams, each made up of 15 members, who are roller skating around a track for points. 5 skaters from each team take the track at a time, one wears a star on their helmet, they are the jammer and responsible for scoring the points. It is the job of the other 4 skaters, the blockers, to prevent the opposing jammer from scoring. These skaters will take the track for a maximum of 2 minutes in what is called a 'jam', similar to a shift in hockey. Each jammer laps as many blockers as they can, as many times as possible before the jam runs out. A bout consists of two 30 minute halves, and can go into overtime just like many other sports.
I used to love watching roller derby on TV! Is it like that?
Yes and no. The fast-paced action, body checks, and whip assists are all still very much part of the game. However, flat track roller derby rules and the different physics of skating on a flat surface, versus a banked track, make the strategies and game play very different. Also, in its later years, televised roller derby was staged, like WWE-style wrestling. Flat track roller derby is a legitimate sport, and the hits, spills, and competition are all 100 percent real.
I bet you throw a lot of elbows, right?
Not unless a skater wants to spend some quality time in the penalty box! To keep the game play safe and competitive, there are rules governing how and when players can make contact with each other. Throwing elbows, pushing or tripping opposing skaters, and “clothes-lining” opponents by linking arms with your teammate are among the prohibited actions that can send skaters to the penalty box. Like other sports, more serious offenses like fighting or intentional tripping can get a skater kicked out of the game.
So what are you allowed to do?
There are still plenty of ways a blocker can send her opponent into the suicide seats! The legal contact zone is between the shoulders and the mid-thigh. While it is legal for a skater to initiate a block with her back or booty, it is illegal to hit an opposing skater in the back. Check out the full WFTDA rules.
How do teams score points?
The skaters wearing a helmet cover with a star on it are the jammers. After making it through the pack of blockers once, the jammer begins scoring points for each opposing blocker she passes legally and in bounds. She can also score points on opponents who are in the penalty box and can get a fifth point if she laps the opposing jammer. Blockers are trying to stop the opposing team’s jammer while helping their own jammer get through.
Why don’t jammers score on the first pass?
The first pass is used to establish “lead jammer.” Lead jammer the first jammer to make it through the pack by passing her opponents legally and in bounds. The lead jammer gains the strategic power to end the two-minute jam early. The lead jammer is not always the first jammer out, and it is possible to have no lead jammer if both commit a foul while trying to clear the pack. If there is no lead, the jam lasts the full two minutes.