Roller derby 101: Five things to know before you watch

by Patty Templeton

There’s more to roller derby than a buncha broads smashing into each other on a flat track. Don’t know butt about the game? Well, here’s five facts to know before you watch your first bout:

1. DurationA roller derby game is called a “bout.” Each bout is broken into two, 30-minute periods played between two teams. These periods are made up of “jams,” which are two minutes long. A jam can end early if a jammer “calls off the jam.”

2. The playersDuring a jam, each team has five players on the track. There’s one point-scorer, called a jammer. The rest of the team is called the “pack” and they’re made up of one pivot and three blockers.

Pivots set the pace and lead the pack. They also act as a blocker. They have a stripe on their helmet.

Blockers want to wipe out the other team’s jammer so that they can’t score. They also wanna make sure their own jammer doesn’t get walloped.

3. ScoringPoints are scored by the jammer, who starts at the back of the pack. They have a star on their helmet. A jammer wants to speed past everyone and lap the opposing team. Jammers score one point every time they lap an opponent.

A team’s jammer can “pass the star” to the team’s pivot meaning that the pivot takes over the jammer’s job. If this pass is not done properly it can be a penalty.

4. PenaltiesPlayers cannot hit above the clavicle, meaning necks and headshots are out. You can’t ram at someone below mid-thigh or at their spine.

This leaves a helluva lot of places to slam into, but there will be no elbows, punches, biting, tripping, or headbutting.

5. Legal violenceThe main, legal ways to wipe out an opposing player are to use your hip to slam into their thigh/ass region, slamming the entire side of a torso against an opponent’s torso side, or to get in front of an opponent and Can Opener them.

A Can Opener is when you step in front of an opponent, bend low, pop up, and slam your back into their chest. This must be done with precision because if the throat or head are hit, it’s a penalty.

Patty TempletonDGO Staff Writer


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