The Rules of Roller Derby

Many thanks to Legs//Cité for this adaptation of the WFTDA Rule Set!

Table of Contents

  1. Positions
  2. The Basics
  3. Scoring
  4. Examples of Play
  5. Passing The Star
  6. Blocking (Hitting)
  7. Boundary Issues
  8. The Pack
  9. Power Jams
  10. Beyond The Basics
  11. Referee Signals

Positions

Each team puts 5 players on the track: 1 jammer, 1 pivot, and 3 blockers. Jammers wear a star on their helmet and are the only players that score points. Blockers try to stop the opposing jammer from scoring points. Pivots have a stripe on their helmet and are just like blockers except that they can become a jammer if they are given the star helmet cover (seepassing the star).
rules_JammerPivotBlocker

The Basics

rules_track_basics

Each round is called a jam and lasts up to 2 minutes. During each jam, the jammers try to pass the other skaters who must skate relatively close to one another in a group. This group is called the pack.
 rules_track_basics_the_pack
If a player receives a penalty, they must go to the penalty box for 30 seconds.

Scoring

Only jammers can score points. They do so by passing the skaters on the opposing team. The first time they pass through the pack they are on their initial pass and do not score points. Each successive pass through the pack is called a scoring pass and they earn one point for each opposing player they pass (4 blockers + 1 jammer = maximum of 5 points per pass). Both jammers can score points during the same jam.
The first jammer to make it through the pack legally receives a special designation for the jam: Lead Jammer. The lead jammer can call off (end) the jam whenever they want. They do this by touching their hips repeatedly with both hands.
rules_CallingOff

 Examples of Play

The whistle is blown and both jammers begin skating. The Red Jammer succeeds in making their way through the pack and breaks out in front. Because they were the first one out, they earn Lead Jammer status and can end the jam early. They are now on their scoring pass and can begin to make points.
rules_ex1_lead_jammer
Five seconds later the Blue Jammer gets out of the pack. They are now on their scoring pass as well and can begin making points, but they are not lead jammer and so cannot end the jam early.
 rules_ex2_not_lead_jammer
Let’s consider four different outcomes: 1. The Red Jammer goes around the track and quickly makes it past all of the blue blockers and calls off the jam by touching their hips. They passed all four blue blockers so they score 4 points. The Blue Jammer had not yet reached the pack and did not pass anyone. The score for the jam is 40. rules_ex3_red_makes_points 2. The Red Jammer goes around the track and makes it past all four blue blockers but has a difficult time doing it, they call off the jam but, by that time, the Blue Jammer has reached the pack and passed two opposing players. The score for this jam is 42. rules_ex4_both_make_points 3. The Red Jammer reaches the pack but gets stuck. The Blue Jammer arrives hot on their heels and quickly zooms past everyone. The Red Jammer calls off the jam but not before the Blue Jammer has already passed the pack and made 4 points. The score for this jam is 04. rules_ex5_blue_makes_points
4. The Blue Jammer gets completely stuck when they reach the pack. The Red Jammer is able to pass the pack 3 times. This means she passed the four blue blockers 3 times (12 points) and lapped the other jammer twice (2 points). The score for this jam is 140. rules_ex6_red_makes_many_points

Passing the Star

During a jam, the jammer may pass their star helmet cover to the pivot. This is called passing the star. Once the pivot has the star helmet cover, they are considered the jammer for the rest of the jam.

Blocking (Hitting)

Roller derby is a full-contact sport and players are allowed to make contact with each other. This is called blocking another player.
rules_Blocking
You can HIT WITH any part of your body below your neck, above the elbows, and above the mid-thigh.
 rules_blocking_zones_hit_with
You can BE HIT anywhere on your body below the neck and above the mid-thigh, except for the back and the rear of the butt and thighs (the sides of the hips, thighs, and butt are ok).
 rules_blocking_zones_be_hit
You may not hit someone in the back, use your hands and forearms to push someone, prevent players from passing you by grabbing onto your teammates, or run into people while going the wrong way on the track.

Boundary Issues

Players must stay on the track, they can skate forward or backward in either direction while inbounds but cannot intentionally leave the track.
Players may knock other players off the track. A player that was hit out must re-enter behind the player that hit them out or they will receive a cutting the track penalty.

rules_entering_behind

In addition, a player that was hit out must re-enter behind ALL other players that were ahead of them when they were hit out. If a player that was ahead of them backs up, they must back up too!
rules_entering_behind_2

The Pack

Roller derby only works if there is a pack. Blockers must stay close to the pack and the pack as a whole must remain relatively tight. If the pack gets too spread out, the refs will call no pack and the pack must get closer together. If a blocker is too far from the pack, the refs will call out of play and they must return to the pack. (see beyond the basics – pack)

Power Jams

When a jammer receives a penalty, the other team is said to be on a Power Jam. None of the rules change during a power jam but it creates an important opportunity to score points.
It is often advantageous to bring the pack speed to a halt on a power jam. (see also beyond the basics – passive offense)

Beyond the Basics (for the Superfan!)

Penalties

  • A jammer earns points for “passing” players who are in the penalty box or otherwise off the track when they pass any opponent who is on the track.
  • If a player does not exit the track fast enough after receiving a penalty, they will be given a second penalty, insubordination, and have to serve an additional 30 seconds in the box (2 x 30= 60 seconds).
  • If a jammer is in the penalty box and the other jammer receives a penalty as well, the first jammer can leave as soon as the second jammer sits down in the box.
  • If a player receives 7 penalties during a game they will foul out and be asked to leave.
  • Most illegal actions only count as penalties if they offer an advantage to the player. For example, illegal blocks are only considered penalties when the receiving player loses their relative position by falling, being knocked out of play, or falling behind an opposing player. In this way, players may sometimes be seen to do something illegal but not be penalized for it if they gained no relative advantage.

The Pack

  • The pack constantly moves, expands, contracts and changes. Pack definition is sometimes difficult to understand but it is crucial to playing the game: The pack is the largest group of non-jammer players from BOTH teams who are less than 10 feet from one anothers’ hips. This means the pack can be a tight clump or a long string of players, as long as those players are less than 10 feet from one another.
  • If there is no definable pack, for example if all of Team A is more than 10 feet from Team B, the refs will call no pack. Both teams are then responsible to reform the pack immediately. Failing to do so will result in a failure to reform penalty. If any one player is to blame for creating the no pack situation, they will receive a destroying the pack penalty.
  • Blockers must stay within 20 feet of the pack, otherwise they are considered out of play and will receive a warning to return to the pack. Failure to do so will earn them a failure to return penalty. If they block another player while out of play, they will receive a blocking out of play penalty.

Lead Jammer

  • If a Lead Jammer passes the star to their pivot, lead jammer status is lost and the jam will run the full 2 minutes
  • If a Lead Jammer falls down or is hit out of bounds, they can still call off the jam. If they are given a penalty, however, they cannot call off the jam and lose their Lead Jammer status.

Gameplay

  • Games are played in two 30 minute halves.
  • Each team has three 1-minute timeouts they can use between jams to regroup, rest, and strategize.
  • Between jams, if no timeout is called, there are 30 seconds before the next jam begins. Note that the period clock continues to run during this time.

Passive Offense

  • During power jams, many teams employ a strategy called Passive Offense. This strategy involves bringing the pack speed to a halt and letting the jammer push the opposing blockers far enough forward that they must let the jammer go or risk getting an out-of-play or failure-to-reform penalty.

rules_passive_offense

Referee Signals

ref_signal_lead_jammer

 Lead Jammer: Designates which jammer is lead jammer.

ref_signal_not_lead

Not Lead Jammer: Designates a jammer is on their scoring pass but is not lead jammer.

ref_signal_penalty

Penalty: After showing the signal for the specific penalty that was given, the referee will make this movement indicating that the player must go to the penalty box.

ref_signal_cutting

Cutting the Track: When a player enters in front of another player who hit them out.

ref_signal_backblock

 Back Block: Blocking to an opponent’s back.

ref_signal_forearms

 Forearms: Blocking an opponent with the hands or forearms.ref_signal_multiplayer

 Multiplayer Link: Blocking an opponent by holding on to or linking with a teammate using the arms or hands.

ref_signal_highblock

High Block: Blocking an opponent to their head.

ref_signal_block_with_head

Blocking with the Head: Blocking an opponent using the head.

ref_signal_lowblock

Low Block: Blocking an opponent below their mid-thigh.

ref_signal_forearms

Elbows: Blocking an opponent with the elbows.

ref_signal_counter_clockwise

Direction of Game Play: Blocking an opponent while stopped or skating in the wrong (clockwise) direction.

ref_signal_nopack

No Pack: Warning that their is no definable pack, both teams must attempt to reform the pack.

ref_signal_out_of_play

Out of Play: Warning that a player is more than 20 feet from the pack, a penalty we’ll be given if the player fails to return to play (the referee will lower their hand) or if the player blocks an opponent or helps a teammate while out of play.

ref_signal_skating_out_of_bounds

Skating out of Bounds: Intentionally skating out of the track boundaries.

ref_signal_insubordination

Insubordination: Disrespecting the referees or not leaving the track fast enough after receiving a penalty.

ref_signal_illegal_procedure

Illegal Procedure: Breaking a rule that does not necessarily impact a specific player (starting in the wrong place, leaving the penalty box early, removing safety equipment, etc.)

ref_signal_foul_out

Foul Out: The skater has received too many penalties and must leave the game.

rules_GoMTLRD