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Roller Derby Is An Exciting Roller Skating Sport

Updated on July 26, 2015
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Readmikenow likes sports, professional and amateur. He especially likes sports stories of courage and overcoming adversity.

Blocking During Roller Derby Game

Roller derby is a full-contact sport played between two teams. Each team has five members. One member of each team is designated as the scoring player. The others are designated as blockers. As the teams skate counterclockwise around the track, points are earned when the scoring player makes it past the opposing team's players.


The sport we now know as roller derby began during the 1930s. A man named Leo Seltzer is credited with starting the game. During the 1920s, Seltzer made a lot of money promoting dance marathons. He read in a magazine that over 90 percent of Americans liked to roller skate. When Seltzer discussed this finding with others in a restaurant, they challenged him to create a sport involving roller skating. He worked out the details on a restaurant table cloth. During 1935, thousands of people went to the Chicago Coliseum to witness a show called the Transcontinental Roller Derby. It was an imaginary race across the United States involving men and women on roller skates. Seltzer teamed up with a sportswriter in the late 1930s to create rules and a way to score for the game. The game of roller derby became quite popular in the late 1940s. This is when it was broadcast on national television. It grew steadily if popularity. During the early 1970s, it was regularly broadcast on national television. Roller derby tournaments were held all over the country. This was also the time when Leo Seltzer's son sold the roller derby business. The promotion fell off, and its popularity plummeted. In 2002, a new generation of roller derby leagues came into existence. The all-female version of the sport has grown dramatically over the years. In 2006, there were over 135 active female roller derby leagues around the United States.

Roller Derby in the 1950s.
Roller Derby in the 1950s.


At a recent meeting of the International Olympic Committee, it was announced that roller derby is being considered as a sport for the 2020 Olympic Games. This is a result of the expanding growth of the sport's popularity on an international basis. The first international roller derby world cup tournament was played in 2011. It was held in Toronto, Canada.

All-Male Roller Derby

An organization designed to provide roller derby leagues for men was created in 2007. It has approximately 40 all-male leagues. It is called the Men's Roller Derby Association (MRDA).

Types of Tracks

There are two different versions of the tracks used for the sport. There is flat track roller derby. This is played on a flat surface and can take place on a sports court, concrete flooring and more. There is also banked track roller derby. This is played on a track with a banking surface. These tracks are usually made of plywood or steel. The slopes in banked track roller derby can slope up to 45 degrees, from inside the track to its outside edges.

Roller Derby Training

Many roller derby leagues hold regular practice sessions for anyone interested in being on a roller derby team. These sessions will help people learn about the rules of the game and develop skating techniques. Individuals are not permitted to participate in a game until their skills and knowledge of the game are sufficient for them to play safely. Many leagues also advise potential players to spend time skating on their own. During a training sessions players will learn how to dodge obstacles and other players. Skate at high speeds as well as fall without experiencing an injury. There are skating drills involved and more.


Roller derby players avoid injury with their skating skill. Most leagues require players to wear knee pads as well as elbow pads, helmets, writs guards and optional padding for hips and tail bones.

Governing Body

The Women's Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) has the most members. It is considered the largest international roller derby governing body. The WFTDA provides leagues with most current rules, latest information and much more.

Jammers starting jam
Jammers starting jam


Each skate period is called a jam. A jam lasts for two minutes. During a Roller Derby match, the defense and offense are played at the same time. It is a game designed to have a very volatile aspect with complicated tactics and strategies. A player who is a blocker may make a large hole in the pack so their jammer can get through it and score. The challenge is to keep the other team's jammer from passing through the same hole that has been created for scoring.


Each roller derby team fields five players. The positions of these players are four blockers and one jammer. A jammer is a player who scores the points. At the beginning of the game, each team has four blockers line up between a determined pivot line and jammer line. These lines are marked on the track. This forms the pack. The two players who are jammers line up behind the Jammer Line. The players wearing a star on their helmet are the jammers. A blocker with a stripe on their helmet is called a pivot. This is the pack leader. The pivot will call the defensive plays for the other blockers to follow.

The Pack During Roller Derby Jam
The Pack During Roller Derby Jam


After the whistle starting the jam is blown, the pack and jammers go into action. On the first lap, the jammers can not score any points. After that when a jammer legally passes a blocker from the other team and then clear the pack, they are called the lead jammer. This designation is determined by a referee. They point to the jammer and make an “L” shape with their hands. A lead jammer can end the jam prior to the finish of the two minutes match by gesturing her hands on her hips. If both jammers commit fouls during the first lap, there is no designated lead jammer. There is no way to prevent the jam from going the entire two minutes. If a lead jammer is sent to the penalty box, they are no longer the lead jammer. Jammers automatically score points when skaters from the other team are in the penalty box. Referees will hold up fingers at the end of the each jam to show how many points were scored.

The Excitement of Roller Derby


Ending the jam is a maneuver where the lead jammer can end the jam any time. This means they control the other team's chance to score. In a best case scenario, a lead jammer will try to score as many point as they are able and then end the jam before the other team has a chance to score. Passing the star is when the star is passed to the pivot. This means they give their star helmet over to the pivot, and the pivot then becomes the team's scoring jammer. This happens because of injury, penalty trouble or because the pivot may have a better chance of scoring. The whip is when a blocker or pivot grabs the hand of their jammer and swings her forward. This increases the speed and momentum of the designated jammer.


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