Derby 101

What is roller derby?

Roller derby is a fast-paced contact team sport that requires speed, strategy, and athleticism. The flat track version of the sport evolved in 2001, and has quickly grown to encompass more than 400 leagues worldwide. The DIY spirit that drives the sport allows roller derby leagues to create their own unique identities and adapt their structures to reflect their local communities.

This isn’t the Roller Derby that was on TV in the 70s! Our skaters are athletes and all of the action you see is real. No scripted stunts here!

How is modern flat track roller derby played?

A Roller Derby game, typically referred to as a “Bout” is made up of two 30 minute halves. During these periods, the bout is made up of short periods of play called “Jams”. A jam can last up to 2 minutes, with a 30 second break between each jam. A jam can be much shorter than 2 minutes if it is called off by the Lead Jammer.

Each team is allowed to field 5 skaters… 4 Blockers, one designated as the Pivot by a striped helmet cover, and a Jammer, designated by a starred helmet cover.

The Jammer’s goal is to get through the back of blockers to score points. During their initial pass, the Jammers do not gain points, but are fighting for the title of Lead Jammer. The Lead Jammer’s only advantage is that they can call off the jam whenever they want by tapping their hands on their hips… but this is a HUGE advantage!! The Jammer gains 1 point for each opposing skater she passes during each lap.

The Blockers have a lot of jobs. Their primary purpose is to stop the opposing Jammer from getting through the pack, but they also can assist their Jammer with a whip or by playing offense against the opposing Blockers. If that’s not enough, they have to watch for offense from the opposing blockers, AND work together with their teammates throughout all of it. But what about that Pivot? The Pivot has a special role, she can become the Jammer! The Jammer then acts as a Blocker for the rest of the jam.

Along with all of that, Roller Derby has an extensive set of rules. For example, a skater cannot elbow, trip, or hit an opponent in the head. They also can’t “cut”, meaning passing another skater out of bounds, which is one of the most common penalties we see among Jammers. Breaking a rule earns a skater a trip to the Penalty Box for a 30 second penalty. 7 penalties means removal of the skater from the bout. There are even some penalties that are grounds for immediate expulsion. So not only are the skaters trying to block opponents or score points, they are trying to do so without breaking the rules!

(If you’d like to see a complete list of the rules, you can do so at!)

© Sioux Falls Roller Dollz