What is Roller Derby?

History of Roller Derby

The game of Roller Derby originated in Chicago, Illinois in the 1930’s, but the version we see today started in the 2003 in Austin, Texas.

In 2004, the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association was created to help oversee the rapid-growing sport. There are currently over 260 full member leagues and about 100 apprentice leagues.

In 2007, the Men’s Derby Coalition was formed. The Men’s Derby Coalition is now known as the Men’s Roller Derby Association (MRDA) and internationally governs over men’s roller derby.


How to Play


  • There are 10 people on a track at a given time, five on each team.
  • Each team has one jammer (scores the points) and four blockers.
  • The jammer is marked by a star on their helmet cover.
  • One of the blockers is designated as a pivot, who can assume the role of jammer by taking the star helmet cover from the starting jammer. They are marked by wearing a stripe on their helmet cover.


  • The game, also know as a bout, lasts for 60-minutes.
  • A bout is made up of two 30-minutes halves.
  • Each half is made up of an unlimited amount of jams. A jam can be ended early by the lead jammer or if no lead jammer is awarded, it runs the maximum of two minutes.

How to play

  • The four blockers from each team line up together between the pivot line and the jammer line. This forms something called the pack.
  • The jammers line up behind the jammer line.
  • When the referee blow the whistle all the skaters can engage each other.
  • The first jammer to get through the pack is designated the lead jammer. They have the ability to call off the jam whenever they want. The player calls off the jam by repeatedly tapping their hips.
  • On a jammer’s second lap they start to score points. For every opposing player the jammer passes legally and in-bounds, they get one point.
  • Once the jam reaches two minutes or the lead jammer calls it off, the points are tallied. Each team has 30 seconds after the final whistle to field a new set of blockers and a jammer. Then, they do it all over again.


Like any other sport, there are penalties (or fouls) in roller derby. If called on a penalty the skater must go sit in the penalty box for 30 seconds. If a skater gets seven penalties they foul out of the game. Below are some of the ways skaters can receive penalties:

  • Illegal Procedure – false starts (jammer starting before the ref blows the whistle or a blocker behind the jammer line), or too many skaters on the track.
  • High Block – blocking a skater in their back or head.
  • Out of Play – blocking a jammer while 20 feet ahead or behind the pack.
  • Track Cut – skating out of bounds to get around other skaters.
  • Blocking with forearms, elbows, head or hands.
  • Kicking, tripping or blocking with feet or legs.

MRDA-Rules-2014Download the full rules booklet (PDF): MRDA-The Rules of Flat-Track Roller Derby

The videos below may help to better understand the rules: