Roller Derby Rules

Here’s a brief overview of how a game of roller derby is played.

The Basics

Roller derby is a competitive sport. Two teams of up to 14 rostered skaters compete against each other for points. A bout is comprised of two 30 minute halves. Each 30 minute half is broken into up to two-minute long “jams”. There are 30 seconds to change lines between each jam. Each team sends five skaters onto the track: a jammer, a pivot, and three blockers (see diagram).

The jammers are the only member of each team who can score points. The pivots are essentially the blockers in charge; they are responsible for setting the pace and strategy. The blockers are the main offense and defense who try to assist their own jammer while stopping the opposing jammer.

The two pivots line up on or behind the front line with the blockers behind them. The two jammers line up 30 feet behind the starting line. A ref blows the whistle, and the jam is on. The pivots and blockers start skating and the jammers start skating.

The jammers have to skate through the pack of pivots and blockers. The first jammer to break through the pack, penalty-free, is called the Lead Jammer. Once they lap the pack, they can start scoring points. Jammers score points by passing skaters from the other team. Blockers try to stop the other team’s jammer and get their own jammer through the pack so she can score as many points as possible.


to the box

Just like any other sport, there are consequences if you break the rules. If a skater commits a penalty, they spend 30 seconds in the box. If they get seven penalties in a single bout, they are ejected for the remainder of the bout.

Penalties are given for these and other offenses:

  • Elbowing/Forearms – contacting a member of the opposing team with their elbows, hands, or forearms
  • Back Blocking – pushing a member of the opposing team from behind
  • Low/High Blocking – tripping or contacting a member of the opposing team below the knee or above the shoulders
  • Blocking Out of Bounds/Out of Play – blocking a member of the opposing team while out of bounds or out of play
  • Cutting the Track – passing ANY skater while out of bounds
  • Misconduct/Insubordination – fighting, intentional tripping, and other nasty behavior, abuse of referees, skaters, or coaching staff

Legal blocking zones (parts of a skater’s body she may block with) include upper arms, shoulders, torso, back, hips, and butt. Legal blocking targets (areas on an opposing skater that can be contacted during a block) include, arms, front and side torso, hips, and legs above the knee.


It’s not just about the rules, it’s how you use them! Derby is so much more than just trying to knock each other around on the track. Each team develops a set of strategies that can be employed in certain situations in a bout!

Calling off the Jam – Ever seen the lead jammer waving her arms in the air and tapping her hips like she’s trying to put out a fire? That jammer is trying to “call off the jam” by ending it before the opposing jammer gets a chance to score points.

Walls & Trapping -Walls are when two or more skaters on the same team line up across the track to stop other skaters from getting through. It’s like a dam made of people! Trapping an opposing skate behind a wall of your teammates means that you get to set the pace of the pack.

Slow & Fast Packs – If one of the jammers is in the box it’s called a “power jam”, where a team is playing without their point scorer. If it’s YOUR jammer in the box, you want to skate FAST so the opposing jammer has to work to catch you. If it’s the OTHER jammer in the box, you want to slow things down to make it easier for your jammer to lap the pack, and therefore score more points!

There are more strategies than there is space to list! The more derby you watch, the more you will begin to pick up on all the different strategies and even start to spot your team’s favorite plays!

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