The Game: What is Roller Derby?

Flat track roller derby is an adrenaline loaded, fast-paced, contact team sport on roller skates, and the Dorset Roller Girls play to the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) rules.

Although the game can be traced back to the 1930s, today’s version of the game is much younger. This is one of the fastest growing sports in the country, with a proud history of promoting female empowerment. There are now more than 400 leagues worldwide and the game is under consideration for the Olympics.

The roller derby match is known as a BOUT and has two 30 minute halves known as PERIODS. The periods are further divided into sections of game play known as JAMS. These last up to 2 minutes with a 30 second gap between jams, to reset on track. 

Each side has a maximum of 14 players, although only 5 of these are on track in any JAM. The 5 players are as follows:

The Jammer (1)
Easily identified by the star on her helmet, she is the point scorer for her team and therefore also a target for the opposing team.

Her aim is to break through the pack, speed around the track and get through the pack again to start scoring points. She scores a point for every opposition player she passes, until the whistle is called to end the jam.

The first jammer to break through the pack legally is called the lead jammer. The lead jammer has the power to call off the jam before the 2 minutes have expired.

The Blockers (4)
The other 4 players on track are the blockers. Together with the opposing blockers they make up the pack.

Their aim is to stop the opposition’s jammer passing (defence) and to help their own jammer break through the pack (offence). Who is playing offence and defence can change in the space of seconds, so they are a versatile bunch.

The Pivot (1 of 4)
The pivot, who is easily identified by the stripe on her helmet, is a specialised blocker who directs the team on track and can take over as jammer and score points if legally passed the star by the jammer.

How a Jam Works

  1. The jammers line up behind the jam line (as marked on the track) and the blockers in front of them.
  2. The whistle blows and the jammers dodge, push and manoeuvre their way through the pack.
  3. The first jammer legally through the pack is confirmed as lead jammer by the referees’ whistles.
  4. The jammers sprint around the track and score one point for each opponent whose hips they pass as they come through the pack, as long as they do so legally and without penalties.
  5. The jammers carry on lapping and point scoring until the 2 minute whistle blows, or the lead jammer chooses to end the jam by repeatedly putting her hands to her hips.
  6. The jams continue until the period time expires.
  7. The team with the most points at the end of the 2nd period wins.

The Rules

Derby can be fast and furious so the rules are designed to ensure skater safety. Tripping, pushing into the middle of the back, deliberate falling in front of others, lower arm hits, grabbing and pulling to the ground are all against the rules and can lead to spending 30 seconds in the penalty box, or worse, expulsion from the track.


If you are interested in rules and skating why not become a DRG referee?

Background Image by Lotus Photography