Madams of mayhem

Roller Derby 101


Roller derby is a simple game. It’s played on an oval track. There are five players per side, one jammer and four blockers. The blockers are both offense and defense. They try to stop the other jammer, and help their own jammer. Jammers are the ones who score the points. The team with the most points at the end of the game wins.


A Roller Derby bout is made up of a series of jams. At the start of each jam, the blockers line up on the Pivot line. The jammers line up behind them on the Jammer line. One whistle blows, and the blockers head off down the track. When the last blocker passes the Pivot line, the ref blows two whistles, and the jammers are off. The jammers have to get through the pack* once, then they can score. On the second pass through the pack, a jammer scores one point for each member of the opposite team she passes. If she’s able, she can keep circling the track and passing through the pack to get more points.


*Pack: The pack is defined as the largest number of skaters–from both sides–within 10 feet of each other. If a blocker is more than 20 feet away from the pack, she can no longer engage the other team’s jammer, and has to just let her skate by.


Each jam lasts up to two full minutes, however, the lead jammer has the right to call off the jam. The lead jammer is the first jammer to get through the pack without any penalties. If both jammers get penalties, there is no lead jammer, and the jam lasts two minutes. A Jam is called off by four whistle blows from the ref. It’s not over till that fouth whistle, so keep skating hard!






What About the Refs?


Derby is a complicated game, and without the referees, it would just be a bunch of girls skating in a circle, kicking each other’s booties. (Not that that sounds like a bad game…) Referees assign penalties, count the points, blow the whistle to start and stop the jams, and generally keep everything functioning smoothly. At Raw Meat, we have a number of fantastic refs who help us learn the complicated rules. Here’s a guide to the crazy hand signals they make:

A team's full lineup for a jam will consist of one Pivot, three Blockers and one Jammer. Each team may field up to five players for each jam.



Pivot - The pivot blocker wears a helmet cover with a stripe on it. She generally starts at the first starting line and serves as the leader of her teammates playing in that jam. As most teams play the pivot position at the front of the pack, she is also often the last line of defense to stop the opposing jammer from escaping the pack.




Blocker - The other three blockers do not wear helmet covers. All blockers may all play offense and defense at any given time and frequently switch between offensive and defensive tasks. The rules do not differentiate the remaining three blocking positions from one another. However most roller derby teams choose to assign names and focus areas to the blocking positions for strategic purposes.




Jammer - The jammer wears a helmet cover with a star on it. She lines up at the second starting line and begins play at the second start whistle. The jammer's goal is to pass opposing blockers and emerge from the pack as quickly as possible. If she is the first of the two jammers to escape the pack without committing any penalties, she gains the strategic advantage of being able to stop the jam at any time by placing her hands on her hips. Once a jammer laps the pack, she begins scoring one point for every opposing blocker she passes legally. She can continue to lap the pack for additional scoring passes for the duration of the jam.



A penalty is a punishment, handicap, or loss of advantage imposed on a team or competitor for a rule infraction or a foul. Penalties are applied to both a skater and the position that skater is currently playing. Skaters and teams are assessed penalties due to infractions.


Penalties are signaled and enforced by the referees as they occur during a bout . When a skater commits an illegal act, that skater must receive and serve the appropriate penalty. The initiator of a block is always responsible for the legality of contact.



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