What is Roller Derby?

That, my friends, is an excellent question.

Roller Derby is a contact sport. It was originated in the 1920's and 1930's. Roller Derby made it's first start in America, but soon spread to other countries as its popularity expanded. The sport's popularity boomed in the 1970's, then decreased in popularity again. It was not until just recently that roller derby has gotten popular again. This is known as the second wave. This second, new wave of roller derby is synonymous for it's new rules, use of clever pseudonyms, dress code, and DIY values. Since the rules have been updated, rollergirls usually wear skirts, crazy long socks, and feminine tops. Also, a wide range of pseudonyms are used, like Britches N' Hose, Sexy Slaydie, Tank'd Girl, and Zig Zag.

Roller Derby is played on an oval track. It can be either flat or banked. These days, it is mostly played on a flat track, which is supported by the WFTDA (Women's Flat Track Derby Association). The banked track is supported by the OSDA (Old School Derby Association).

Since rollergirls play a contact sport while on skates, they are required to wear plenty of pads. These pads include a helmet, mouth guard, elbow pads, wrist guards, and knee pads. Occasionally, players wear extra pads and support like a turtle shell sports bra (to help protect those tickets!), butt pads, or ankle braces. Roller Derby is not a fake sport, so these pads are very useful to help prevent serious injuries.

Now, on to how the sport is played:


As you see above, the players are in their starting positions, and are going around the track counter-clockwise. The two teams are signified by their colors, (Team 1 - Red, Team 2 - Blue) As the players skate on, and become more crowded, they are to be known as "The Pack". "The Pack" consists of all the Pivots and Blockers. The Pack begins on the first whistle, and when they have reached a total distance of 30 feet ahead, a second whistle is blown, and that is when the Jammers start skating.

I will begin explaining the positions by describing the most complicated one. The last line of players are the Jammers. (Represented by the letter J and a star on their helmet). These players are the offensive players. They earn one point per person they pass that is on the opposite team. The first Jammer to pass through "The Pack", is lead the Jammer. The Lead Jammer is the only one eligible to score points for their team. The Lead Jammer also has the ability to "call off the Jam". This means that if she has the lead, and needs a break or has a strategic reason for doing so, she can put her hands on her hips, and the ref will blow the whistle to end the jam. Though the other Jammer does not collect points, she still busts her pretty behind to keep the other Jammer from scoring.

The first players in line are the pivots, (Represented by the letter P and by a stripe on their helmet). Pivots are responsible for setting the pace for their team, and not letting the Jammers score. Pivots can switch panties (Don't freak out! Not the underwear kind of panties! Roller Derby Panties are the things the players wear on their helmets to signify their position!) with their Jammers, and earn the rights to score for their team.

The second players in line are the Blockers, (Represented by the letter B and nothing on their helmet). Blockers are responsible for living up to their name. They are to block the Jammers, and keep them from scoring as well. Also, Blockers can help the Jammers of their own team score by giving them a whip, or grabbing their Jammer by the hand and swinging them through the pack for an extra boost of speed.

Now the Bout starts. (Bout is what they call a game in Roller Derby) A bout lasts one hour. This hour consists of either two 30 minute sessions (consisting 15 Jams each) or three 20 minute sessions (consisting 10 Jams each).

What about the rules? There are two sets of rules, the WFTDA set, and the OSDA set. I will explain the WFTDA set since it is more popular.

As I said earlier, Roller Derby is a contact sport, but it does have rules that must be followed.

If a player is to break any of these rules, they are to be sent to the penalty box for two minutes. It sucks to be in the penalty box, because the other team gets an extra point for each opposing player in there.

- Pushing is allowed, as long as there is not an extension of the arm. This means no clothes lining or shoving.

- Tripping is also not allowed. This is foul play, and can often end in a trip to the penalty box.

- Contact to the other person's inner thigh is also illegal. I have no idea why, it's just a rule.

- You must stay in-bounds. If you are caught out-of-bounds, and still trying to score points, you're off to the penalty box. You also don't earn those points in the end.

- Any other unsportsmanlike conduct is illegal as well.

There are plenty of other rules, but I covered the main ones.

Hopefully now you comprehend the sport of roller derby. It's truly a fun sport that could use you as a loyal fan! Do your local rollergirls a favor by finding a team near you. Go to a bout and cheer them on! You'll be addicted the second you watch!

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Thanks for reading.
If you have any questions, just ask.
Posted on June 2nd, 2009 at 11:13pm


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