Frequently Asked Questions
WHAT IS FLAT TRACK ROLLER DERBY?
Flat track roller derby is a fast-paced contact team sport that requires speed, strategy, and athleticism. The flat track version of the sport evolved in 2001, and has quickly grown to encompass more than 400 leagues worldwide. This is in large part due to the ease of setting up a flat track--it can be done on any flat surface that is suitable for skating, such as skating rinks, basketball courts, parking lots, and even airplane hangars. This greatly reduces the capital needed to start up a roller derby league, and allows small groups of people to get a fledgling league off the ground. The DIY spirit that drives the sport allows roller derby leagues to create their own unique identities and adapt their structures to reflect their local communities.
HOW DO TEAMS SCORE POINTS?
The skaters wearing a helmet cover with a star on it are the jammers. After making it through the pack of blockers once, the jammer begins scoring points for each opposing blocker she passes legally and in bounds. She can also score points on opponents who are in the penalty box and can get a fifth point if she laps the opposing jammer. Blockers are trying to stop the opposing team’s jammer while helping their own jammer get through.
WHAT ARE ALL THE PLAYING POSITIONS?
Skater positions refer to the position a Skater is playing during a jam. A Skater is not limited in the number of positions that Skater may play during a game, but is limited to playing one designated position at a time. A maximum of four Blockers and one Jammer from each team are allowed on the track during play; only one of the Blockers may be a Pivot Blocker.
BLOCKER - Blockers are positional Skaters who form the pack. There can be four Blockers from each team, one of whom may be a Pivot Blocker. Blockers never score points.
PIVOT - A Pivot is a special subset of a Blocker. A Pivot must be wearing the Pivot helmet cover to have any of the Pivot position rights or privileges; otherwise, the Skater who is holding the Pivot helmet cover is a Blocker with the only distinction being that they can gain those rights and privileges by putting the Pivot helmet cover on. The position of Pivot cannot be transferred. It is not mandatory to field a Pivot Blocker.
JAMMER - The jammer wears a helmet cover with a star on it. The Jammer’s role is to score points for their team. Each team is permitted one Jammer per jam. Prior to the start of a jam, Jammers line up on or behind the Jammer Line. Upon the jam start whistle, the jammer's goal is to pass opposing blockers and emerge from the pack as quickly as possible. If she is the first of the two jammers to escape the pack without committing any penalties, she is awarded "lead jammer"; the strategic advantage of being able to stop the jam at any time by placing her hands on her hips. Once a jammer laps the pack, she begins scoring one point for every opposing blocker she passes legally. She can continue to lap the pack for additional scoring passes for the duration of the jam.
IS ROLLER DERBY REAL?
The roller derby you may have watched in the 70s and early 80s was often scripted and rehearsed. The roller derby of today is real and is thought of as more of a sport than a spectacle. The skaters involved are athletes and take the sport very seriously. They train hard every week and wear their bruises and scars with pride. One reason there are so many referees rolling around is to enforce the rules, which are in place to protect athletes' safety and preserve fairness. Among other things, skaters are not allowed to elbow, punch, grab, head butt, trip, or shove the opposing team. There are still plenty of hard hits, hard falls, and fast action.
I USED TO LOVE WATCHING ROLLER DERBY ON TV! IS IT LIKE THAT?
Yes and no. The fast-paced action, body checks, and whip assists are all still very much part of the game. However, flat track roller derby rules and the different physics of skating on a flat surface, versus a banked track, make the strategies and game play very different. Also, in its later years, televised roller derby was staged, like WWE-style wrestling. Flat track roller derby is a legitimate sport, and the hits, spills, and competition are all 100% real.
ARE BIG HITS LEGAL?
Never fear, those crowd-pleasing hard hits are perfectly legal under WFTDA rules!
If you see a skater heading to the penalty box after laying out her opponent, that means she committed a foul while executing the block. The legal contact zone for blocks is between the shoulders and the mid-thigh. While it is legal for a skater to initiate a block with her back or booty, it is illegal to hit an opposing skater in the back. For more information, please check out the full WFTDA rules.
I BET YOU THROW A LOT OF ELBOWS, RIGHT?
Not unless a skater wants to spend some quality time in the penalty box!
There are plenty of legal ways to send an opponent flying into the third row but, to keep the game play safe and competitive, there are rules governing how and when players can make contact with each other. Throwing elbows, pushing or tripping opposing skaters, and “clothes-lining” opponents by linking arms with your teammate are among the prohibited actions that can earn skaters a minute in the penalty box. Like other sports, more serious offenses like fighting or intentional tripping can get a skater kicked out of the game.