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 due in large part 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.

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 a sport more 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. Don’t worry though, there are still plenty of hard hits, hard falls, and fast action.

A team’s full lineup for a jam consists of one pivot, three blockers and one jammer. Each team may field up to five players for each jam.

Pivot – The pivot is the blocker who wears a helmet cover with a stripe on it. She is special as a blocker as she is the only one who is able to receive a star pass from the jammer. A star pass occurs when the jammer takes off her helmet cover and gives it the pivot. Once the jammer has completed a legal start pass, by handing her star helmet cover to the pivot (while upright and inbounds), the pivot now becomes her team’s jammer. A pivot is not eligible for lead jammer status.

Blocker – The other three blockers do not wear helmet covers. All blockers are required to play offense and defence throughout the game, switching at any given time between offensive and defensive tasks. The rules do not differentiate the remaining three blocking positions from one another.

Jammer – The jammer wears a helmet cover with a star on it. 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 gains the strategic advantage of being able to stop the jam at any time by placing her hands on her hips (Lead Jammer). 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. 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.