The Sport

The Basics of Flat Track Roller Derby

Roller derby is an amazing, athletic, action-packed game on wheels, played on an oval track by two opposing teams, each ultimately trying to outscore the other with as many points as possible to win! However, it’s not just a race. It’s a “bout”, where each team is not only trying to score, but doing everything they can to keep the opposing team from scoring.

In women’s flat track roller derby, each bout is played for 60 minutes, in two 30-minute periods, by a pack of skaters on quad roller skates. A “pack” is the largest group of skaters on the track that includes blockers from both teams, skating in-bounds within 10 feet of each other, usually much closer. Each period is comprised of a number of “jams”, in which each team fields five skaters: four blockers and one jammer.

The “jammer” – the one wearing the star helmet cover – is the point scorer, scoring one point for each opposing player she laps legally. The “blockers”, including the “pivot” – the blocker wearing the striped helmet cover work inside the pack, both offensively to help their jammer score, and defensively to keep the opposing jammer from scoring. Blockers do this by blocking opponents, assisting their jammer, changing the pace of the pack, and executing detailed strategies to better their chances.

Each “jam” is played for two minutes, or until it is called off by the lead jammer, by repeatedly tapping her hands against her hips requesting the jam to be called.

A jammer may call of a jam to keep the other team from scoring, if there is no point in racing a fast pack, if the jammer is exhausted or injured, to extend the period with a subsequent jam or kill time on the period clock to prevent another jam from starting, or a variety of other strategic reasons.

Successive jams are played until the end of each 30-minute period, or, until the natural conclusion of the last jam. The periods are separated by a half-time of at least 5 minutes (usually longer).

Any questions? Ask your favorite player… She’ll be happy to tell you everything you ever wanted to know about the revolutionary, empowering sport of roller derby!  You can also see the full and complete rule set by checking out the WFTDA website!

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In 1935, Leo Seltzer introduced the world to the Transcontinental Roller Derby in Chicago, Illinois. This derby group traveled from city to city to spread derby excitement to fans of all ages. Men and women seeking adventure ran off and joined the derby. As the sport grew and evolved, both the point system and the banked track were added to increase speed and competition. The sport became more physical and entertaining with real hits and theatrical plots. By the early 1970s there were teams all over the country competing with lengthy schedules. Derby was watched on television in every home and in packed stadiums in every city.

By the 1970s there were teams all over the country, but the organizational structure of the game was unsustainable. The game crumbled and was not reintroduced until 1999.

In 1999, RollerJam was introduced on television as a physical sport played by both male and female wrestlers, roller hockey players and speed skaters. The production had an orchestrated plot and real hits, but only lasted two years.

In 2000 a group of women in Austin, Texas wanted to revive the sport and have a hand in the organization. In 2002 the women broke into two groups: the Texas Rollergirls (a flat track league) and the Texas Roller Derby Lonestars (a banked track league). From that, non-profit, skater-run leagues formed throughout the country. Today’s game is fast, fierce and female.

Today, there are five leagues in Nebraska, over 692 leagues in the United States, and more than 1,168 amateur roller derby leagues worldwide.