top of page

What is Roller Derby?!


Roller Derby is a full contact sport played on quad roller skates. It has its roots in banked track marathon events in America in the early 20th century, the sport has gone through several transformations, remaining popular for its theatrical elements as much as its athleticism. Modern Roller Derby as it is played now originated in the early 21st century in Texas, USA. Outrageous outfits and pseudonyms made the sport popular, and while the sport has grown more serious and athletic, 'boutfits' are less common, but most players still prefer to choose a skate name alter-ego. Roller Derby is now one of the fastest growing sports across the world. Although initially a female only sport, there is now a rapidly growing number of male teams across the world. 


A game consists of two 30 minute halves, broken down into periods called 'jams'. A jam can last for up to 2 minutes, but may be shorter. Each team of 14 skaters fields 5 skaters per jam- one 'jammer' and four 'blockers'. The jammers start behind the 'pack' of blockers and must make their way through to the front. The blockers must try to stop the opposing jammer, and simultaneously assist their own jammer. The first jammer to legally make their way through the pack is declared the 'lead jammer', she then has the power to end the jam by tapping her hips with her hands before the end of two minutes. Once a jammer has completed her initial 'pass' through the pack she is then eligible to score 1 point for every opposing skater that she passes on subsequent laps through the pack. Once the jam has ended, 5 more skaters from each team take their place and a new jam will start 30 seconds after the end of the previous jam.


Roller Derby is played on an elliptical, flat track. There are two lines across the full width of the track- the Jammer Line and the Pivot Line, as well as short lines across the centre of the track marking each 10 foot. The game is played in an anti-clockwise direction. While skaters are permitted to travel in either direction on the track, contacting an opponent while travelling clockwise will incur a penalty.


Most people are surprised to hear that Roller Derby has a LOT of rules! As a still evolving sport the rules are regularly discussed and updated as new game play situations occur and new tactics develop.

The basics are-

No pushing/shoving, tripping or any other contact initiated with the lower arms or legs. No initiating contact with your head or to the head of an opponent, or to the middle of the back.

No 'cutting the track'. If you are forced off the track you must not improve your track position by re-entering in front of any opposing skater who was ahead of you at the point you left the track. Skaters may skate clockwise around the track in order to 'draw back' an opponent who has been forced off the track.

No initiating contact to a skater who is not upright or not on the track. The pack of blockers must stay within 10ft of each other at all times and initiating contact with an opponent more than 20 ft in front of or behind 'the pack' is not permitted. 

If you commit a penalty, a referee will blow a short whistle blast, call your shirt colour and number and then the penalty you committed. When called for a penalty a skater must leave the track immediately and skate around the outside of the track to the penalty box where they will sit for 30 seconds. If the jam ends with a skater in the box then her time is paused and re-starts again at the beginning of the next jam. 

Full WFTDA rules can be found here.

More about the history and gameplay here.

Watch WFTDA games

Watch MRDA games

bottom of page