What is Roller Derby?
The Women’s Flat Track Derby Association is the international governing body for the sport of women’s flat track roller derby and a membership organization for leagues to collaborate and network. The WFTDA sets standards for rules, seasons, and safety, and determines guidelines for the international athletic competitions of member leagues. There are currently over 400 WFTDA member leagues and 98 affiliated leagues in the WFTDA Apprentice Program worldwide. The WFTDA is governed by a five-member, volunteer Board of Directors and managed by an Executive Director.
Roller derby is a full-contact, competitive sport played on quad roller skates. Players skate around a flat oval track in a counter-clockwise direction. Games, known as bouts, consist of two 30 minute periods, which are divided into jams of up to two minutes each with 30 seconds between each jam.
Each team consists of up to fourteen players and two bench coaches. Each team fields one jammer and four blockers for each jam. One of the blockers is designated as a pivot. Teams are free to change lineups for each jam, and players may play different positions in different jams.
Blockers start the jam between the jammer and pivot lines, lined up according to each team’s strategy for that jam. Blockers are responsible for maintaining the pack, so they generally skate in a tight formation with other blockers. Blockers work to prevent the opposing team’s jammer from scoring points (defense), while also working to provide safe passage for their jammer through the pack (offense). Blockers achieve both goals by blocking opposing players and providing assists to their teammates.
Pivots, sporting the striped helmets, are considered blockers, but have two additional responsibilities. First, they are the only blockers allowed to line up on the pivot line at the start of the jam. More importantly, pivots are able to assume the position of jammer. This occurs when the jammer passes their jammer helmet cover to their pivot and the pivot puts the helmet cover on.
Jammers, sporting the starred helmets, line up behind the jammer line at the start of the jam. This puts them behind all of the blockers from both teams.
The jam starts when the jam timer blows a single whistle. The jammers immediately begin fighting their way through the pack in an attempt to be named “lead jammer.” The first jammer to get through the pack without committing a penalty is the lead jammer. Lead jammer is signaled by the jam ref blowing a double whistle, pointing at the lead jammer with one hand, and holding the other hand up in the shape of the letter L. After the first time through the pack, each jammer scores a point each time they lap an opposing player. A jam lasts a maximum of two minutes, but the lead jammer may call off the jam early by repeatedly placing their hands on their hips.
If you’re interested in the extreme details, be sure to check out the full rule set at WFTDA.com. Otherwise, the best way to understand is to come out to the game and see these hard hitting individuals in action, so check out our calendar for our next event!