The Rules of Flat Track Roller Derby
Roller Derby is a fast-paced, contact sport. In the game of Roller Derby, two teams comprised of four players on each team (known as "Blockers") and two point scorers (the "Jammers") move around a flat, oval track with each team attempting to score as many points for their side while limiting how many points the other team scores.
For a first-time spectator, the easiest player to watch and understand is the Jammer. The goal of the Jammer is to score points, done by racing through the pack of Blockers. On the very first pass the two Jammers are fighting to make it through the pack. After the first pass, any opposing players that a Jammer passes are each a point. And, importantly, both teams can score at the same time.
Part of the stategy for the Jammers come in on the very first pass through the pack of Blockers. The two Jammers are going to fight their way through and whichever Jammer makes it through first (cleanly, without penalties) becomes the "Lead Jammer" and they control the round of play (the two-minute period, called the "Jam"). Any time during their two minutes racing around the track the Lead Jammer can call off the round of play. They can strategize, plotting out as many points for themselves while ending the round of play before the opposing Jammer scores too many (or any) points on their own.
Of course, all the Blockers are out there, fighting each other (and the opposing Jammers at times) for position, working to help their teammates and stop the opposition.
There are two categories of penalties: minor and major. A player can earn four minor penalties, with that fourth becoming a major. Major penalties result in the player being sent to the penalty box. In most cases, the difference between minor and major penalties are based on intent, or how much it effects other players or the outcome of the game.
Penalties can include: skating out-of-bounds to gain position on other players (a "track cut"), blocking/hitting a player outside the allowed contact zones (too high, too low, or too far into the center of the back), throwing an elbow, or unsportsman-like conduct.
Watching a Game
Watching Roller Derby is the best way to figure out all the details of the game. Listen to the announcers and pay attention to the refs -- they'll tell you what's going on even if you've lost track of all the action.
If you're looking to catch a game, attend one of the Race City Rebel's scheduled bouts.