The Basics Of Roller Derby

Roller derby is a great sport to watch but it can be confusing if you haven’t seen it in action before.

Here are the basics of roller derby. There are a lot more rules to learn but by knowing these it will make it a lot easier to understand when you watch roller derby for the first time or decide to join a team.


Roller derby is a contact sport, played by two teams skating around a track in an anti-clockwise direction. A roller derby team is made up of about 14 skaters (normally, but sometimes there are smaller teams).

There are usually a lot more people in the league, but each league is often split between A team, B team and Rookies etc.


Each team on the track is made up of a Jammer, a Pivot and 3 more Blockers.

• Jammer – Wears a star pantie on their helmet – The person who has to get through the pack and score points.

• Pivot – Wears a stripe pantie on their helmet – Also a blocker. Helps the jammer and can become jammer if needed. (The jammer can pass the Pivot their star pantie if they need to during a jam)

• Blockers – Their aim is to stop the opposing jammer from getting through the pack and they can also help to make gaps for their own jammer to get through.



Roller derby “matches” are called bouts, and each bout is usually split into two half hour sessions.

Within each half there are several jams, each lasting a maximum of 2 minutes.

Only five members of each team take to the track in each jam with one of those five being the jammer.

If, for example, 1 blocker is still in the penalty box from the previous jam, then the team on track is minus one blocker. The blocker in the penalty box can then join the pack on track, once their penalty time is up.


The aim is for the jammer from each team to battle their way through the opposing team’s pack and lap them at least once. A lead jammer is determined by the first jammer to get through the pack legally and without any penalties. Points are scored by the jammer legally passing the opposing blockers. Lead jammers have the advantage of being able to stop the jam at any time by signalling the referees. You will often see this signal as tapping their hips quickly or tapping their helmets then hips a few times till the whistle is blown. This is a tactical way of stopping the other team’s jammer from catching up or sometimes scoring any points at all.


Those are just the basics, but by taking part, or even just by watching some bouts, you soon pick up all the rules and lingo. Head over to You Tube to view a huge range of roller derby bouts.

Do not try to attempt roller derby without professional training and full safety equipment.