What is roller derby? Rules and gameplay
Roller Derby is a contact sport played mainly by women and can be described as a high speed race on skates. There are two teams of five players; a jammer and four blockers. The eight blockers skate around the looped track in a tight formation called a pack. It is the task of the jammer to break through the pack, scoring a point for each opposing player they pass during the two-minute jam. The blockers can hip shove and shoulder barge to hinder the other team’s chances of scoring, whilst trying to help their jammer through. The first player through the pack is the lead jammer, meaning she can call off the two-minute jam at any time. A player may choose to do this if she has fallen behind the pack and wants to prevent the other jammer from scoring. A game, or bout, comprises of two 30-minute halves.
The jammer is the point-scoring player and is identified by a star on her helmet. The jammer must be very fit and have the ability to speed skate in order to lap opposing players and score points for her team. She must also have her eyes on the other jammer so if she is lead jammer she knows when to call the jam off.
The pivot sets the pace of the pack and is identified by a stripe on her helmet. The jammer can pass the star to the pivot during gameplay by taking off the star helmet cover and giving it to the pivot. This means that the pivot is now the jammer and can score points for the team.
To ensure the game is safe and fair, there are a number of illegal moves which result in players being sent to the sin bin for two minutes. Major penalties mean players are sent to the sin bin straight away, whilst four minor penalties equate to a major. A player with seven major penalties is ejected from the game. Penalties include elbows to the face, blocking with the back and tripping players over. It is a great advantage to a team when the opposing jammer is sent off because it means the player can lap the pack without fear of the other team scoring. This is called a power jam and can result in high scoring jams.
Roller derby used to be played on a banked track, but many 21st Century leagues now play on a flat track with the WFTDA acting as a governing body of rules for the sport. There are still some banked track leagues in existence but flat track roller derby is more commonplace as it is considered easier to set up.