Derby 101.

Originating in the United States and dating back as far as 1922, roller derby was initially an ‘entertainment’ sport, made popular in the early 70’s through TV and radio broadcasts. This version of roller derby died out in the last 70’s and was delegated to the history books until the early 2000’s when roller derby was revived by a grassroots league in Texas, initiating a world-wide movement that has seen millions of women globally take to this full-contact, gritty sport.

So, what are the rules? I hear you ask. Well here goes;

The object of the game is to score the most points by lapping opposing team members on the track. A roller derby game is called a Bout. Each Bout consists of multiple Jams. A Jam is a 2 minute period in which teams attempt to score points.


There are 5 players on each team:
1 Jammer – the point scorer
3 Blockers – playing defense
1 Pivot - plays defense, but is the leadership position in the pack, calling the shots.

In order to tell the skaters apart, the jammers wear a helmet cover with a star and the pivot wears a striped helmet cover.

The pivot and the blockers make up the pack – their job is to stop the opposing team’s jammer from breaking though the pack and scoring, all the while helping their own jammer advance.

Game Play

Derby is played on an oval track with two competing teams. The pivots and blockers from both teams skate together on the track to form a single pack, with the jammers lining up directly behind the blockers on the 'jammer line'. A whistle is blown to signal the 'start of the jam' and the jammers and blockers begin to skate forward in an anti-clockwise direction.

The jammers must skate and muscle their way through the pack and completely exit it to gain the ability to score points. Once the jammer fights her way out of the pack, she then races around the track in order to lap the pack. At this point, each time the jammer passes a member of the other team, she scores one point for her team. The first jammer that legally passes through the pack first wins the status of lead jammer.

A jam ends when the two minute time period is over or the lead jammer 'calls off the jam'.

Blocks and Penalties

Modern day roller derby isn’t a no mercy knockdown drag out event – there are official rules and limitations that are strictly enforced by referees.  For example, skaters receive penalties for all of the following: blocking with any part of the arm below the elbow, tripping, charging from behind, making a block above the shoulders, or blocking when a player who is out of bounds (i.e. off the track). This is a very abbreviated list of fouls.


This guide covers the basics of roller derby game play – for a complete list of international standardized rules and regulations for flat track roller derby, feel free to visit: Women’s Flat Track Derby Association – Standard Rules


Apart from the obvious - roller skates (quads) - All skaters are required to wear the following safety equipment when training for and playing roller derby:

  • ·helmet
  • ·mouthguard
  • ·elbow pads
  • ·wrist guards
  • ·knee pads

TVR provides safety equipment to beginner skaters and those new to derby and skates are available for hire from the rink. However, when the time comes to commit to your new sport, you will need to purchase your own equipment. The biggest question is what kind of skates are right for you? For a good guide to buying the right kind of skates for roller derby, check out -

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Viva La Derby!!
TVR xx