Roller derby is the name, But what exactly is the game?
So what the fuck is Roller Derby?
Roller derby is a full contact sport that’s played on roller skates. Every team consists of 15 players with groups of 5 skaters alternating on track.
A game consists of two 30 minute periods. Those periods are divided in ‘jams’ that last a maximum of two minutes each. Each team has one player who carries a star on their helmet. This player is called the ‘jammer.’ The other four players are called ‘blockers.’ Within the group of blockers there’s a skater wearing a stripe on their helmet; the ‘pivot’. This skater is a blocker that can take over the star from the jammer and thus become the new jammer. The jammers score points by passing players of the opposing team. The blockers job is (you’ve guessed it) blocking the jammer of the opposing team as much as possible. They can use their shoulders, chest, back and hips to do so!
Wear your gear and nobody gets hurt
Yes, sometimes skaters are literally sent flying off track… But that’s okay because they are obligated to wear a lot of protective gear. You’re not allowed on track without wearing your knee pads, elbow guard, wrist guards, helmet and mouthguard. During the fresh meat course skaters are taught how to take hits and fall safely, so usually the worst things that happen are a couple of bruises.
Why should you get into Roller Derby?
Roller derby has a subculture that goes much deeper than just playing a game.
It combines skill and fitness with costumes and attitude. It’s empowering, filled with pun-loaded nicknames and has been ultra inclusive from the start of its existence.
You get to skate games as your own alter ego, choosing your own derby name and outfit to go with it. There are skaters out there who roll around in fishnets, short skirts and halloween make-up. Everybody is in it to kick ass, get strong and have a good time.
What does a game actually look like?
At the start of a jam the two jammers line up behind the ‘jammer line’ that’s marked on the track. The blockers set up in front up that line, waiting for the whistle that starts the ‘jam’
When the whistle is blown the jammers skate into the pack of blockers and try to find the easiest way through. Upon the first time of passing the blockers none of the jammers can score points. The only thing that’s up for grabs is the status of ‘lead jammer’. This is given to the first jammer that makes it through the blockers. It’s an important position to hold, because the lead jammer is able to end the jam at any given time. (Unless she’s been put into the penalty box)
After their first lap it’s time to get in some actual points! As mentioned before, the jammer gets a point for each player of the opposing team they pass. Again the blockers are able to stop them physically. When the lead jammer has got some points in and the other jammer is catching up it’s time to call off the jam. This way a jam can last from thirty seconds to two whole minutes.
First jam is done? The skaters switch around with their teammates sitting on the bench and the whole thing starts over again!
Need a visual explanation? Click here for a playlist.
So how do you get into roller derby?
Every skater you’ve seen on track started the same: they followed a ‘fresh meat’ course. This course not only teaches you how to skate, but also how to engage in contact play safely and makes sure you’re ready for actual gameplay.
You are able to start the course without having any prior skating experience. First lessons include getting yourself skating forwards and falling safely. Physical contact only starts when you’re stable enough to do so.
Once you’ve been taught all you need to know you’ll need to show your tricks during the minimum skills test. At that point you’ll be able to jump, turn around on speed and give out some hits.
Afraid you won’t pass right away? No worries, there are lots of super skilled skaters out there who started by following the fresh meat course multiple times.
Once you’ve passed it’s go time! Pick your derby name and get ready to play some great games!