There is a lot of shouting at players (and coaches, and refs) at a derby bout. With our first bout coming up, we thought we’d set up a primer on some of the phrases you’re likely to hear while you’re watching!
The primary group of players on the track are called blockers- their job is to assist their jammer in scoring points by either getting in the way (and hitting!) members of the other team; and also to block the opposite team’s jammer by getting in the way (and hitting!) that jammer. Frequently and as much as possible. For all of the chaos to be considered legal, the blockers for both teams must form “a pack”, which consists of the majority of players on the track. Otherwise it would be a free-for-all and that wouldn’t be fair.
If no pack exists on the track, players cannot physically touch each other and must immediately Pack Up and re-form the pack or risk a Destruction of Pack or Failure to Re-form penalty. Strategically it can be a good idea to break up the pack, so that the other team cannot engage your jammer. Watch out though, sometimes it backfires!
The best way to block a jammer is to Wall Up, where the blockers from a team form a straight line across the track and use their shoulders and hips to block the opposing jammer from getting through.
The jammer is the member of the team with stars on their helmet cover. During each jam, the jammer’s main focus is to break through the pack and pass the other team’s blockers, and for each opposing player passed the jammer will earn a point. It’s in a team’s best interest to alert their teammates when their jammer, or the opposing jammer, is about to take on the pack and attempt to score her points.
One of the most common penalties that can be received. Cutting the track occurs when a skater goes out of bounds and illegally re-enters the track. To legally re-enter the track, a skater must enter behind the other players- “the pack”. A skater can enter in front of one other teammate, but can’t enter in front of any members of the opposite team. If the skater has been pushed out of bounds by an opposing player, she MUST re-enter behind that player, unless that player falls as well.
A power jam occurs when one team’s jammer is sent to a penalty box. The other jammer is still able to score points, and strategically it is in that team’s best interest to slow the pack’s forward progression as much as possible, so that their jammer can reach the pack and score points more quickly. Often skaters will step to the side and skate very slowly. Less players directly in front of a jammer means the jammer can often get through very quickly. Sometimes blockers will spring at the last minute to do a sweep, pushing the other team’s players out of the way and giving the jammer a break from being smacked around.
When the first jammer breaks through the back, they earn Lead Jammer status, and are granted the ability to call off the jam. Without a lead jammer, each jam lasts 2 minutes. Calling off a jam is a great tool for the Lead Jammer, because it can prevent the other jammer from scoring any points or at least scoring fewer points. To call off a jam, the jammer will tap her hips repeatedly to signal the referees that the jam is over.
Roller derby is an amazing sport and we love what we do. Being hit or falling often won’t hurt at all and is simply another adrenaline-pumping part of the game. When you watch your favorite teams tearing each other apart, we hope you’ll be saying it too!
Is there a derby term you’ve heard before and have no idea what it means? Leave us a comment here or hit us up on Facebook or Twitter and we’ll eagerly reply!