The Down and Dirty of Derby

The Down and Dirty of Derby

Obviously, in order to play the sport of derby, you must learn the rules. We will give you all of the information during your training, but for now, here is an overview of the sport:

The game itself is a series of races between two teams of five players. Each team has three blockers and one pivot that skate together and make up the pack. Each team also has a jammer that scores points.

The blockers play both offense and defense by trying to stop the other team’s jammer while propelling their own jammer forward. Each teams’ pivot controls the speed of the pack, keeps an eye on the jammers, and calls her team’s plays while acting as a blocker. Helmet covers or “panties” differentiate the positions – jammers wear stars, pivots wear stripes, and blockers don’t wear panties at all (haha).

The Down and Dirty of Derby

Photo by Josh Desario

Each race is called a jam and lasts up to two minutes. At the start of the jam, the pivots and blockers line up in a formation in between the pivot and the jammer line. The referee blows a whistle and the action begins. The jammers try to sprint through the pack , working their way through the group of blockers and pivots, to become the first jammer to break through. No one scores any points during the first lap, but the jammer to break through first becomes the lead jammer. A referee points out the lead jammer and follows her progress around the track. Once the jammer reaches the pack on subsequent passes, teams get one point for each opposing player the jammer passes in bounds during each lap. In general, this is four points per lap – one for each opposing blocker/pivot. If a jammer passes the opposing jammer she gets one point.

The lead jammer can “call off the jam” before the end of the two minute play by putting her hands on her hips. Play stops and the officials finish calculating the score. The teams have thirty seconds between jams to get their next line-up of skaters in position on the track and they start again. Each bout has two thirty minute periods, with a fifteen minute break in between.

Jam formation: Blockers and pivots have to stay together in the pack, but they do not have to maintain their original formation. They may move around within the pack, but they must be within 20 feet of the closest pack skater.  The pack is defined as “the largest group of Blockers, skating or standing in proximity (within 10 feet), containing members from both teams. If someone is more than twenty feet away from the pack, they cannot engage or assist another skater and must either catch up if they are behind or slow down if they are ahead to rejoin the pack.

The Down and Dirty of Derby

Photo by Josh Desario

Blocking: There are two kinds of legal blocking: Positional blocking (no real contact, you get in front of the jammer or opposing blocker and stay in front of her so she cannot get around you, and you slow down) and side blocking (engaging/hitting skaters laterally). Legal blocks involve the torso from shoulders to hip, the arm from shoulder to just above the elbow, hips, booty, and upper thigh. You may NOT block out of bounds, make contact with anyone from behind, purposefully trip, purposely fall in front of someone, grab or hold, or swing elbows.

Offensive moves: Whips can be given to swing the jammer ahead, and you may push your own jammer from behind.

Major penalties: Penalties include any form of illegal procedures or blocking that has extensive impact on safety and/or game play. Common majors include: purposeful/dangerous illegal blocks, gross misconduct, excessive insubordination to ref, fighting, false starts, too many skaters on track, improper uniform, calling off the jam when not lead jammer, and cutting the track to gain better position. There are several major penalties that will get called depending on the severity and how they affect game play.

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