Roller Derby

By Jeff Insel

I was invited by a friend and colleague to attend her first roller derby match. It was a fun experience as I knew very little about the sport. Her match followed a Junior’s match. Turns out the Junior’s have the same rules and length of match as the adults. While the juniors prepared and then competed, my friend, Shawna, sat with me and gave me a rundown on the rules and how the scoring worked.

Total team size seemed to be unlimited but was around 20 members for the teams I saw.  5 members skated each 2 minute jam within the 60 minute match (two 30 minute sets with a 15 minute intermission).  The teams each put 5 members out for each jam: a Jammer who scores points by passing opposing blockers; a Pivot who is a backup jammer and lead blocker and then the 3 other blockers who provide offense to their jammer and play defense to block the opposing jammer.

The Lead Jammer is the first jammer to break through the pack and can call off the jam at any point. The Pack the largest number of blockers from both teams who are within 10 feet of each other on the track. The whistle blows to start the jam and Jammers fight through the pack to earn the lead.

Scoring – Jammers earn one point for each opposing blocker passed after their initial pass through the pack. Ending the Jam – a jam ends when the 2 minutes is up or when the Lead Jammer calls off the jam by touching their hips repeatedly; whichever comes first.

The team with the most points wins!


It took watching a few jams to see how this all really works. There were about 5 or 6 referee’s officiating, two were assigned to the lead jammers alone. The track is fairly small and flat with tight turns. The Junior’s were fairly entertaining – all arms and legs but with fearless aggression. The Adults seemed to have more “brute finesse”. All skaters had nicknames, my friend Shawna chose “Pip Streak” as she’s more petite than most the other skaters, others were The Earthquake, Moxie, Pretzel, Cupcake, 99 Problems. There’s an obvious culture with this sport that adds to the entertainment but these are committed athletes who practice and enjoy their sport.

Jeff Insel is a Volunteer Photo Guide with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes.