So, what’s this “roller derby” thing all about?
Roller Derby is a contact sport played on quad roller skates. Born in America, the term “Roller Derby” originates back to the 1920s when it referred to races between speed skating teams. In the 1930s, the physical contact between the skaters was emphasized and thus the spectacle of true Roller Derby was born. Roller Derby flourished for many years before collapsing in the 1970s but since then there have been several short lived revivals of the sport and its variations. Roller Derby was truly born again in the early 2000s, particularly in Texas and with the airing of the reality show Rollergirls on the A&E network. Roller Derby has been booming ever since and new leagues spring up throughout the country each year.
Most Roller Derby leagues today skate on flat tracks and not the banked tracks of the early derby days. Leagues are most commonly made up of females, however, a few male and co-ed leagues exist throughout the country.
Basic rules of roller derby
Roller derby games are played in two 30 minute periods.
Each team has five skaters on the floor:
The pack consists of the two pivots and six blockers.
The pivots set the pace of the pack and act as blockers. Pivots wear a helmet cover with a stripe.
The blockers try to block the opposing jammer from scoring points while helping their own jammers score. Blockers do not wear helmet covers.
The jammers try to pass opposing team members to score points. Jammers wear a helmet cover with a star.
When the whistle blows, the skaters take off. Whichever jammer makes it through the pack first without committing any penalties becomes lead jammer and can call off the jam when she chooses. The jammer calls off the jam by repeatedly touching both hands to her hips. Once a jammer has cleared the pack for the first time, she may score points when passing through the pack additional times. Points are scored by legally passing the blockers and pivot from the opposing team as well as lapping the opposing team’s jammer. Blockers and pivots try to prevent the opposing team’s jammer from passing through the pack by hitting the opposing team using their shoulders, hips, and butts.
There are multiple jams in a game that last up to two minutes each during the period. Penalties can be committed during the jams and offenses that can get you sent to the penalty box include: blocking with the hands, head and elbows, holding, pushing, hitting, tripping, kicking, contact while skating in the wrong direction, cutting the track, and false starting.
Central Arkansas Roller Derby plays under the rules of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA), the international governing body for the sport of women’s flat track roller derby. To read more about the rules or WFTDA, visit their site.
To read more about roller derby, check out some of these resources
Rollergirl: Totally True Tales from the Track by Melissa Joulwan.
Roller Derby: The History and All-Girl Revival of the Greatest Sport on Wheels by Catherine Mabe.
A Very Simple Game: the Story of Roller Derby by Herb Michelson.