Roller derby is a full-contact sport played on quad roller skates, by players skating around an oval track. The game consists of a series of ‘jams’ – short periods (maximum of 2 minutes) run over an hour long bout.
During each jam, each team sends five players onto the track. One player on each team is the jammer (the point scorer). The other players are the blockers (defensive/offensive players), one of whom has the special designation of pivot (traditionally the lead blocker). The players are identified by their helmet covers – a stripe for the pivots and two stars for the jammers.
At the start of each jam, the jammers line up behind the start line and the blockers form a pack in front. The pack starts rolling on the referee’s first whistle, and the jammers are released on the second whistle. The jammers attempt to break through the pack. The first jammer to make it through the pack is designated ‘lead jammer’, and is given the tactical advantage of being able to call off that jam at a strategic time. On their second pass through the pack, jammers score a point for each opposing skater they pass. This continues until the two minutes are up, or until the lead jammer calls it off.
Sounds easy, right? Not when you consider that the skaters in the pack are doing their utmost to stop the opposing jammer passing them and scoring points, while at the same time trying to help their own jammer to pass opposing players. Illegal hits result in time served in the penalty box, legal hits often result in skaters flying off the track and landing in the crowd!
Like any sport, roller derby has many fine-print detailed rules, penalties and strategies. And obviously, the team with the most points at the end of the game wins! The game is fast and furious and full of adrenaline – once you see it you’ll be hooked.