What is Roller Derby?

Roller Derby is a high-energy, contact team sport played on roller skates. It uniquely blends speed, strategy, and athleticism, and is renowned for its empowering and inclusive community. Originating in the United States during the Great Depression, roller derby has evolved from its spectacle-driven roots into a legitimate competitive sport with a strong international presence.

History and Evolution of Roller Derby


Roller derby began as an endurance race in the 1930s in the United States. It gradually evolved into a more contact-oriented sport, gaining popularity as a form of entertainment with theatrical elements and scripted outcomes.

Modern Roller Derby

In the early 2000s, modern roller derby experienced a revival, this time focusing more on athleticism and strategy rather than scripted entertainment. It has grown into a globally recognized sport, with leagues and teams established in many countries.

The Basics of Roller Derby


Roller derby is played on an oval track. Each team has five players on the track at a time: one jammer (the point scorer) and four blockers (including one pivot). The jammer scores points by lapping members of the opposing team.


The game is divided into short matchups called “jams,” which last up to two minutes. Jammers try to break through the pack, lap the track, and pass members of the opposing team on their second and subsequent passes to score points.


Blockers use body contact, positioning, and tactics to prevent the opposing jammer from passing while trying to assist their jammer through the pack. The pivot, a special kind of blocker, has the ability to become the jammer under certain conditions.

Equipment and Safety Gear


Quad roller skates are used, offering stability and maneuverability. Skates are equipped with four wheels in a two-by-two arrangement, a toe stop for quick starts and stops, and a boot that provides ankle support.

Protective Gear

Safety is paramount in roller derby. Players wear helmets, mouthguards, elbow pads, wrist guards, and knee pads. The physical nature of the sport makes this protective gear essential for preventing injuries.

Rules and Scoring

The Rule Set

The most widely used rule set for modern roller derby is maintained by the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA). These rules govern gameplay, scoring, penalties, and safety.

Scoring Points

Jammers score points for each opposing blocker they legally pass after their initial pass through the pack. Blockers, meanwhile, work to hinder the opposing jammer’s progress and assist their jammer in scoring.

Roller Derby Training and Skills

Physical Fitness

Roller derby athletes require a high level of physical fitness. Endurance, strength, and agility are crucial for both jammers and blockers to be effective during the jams.

Skating Skills

Proficiency in roller skating, including speed, stability, and agility, is fundamental. Players also learn specific skills like jumping, stopping quickly, and changing direction.

Strategy and Teamwork

Roller derby is a highly strategic sport. Teams develop complex strategies for offense and defense, and effective communication and teamwork are key to executing these strategies during a jam.

The Culture of Roller Derby

Inclusivity and Empowerment

Roller derby is well-known for its inclusive and empowering culture. It has been a pioneering sport in terms of gender inclusivity and promoting a positive body image.

Community and Identity

The roller derby community is tight-knit, with a strong emphasis on self-expression. Players often adopt derby names, which are unique monikers that reflect their alter-ego on the track.

Major Competitions and Leagues

Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA)

The WFTDA is the leading international governing body for women’s flat track roller derby. It organizes championships and sets the rules for member leagues.

Men’s and Junior Leagues

While historically dominated by women, roller derby has expanded to include men’s and junior leagues, with organizations like the Men’s Roller Derby Association (MRDA) overseeing these expansions.

The Future of Roller Derby

Growth and Recognition

Roller derby continues to grow in popularity, with leagues expanding globally. Efforts are ongoing to gain broader recognition for the sport, including potential inclusion in major multi-sport events.


Despite its growth, roller derby faces challenges such as securing adequate funding, finding suitable venues, and achieving broader media coverage.

In conclusion, roller derby stands out as a sport that defies conventional norms, offering a unique blend of athleticism, strategy, and community. It challenges its athletes physically while fostering an inclusive and empowering environment. As roller derby continues to evolve and expand its reach, it holds a special place in the world of sports, celebrated for its distinctive culture and the spirited community it nurtures.