The Basic Game Play of Roller Derby
Roller derby is a sport played on quad skates between two teams. Each team is made up of 10-18 skaters with a maximum of five skaters on the track per team. They are competing to gain more points than the other team to win.
A typical bout is comprised of two 30 minute halves. Each half is broken up into jams lasting no longer than two minutes. The end of a jam is signaled by the four short whistle blasts from the referees.
These skaters are the point scorers for each team. They are distinguished by wearing the helmet cover with the star on it. They score points for the opposing team members that are upright and in bounds when they pass them around the track.
The first jammer to make it out of the pack at the start of a jam gains “lead jammer” status. Signaled by two short whistle blast, and the referee will signal this the rest of the time they are lead by pointing at them.
Only the lead jammer may call off the jam. They signal this by repeatedly touching their hands to their hips.
Blockers and the Pivot
The other four skaters are blockers and work as a team to slow down the opposing jammer. There are many strategies blockers can use to protect their points or to help their own jammer through the pack.
Among the blockers there is one called a pivot. They are distinguished by wearing a helmet cover with a stripe down the middle of it.
At any point during a jam the jammer may attempt a “star pass” by giving the jammer helmet cover to the pivot. The pivot is the only skater that can accept a star pass.
The Pack and the Engagement Zone
The largest group of skaters comprised of at least one skater from each team is called the pack. Each blocker has to remain within 10 feet of each other to maintain the pack. Twenty feet in front of and behind the pack is the engagement zone. This is the area where they are allowed to make contact with each other and the jammers.
It is every blocker’s responsibility to maintain the pack. If there is no pack, then there can be no legal contact between skaters on the track.
The signal for "no pack"
The signal for "pack is here"
In the interest of safety and gameplay there are things that will get you sent to the penalty box. A penalty is indicated by a short whistle blast, followed by team colour, skater number, and the penalty committed. Watch the referees for penalty signals. Each penalty is served for 30 seconds before a skater is allowed to return to the track. Only six skaters can sit in the penalty box at a time (two blockers and one jammer per team.) If both jammers are sent to the box, the jammer A (that got there first) is released, and jammer B only serves as much time as the jammer A did.
These are the need to know basics that will get you set and ready to watch your first roller derby game. We will be adding more detailed posts about game play and strategies in the future. Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a suggestion for a post! We also have a pdf version of this blog post available for leagues.