Roller Derby Rules, History, Tips & Equipment

A history of Roller Derby, how to play, tips for improvement & necessary equipment

Roller Derby Overview

Roller Derby, an entertainment sport, consists of teams of roller skaters skating in formation around an oval track, attempting to score points by lapping certain players on the opposing team.

Roller Derby History

Roller derby was invented in America. The Chicago Tribune first reported on roller derby, flat track roller skating races, back in 1922. Promoter Leo Sletzer trademarked the name Roller Derby in the 1930s. He along with sports writer Damon Runyon improved the sport by emphasizing physical contact and teamwork. Roller Derby competitions took place around the United States and were broadcast on the radio and later television. The business model for roller derby crashed in the mid 1970s. There were on and off television revivals of the sport, lead by professional skaters, as well as a ten year roller derby league. Today, roller derby is an international sport, mostly female, typically operated on an amateur circuit. The game features a mix of athleticism, and punk third-wave feminism.

Roller Derby Rules

Roller derby is played on a circuit track, by two teams consisting of five players each. Unlike most sports offense and defense are played simultaneously. Teams are made up of three blockers (defense), one pivot (last line of defense), and one "jammer" (scorer). Player's helmets denote their positions: a pivot has a striped cover, jammers have two stars, and the blockers have no cover.

The game starts by the pivots and blockers from both teams getting into a pack. All players face counterclockwise. The pivots line up next to each other, followed by a layer of four blockers, followed by a layer of two blockers. The two jammers are not part of the pack, and lineup 20 ft away. The referee signals the start of the jam formation by blowing their whistle. The pack then moves counterclockwise. Players can switch positions freely. Pivots and blockers must remain in the pack. When the last person in the pack has passed where the front of the pack was lined up, the referee blows the whistle twice signaling the jam, and the jammers take off.

The jam is a two minute period where the teams try to score points. Jammers can score points by passing the pack. After passing the pack the first time, jammers earn one point each time they legally pass an opposing blocker or pivot. Pivots and blockers try to assist their jammer through the pack, while also trying to stop the opposing team's jammer from exiting the pack. If a pivot or blocker is removed from the pack they cannot help the jammer, and are considered out of play until they return. The first jammer to pass the pack begins with the status of lead jammer. The lead jammer can end the jam anytime they want by signaling to the referee by repeatedly putting their hands on their waist. At the end of each jam, players re-form the pack and continue play.

Teams can block the opposing jammer using body parts above the mid-thigh. It is illegal to use elbows, forearms, hands, and head. Each game consists of two 30-minute, or three 20-minute periods. The team with the most points at the end of the game wins.

Penalties are given to skaters who block illegally, fight, or behave in an unsportsmanlike manner. Penalties result in time in the penalty box, or expulsion from the game. A player spends one minute in the penalty box for a major penalty or the accumulation of four minor penalties.

Roller Derby Tips

Since skating is such an important element of roller derby players should skate whenever they can outside of practices and games. Players should work on squatting, dodging, jumping over objects, starting and stopping quickly, skating at high speeds, and falling without injury.

Roller Derby Equipment

Roller derby requires each player to have four wheel roller skates, knee pads, a uniform, a helmet, and helmet cover.