A brief history lesson
Roller derby originated in the United States in the 1930s. It was invented by a film publicist at the beginning of the Great Depression. The sport started gaining lots of popularity in the US in 1940, when more than 5 million people watched the sport in 50 different cities in America. In these days, roller derby was very theatrical as show sport.
In the beginning of the 21st century though, the sport made a big come-back and although some theatrical elements remained (like derby names and colorful uniforms), modern roller derby is a very athletic and competitive sport. No more scripted winners! Everything you see in a bout is legitimate.
These days, roller derby is not just a thing in the US. This amazing sport has been spreading all around the globe. There are approximately 1250 leagues all around the world, almost half of them outside of the US, as we saw in the Roller Derby World Cup in Manchester in 2018.
In the Netherlands there are 20 leagues (so far), four of which are men’s leagues. Because the sport is currently relatively unknown and still growing in the Netherlands, it’s great to be a part of this awesome community and to watch and help the sport grow by telling everyone about it!
This is roller derby!
Roller derby is a full contact sport on roller skates, that is played on a flat track in an oval shape. The surface of this track can be wood, concrete, asphalt, coated indoor surfaces: basically anything suited for skating.
Roller derby is played between two teams. Each team consists of a maximum of 14 rostered skaters per game. At any time there are up to 5 skaters from each team in play, one jammer and four blockers. The blocker with the stripe on her helmet cover is the pivot. The jammer, who wears a star on her helmet cover, is the only person on the team who can score points.
- A roller derby bout consists of two thirty minute halves. Gameplay is broken into jams lasting a maximum of two minutes each. There are 30 seconds between each jam where players rotate and reset for the next jam.
There are two lines on the track: a Pivot line and a Jammer line.
The 8 defensive players (the pack) start behind the pivot line and both jammers start behind the jammer line.
When the whistle blows, the skaters take off and the jammers will try to pass through the pack of skaters in front of them.
- The first jammer to get through the pack will become lead jammer. They are allowed to call off the jam by putting their hands on their hips multiple times. Once the jammers have cleared their initial pass through the pack, they can start scoring points: passing one opponent equals one point.
Of course, the defensive players from the other team will not make it easy for the opposing jammer to score points: they can try to block the jammer with their shoulders and hips, or block them by skating in front of them.
That’s it! Of course there are many, many more rules that have to be observed, but this is the basic idea of roller derby. If you want to learn all the ins and outs of roller derby, make sure to check WFTDA.com: here you will find all the rules of the game!