How to Play

Can’t figure out what’s going on?  Yeah, we couldn’t either at first.  Let’s break it down.

Here is the Basic Game Play for Roller Derby


There are three types of players in roller derby:

J = Jammer

These skaters (one per team, per jam) wear a helmet cover with stars on either side and score the points for their team.

B =  Blocker

Blockers from both teams form “the pack”, a group of skaters made up of blockers from both teams skating within ten feet of each other.  They can and will knock down whomever they can to make sure their own jammer gets through the pack and the opposing jammer doesn’t.  These players simultaneously play offense and defense.

P = Pivot

The pivots wear helmet covers with a single stripe running from front to back.  This special subset of blockers (one per team, per jam) has the ability to become their team’s jammer.


Play is split up into jams, races between the two teams  to score points, that may last up to two minutes.  A jam begins with each team having four blockers (one of which may be a pivot) on the track between the “pivot line” and “jammer line” (or in the penalty box).  One jammer per team lines up behind the “jammer line”.

At the jam start whistle, play begins and the jammers fight their way through the pack in an attempt to become “lead jammer”.  Only the  “lead jammer” has the right to call off the play before two minutes have elapsed.  Once the jammer has cleared the pack on her initial pass, she must then lap the pack to start scoring points.

What happens if no one gets lead jammer?

If no lead jammer can be declared, the players are all in for a workout!  The jam will continue for the full 2 minutes and neither of the jammers will have the right to call the jam off when it is most advantageous to their team.

Points: One point is scored for each opposing player passed after the initial pass, but each opposing blocker can only be scored on once  per scoring pass.  One point is scored on the opposing jammer each time she is fully lapped.  This can mean more than one jammer lap point can be scored during a single scoring pass (but this is so rare that the officiating community refers to this as a “Unicorn”).  When the lead jammer has decided that she has gained the maximum advantage during that jam, she calls off the jam by touching her hips repeatedly (or the officials call off the jam if it reaches two minutes).  After the jam ends at the fourth whistle of the jam-ending signal, the teams have 30 seconds of line-up time between each jam to switch out players and reset on the track.

Penalties: When players are assessed a penalty by the referees, they must immediately leave the track and serve one minute in the penalty box.  Play does not stop.  While a player sits in the penalty box their team must play short and the opposing jammer gains a point for the penalized opponent when she scores her first on-the-track blocker point for each scoring pass.  Penalties are assessed for using an illegal blocking zone, contacting an illegal target zone, making contact when too far from the pack, out-of-bounds or when travelling in the wrong direction, passing while out of bounds, illegal procedures, insubordination and misconduct.


It’ll make a lot more sense once you’ve seen a few jams.

If you’ve got this down but have questions about some of the strategies you may not understand, check out the FAQ on Advanced Derby Strategies.

Of course, like every other sport there are rules!  If you want to read more about them, visit the WFTDA website to read online or download a copy of the rulebook.