How Derby Works

Each game of derby, which is called a “bout,” is played between two teams, each with five players in a lineup at one time on a flat track. Each lineup is made up of one pivot, three blockers, and a jammer. The pivot is recognized by her/his striped helmet cover, the jammer wears a helmet cover with a star on each side, and the blockers have no helmet covers at all. Each bout is 60 minutes, split into two 30-minute halves that are further broken down into two-minute jams.

The pack is made up of three blockers and one pivot from each team (unless someone’s been naughty and is sitting in the penalty box!). They line up at the “pivot line” at the beginning of each jam. The jammers line up at the “jammer line”. The first whistle goes and the pack takes off. As soon as the pack crosses the pivot line, a double whistle goes, and that releases the jammers!

The jam is a two-minute (or less) period on the track when the teams are eligible to score points. The jammers (those crazy people with the stars on their helmets) throw themselves into the pack and the first one to break free without committing a penalty is declared “lead jammer”. The blockers on the track do everything in their power, legally of course, to stop the opposing jammer from making it through the pack, while at the same time helping their own jammer through!

The jammer must make it through the pack once before s/he is able to score points. This is called the initial pass. Once the initial pass is completed, the jammer is now on their scoring pass. The “lead jammer” has a strategic advantage, by which they can call off the jam by placing their hands on their hips repeatedly. They do this to try and stop the other jammer from scoring points. If no one is declared lead jammer, the jam will go for the whole two minutes. The jammer scores points by their hips passing the opposing blocker’s hips. A jammer can score a maximum of five points on every pass.

Blockers on the track can hit anyone in the pack by using their hips, shoulders, or by pushing their own players into the opposition. The referees are on the track to make sure that everyone plays by the rules. Penalties are given to skaters that break the rules, and they must serve one minute in the penalty box. Such penalties include tripping, elbowing, forearms, and cutting the track.

The Mainland Misfits use the WFTDA rule set whenever we play. WFTDA is the governing body of flat track roller derby.  Those rules can be seen here

Intro to Flat Track Roller Derby App

A free app introducing the fast-moving sport of flat-track roller derby, including a video demonstration, explanations of the most common referee hand signals, and an FAQ.
By Germaine Koh, aka PLAYER 1, Terminal City Rollergirls. Get it Here


2 Comments on “Intro to Roller Derby”

  1. Erica

    HI there my daughter plays ringette she is 13. Two questions. 1. Do you have learn to play parties (thinking of doing it as a team wind up)
    2. How old do you have to be to join a league. We live in North delta

    1. Malice (Ann) Alderson

      Currently, the Mainland Misfits do not have a junior league, but a wind up party is a good idea :) Vancouver (Vancouver Junior Roller Derby) and Chilliwack (NWO Junior Roller Derby) both have junior derby and it begins at 6 years old and the juniors go up to 18. Most leagues only have a few extra pieces of gear to try roller derby out, so they most likely would not have enough for a team to try with. You can rent roller derby gear from RollerGirl ( or you can check out Lynden Skateway in Lynden WA, or Surrey Central Arena for skate parties.

      Take Care,

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