Roller derby is played by two teams of five members simultaneously skating counterclockwise on a circuit track. Each team designates a scoring player (the jammer); the other four members are blockers. One blocker can be designated as a pivot – a blocker allowed to become a jammer in the course of play.
wears a helmet cover bearing two stars
scores points by lapping opposing team members
their helmets are uncovered
assist the team’s jammer to progress through the pack
hinder the opposing jammer by preventing her from passing
wears a striped helmet cover
establishes team strategy during play
may be designated as a jammer during the course of a jam
The bout is played in two periods of 30 minutes. Point scoring occurs during jams: plays that last up to two minutes. During a jam, points are scored when a jammer in scoring position (scoring position is after the jammer has initially passed through the pack) laps members of the opposing team. Each team’s blockers use body contact, changing positions, and other tactics to assist its jammer to score while hindering the opposing team’s jammer. Certain types of blocks and other play are violations; referees call penalties and require violators to spend time in a penalty box.
The pack is the largest single group of blockers containing members of both teams and arranged such that each is within ten feet of the next. While blockers are required to maintain the pack, they are permitted to skate freely within the area of the track beginning twenty feet behind the pack and ending twenty feet ahead of it, known as the engagement zone. The first jammer to exit the front of the pack, having legally passed all blockers at least once, earns the status of lead jammer. Once earned, lead jammer status cannot be transferred to other skaters, but certain actions (notably, being sent to the penalty box) can cause it to be lost. Subsequent to her first pass through the pack, each jammer scores a point every time she laps an opposition team member.
The lead jammer can stop the jam at any time by signaling to the referees by placing her hands on her hips. If the jam is not stopped early, it ends after 2 minutes. Teams then have 30 seconds to form up for the next jam. Team members typically rotate between jams from the 14 players on the team’s roster. Designations may change between jams: a pivot in one jam might be the jammer in a later jam.
The jammer scores by passing opposition team members. Each jammer must first complete a non-scoring pass through the pack, which determines which jammer (if any) is the lead jammer. After this, the jammer scores a point the first time each lap that she passes each opposition team member, including the other team’s jammer. For example the jammer for team A may pass 5 blockers during a jam, the jammer for team B passes 3. When the jam ends – either because the time limit is reached, or because the lead jammer has called the jam beforehand – the score would be 5 points for team A, 3 for team B.
Roller derby skaters attempt to knock opponents out of bounds or impede their movements by blocking. Legal blocks follow certain rules. Contact by hands, elbows, head and feet are prohibited, as is contact above the shoulders or below mid-thigh. Contact may not be from the rear, only from a player’s front or sides.
Referees determine rule violations. A player receiving a major penalty, or four minor penalties, is removed from play to sit in a penalty box for one minute. If a jam ends beforehand, the player remains in the penalty box during the subsequent jam until the minute penalty is completed. Jammers are released from the penalty box before the full minute has elapsed if the second jammer is sent to the box while the first is still seated. The second jammer’s penalty is then only as long as the amount of time the first jammer spent in the box. A player is ejected from the game upon the seventh time she is sent to the penalty box.