Believe it or not, roller derby dates back to about 1922 in Chicago, however the contact sport is best known from the brutal bouts popularized on television in the 1970s. Boy has it changed!
Around 2001 there was a resurgence of women’s roller derby and was started with a grass roots effort out of Texas. Today there are hundreds of leagues and thousands of players and fans! Roller Derby girls are getting noticed and the sport is evolving! Some even say that it will soon be an Olympic sport!
Contemporary roller derby has a lot more rules and a lot less dirty hits than its 1970s predecessor, but still can be quite aggressive if you want it to be!
So what are the rules in roller derby?
“A roller derby takes place on a circuit track, on which players usually travel counterclockwise. The two teams each send five players onto the track — one jammer (scorer), three blockers (defense), and one pivot (a blocker who may become the jammer later in that jam). Helmet covers are used to display the players’ positions: a cover with two stars is used for jammers, a striped cover is used for pivots and no cover is used for blockers.
Two start lines are marked on the track: a jammer line, and 30 feet ahead of that, a pivot line. The pivots stand behind the pivot line and all blockers line up behind them in any order they choose. The eight pivots and blockers together are called the pack. The two jammers start behind the pack on the jammer line.
The referee signals the start of jam formation by blowing a whistle. During jam formation, the pack moves counterclockwise, during which time players can change position. All pivots/blockers must remain in the pack (i.e., no more than 20 feet in front of or behind the largest group containing blockers from both teams). When the last person in the pack has passed the pivot line, the referee blows the whistle again, signaling the jammers to take off, and play begins in earnest with a jam.
A jam is a 2-minute period during which the jammers attempt to score points. After passing the pack the first time, jammers earn one point each time they pass an opposing pivot/blocker. Pivot/blockers attempt to assist their jammer through and out of the pack while simultaneously stopping the opposing jammer from exiting the pack. If a pivot/blocker falls or otherwise becomes separated from the pack, she is out of play (i.e., cannot block or assist the jammers) until she rejoins the pack.
The first jammer to legally pass all pivots and blockers once the jam begins wins the status of lead jammer for the remainder of the jam. The lead jammer can decide to end the jam at any time before the 2 minutes are up. She does this by placing her hands on her hips repeatedly, which signals the referee to officially call off the jam.
After a lead jammer has been established, both jammers have the option of passing their positions to their teams’ respective pivots (passing the star). This is done by removing the 2-star helmet cover and handing it to the pivot. The pivot then becomes the jammer, and the jammer becomes a blocker for the remainder of the jam. If the original jammer was the lead jammer, the position of lead jammer is not passed on; the position is forfeited for the remainder of the jam.
To impede the progress of the opposing team’s jammer, players may block using body parts above the mid-thigh, excluding forearms, hands, and head. Elbows may not be used in blocking, and cannot be swung at other players or used to hook an opponent’s or teammate’s arm. If a player forces an opposing jammer out of bounds, the jammer re-enters behind the player.
At the end of each jam, there is a 30 second break, during which time teams may replace players or switch positions. Players then return to the starting lines and continue to play until the end of the period. Each game consists of two 30-minute periods.
Penalties are given to skaters who skate or block illegally, engage in misconduct, and for other illegal procedures. Penalties can be minor or major. Four minor penalties accumulated by same player or a major penalty leads to the player being sent to a penalty box, usually for 1 minute. Jammers, after passing the pack the first time, score one point for passing each opposing skater in the penalty box. Skaters who incur seven visits to the penalty box or engage in egregious acts of misconduct are expelled from the game.”
The Hammer City Roller Girls in Ontario Canada have put together this incredible two minute video explaining these rules for you too! Check it out and visit their website too!