How To Play Roller Derby

Skaters from Old Capitol City Roller Derby in Iowa City skate at the Coralville Marriott during team introductions. PHOTO BY AMANDA MOSLEY.

CONTRIBUTED: Have you ever seen a roller derby match and wondered what was going on? Watching people from two different teams skate around each other and score points can seem very confusing at first. These are the ins and outs of the sport of roller derby from a 10-year veteran.   

Each team can have 15 players. Five of these players are on the track at the start of each jam. The players are: 

Blockers are focused on stopping the other team’s jammer from passing them, while trying to help their team’s jammer get around the other team’s blockers. Blockers help form the pack. 

Jammers attempt to pass the other team’s blockers to score points. They wear a star on their helmets and are the only people on the track who can score points. Jammers from both teams can score points simultaneously. 

Pivots are the designated blocker from each team who can become the jammer in the middle of a jam by “receiving the star” from the original jammer. The pivot is a strategic player who wears a stripe on their helmet. 

Now that you know who the players are, let’s talk about how the game is played. Two teams play as many jams as they can in two 30-minute halves.  

Jams are the chances for both teams to score points by getting their jammers around the other team’s blockers as many times as they can. Each point is earned by passing the hips of an opposing blocker, starting on the second pass. Each jam begins with jammers lined up behind the jam line, and blockers lined up between the jam and pivot lines. When a whistle is blown, both teams begin – jammers try to get around the opposing blockers, and blockers try to stop the opposing jammers. Once jammers get around blockers and then lap them, they begin to score points.  

The game is officiated by a ref crew who will call 30-second penalties for players violating the rules of the game. Players will serve their time in the penalty box and return to the jam if it is still in play. If the jam is called-off or the two minutes end, the player must wait in the penalty box until their time is up, and their team may start with one player in the box. The team with the most points at the end of the game is the winner.  

If this sounds confusing, don’t worry. Just go watch and support your local roller derby team. They will be glad you came to spectate.  

Image courtesy of Amanda Mosley

Categories: Contributed, Sports