FAQ

All your basic information about the Rose City Rollers. Click the topic to read more. Lots more resources are available at bouts to help explain the game, including talking to our skaters who are happy to answer your questions–look for the “Ask Me About Derby” girls at the next bout!

What are the teams?

Rose City Rollers is a league that consists of 4 home teams, 2 travel teams and a junior derby team (Rosebuds).  Home teams include the Break Neck Betties, Guns N Rollers, Heartless Heathers and the High Rollers.  Our travel teams are made up of all stars from the home teams: the Axles of Annihilation and our nationally ranked “A” team, the Wheels of Justice. We also have an expansion team, the Gorge Roller Girls, out of Hood River in the Columbia River Gorge.

What other teams do the Rose City Rollers play?

Home teams play head-to-head with other home teams. The Axles of Annihilation take on competition from across the Northwest. The Wheels of Justice compete in the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA), and take on the best teams from across the country. Once in a while, we’ll throw in a few surprises to keep our fans on their toes.

How much do games cost?

Currently admission to games (also known as bouts) costs $14-$20 per person. Find out more on the Tickets page. Season passes are available, pro-rated as the season goes on so they’re always a good deal.

Where can I go see a game?

We currently hold bouts at the Memorial Coliseum and The Hangar at Oaks Park. Maps and directions are available on the Locations page. Check out our Events page for upcoming bouts.

Can I join a team?

We have tryouts every few months for our Fresh Meat training program. Check the tryouts page for further updates on the exact dates.

If you have skates and gear, you can play derby with our Wreckers recreational team! It’s a great place to get started on derby skills if you’re thinking about trying out.

Rose City Rollers play women’s flat track roller derby. Competitive league players and Wreckers must be over 18 years old. Teenagers should check out the Rosebud program. Men interested in playing derby should contact Portland Men’s Roller Derby.

How is modern-day roller derby different than when it started?

Roller derby used to be somewhat scripted. Now all of the games and our plays are real. We follow the WFTDA rules developed for skater safety and competitive sports play. Elbow jabbing, for example, now gets a skater sent to the penalty box. The Rose City Rollers have no professional players. Skaters spend countless hours practicing and training, as well as working volunteer jobs to keep the league running.

How is the game played? Are there rules?

Basics:
The pack starts four blockers from each team in the “pack” behind the pivot starting line.  One  jammer from each team lines up at the jammer start line behind the pack.

At the first whistle, the pack takes off.  When the pack passes the pivot start line, a double whistle blast sends the jammers to start fighting their way through the pack.  The first jammer through the pack without fouling any opposing players is called the “lead jammer” for that jam.

After the initial pass through, jammers receive one point for each member of the opposing team they pass.  Jammers don’t need to be the “lead jammer” to score points.  Each jam lasts a maximum of two minutes, but the “lead jammer” has the right end the jam at her discretion by placing her hands on her hips.

If you’re new to derby, keep an eye on your favorite team’s jammer.  Then, watch the blockers to see how they help or hinder her.

Rules:
Flat track roller derby has very specific, standard sporting rules. We follow the most recent version of the WFTDA rules.  Have questions?  Ask a roller girl.  We tend to be pretty friendly off the track.

For those who don’t want a 30-page technical explanation, here’s a real simple video explanation:

How is the winner determined?

Whoever has the most points at the end of the last jam wins. The last jam occurs when the game clock reaches zero. Tie scores at broken by a final over time jam.

For bout outcome records, check our Statistics and Standings page.

What are the positions? Who is the girl with the star on her head?

Roller derby has 3 player “positions.”

Pivot: Sets the pace for the pack and is the last line of defense.  Wears a helmet cover with a stripe. Can become the Jammer through passing the star. Otherwise just another blocker.

Blocker: Plays offense and defense at the same time.  Tries to stop the opposing team’s Jammer, and knocks around the opposing team’s blockers to help her own Jammer.

Jammer: Scores points by passing members of the opposing team. Wears a helmet cover with stars. Only the Jammers score points.

What are the penalties? What’s that referee whistling and waving about?

Some of the most common penalties include use of elbows, blocking another skater in the back, and passing out of bounds (cutting the track).

What do these words mean? What’s a Bout? What’s a Jam? What’s a Pivot?

This lexicon is intended to be a primer for new fans explaining the basic concepts of the game and the terms you’ll hear referring to our sport and gameplay. This is not a complete list of derby technical terms or rules. Terminology and definitions based on WFTDA ruleset published December 2009. Definitions influenced by the WFTDA rulebook glossary and Silicon Valley Roller Girls derby glossary.

Bout – A roller derby “game” or “match” which lasts 60 minutes and is divided into two 30 minute periods. In this case, bout is describing “a contest or fight” and has been used similarly for Boxing matches in sports history. Two teams compete head to head in every bout. Sometimes we’ll use terms like Mini-Bout or Scrimmage Bout to describe derby matches played with non-traditional rules like shorter periods/half length or non-ranked, just-for-fun matches. Occasionally we’ll call a double-header or mini tournament by the singular term Bout- such as our Season Opener Bout and Season Championship Bout; both of which are traditionally double headers or a scramble tournament.

Jam – The two-minute window of time during which the action happens and points are scored; a two minute race between teams to score points. This is similar to a down in American Football. A Bout is made up of a series of jams. There’s no limit to the number of jams in a bout; because some jams will last a shorter amount of time (see Calling Off the Jam). Periods and bouts are measured in fixed time rather than number of jams. There is a 30 second time period between each jam to allow skaters to line up for the next jam. Both teams are playing offense and defense simultaneously in every jam. Points may be accrued continuously throughout the jam; there is no rest period or turn over of possession after scoring points or completing a Scoring Pass.

Points/Scoring – Points are scored by each team’s Jammer. The jammer scores a point for every opponent she passes (or laps) on the track during a Scoring Pass. Because each team fields 4 blockers, a jammer has the opportunity to score 4 points by passing the opposing team’s blockers, and may be awarded an extra Lap Point for lapping the opposing team’s jammer. Points are not awarded when a jammer passes an opponent illegally.

Jammer – The skaters on the track who can score points; each team has one jammer in every jam. The jammer is identifiable by the star on her helmet cover. Jammers are the only skaters allowed to skate around the track at her own pace outside the Pack. The jammer starts each jam behind the pack and begins skating on a double whistle blast. A jammer in the penalty box will be released if the opposing jammer is sent to the penalty box; in this method there is always a jammer in play and able to score points.

Lead Jammer – The first jammer to emerge from the pack without incurring penalties is designated by the referee as the lead jammer. Only one jammer can be lead jammer. She has the advantage of being able to Call Off the Jam when she wishes; a strategically important advantage used to prevent the other team from scoring points or letting the clock run out. The lead jammer is indicated upon attaining lead jammer status with a double whistle blast and referee’s arms held in an “L” shape with right hand always pointing at the jammer. The lead jammer ceases to be lead jammer/loses lead jammer status if she is sent to the Penalty Box or removes her helmet cover (jammer cap/star cap) for any reason.

Blocker – The skaters who attempt to stop or block the opposing team’s jammer from passing while also enabling their own team’s jammer to pass and score points. Each team fields four blockers per jam (including the Pivot). Blockers begin skating on the first whistle blast of the jam. Blockers must skate within the pack and may only engage opposing players and assist teammates while in the pack.

Pivot – The pivot is a Blocker who starts the Jam at the front of the pack. Each team may field one pivot per jam and each pivot it indicated with a stripe on her helmet cover (pivot cap). Pivots play the same role as every other blocker. A pivot is the only blocker who may become a Jammer during the Jam by Passing the Star.

Pack – The mass of blockers from both teams skating around the track together. Each jammer’s goal is to get through or around the pack. Blockers can only engage other players when they are in the pack. Blockers on the track 20 feet in front of or behind the pack are not part of the pack; neither are blockers who are out of bounds (see Track).

Track – The oval-shaped surface demarcated by an inner and outer boundary wherein the action takes place. Skaters who are not positioned between the track boundaries are considered Out of Bounds and may not engage other players until they return to the track. Skaters may move freely on and off the track (in bounds/out of bounds) and often will involuntarily after being hit, but may be penalized for improperly re-entering play (see Cutting the Track penalty).

Lap – Verb: to make one full pass through the pack; Noun: one full pass through the pack. Note that this may take more than just one trip around the length of the track because the Pack is not stationary. May also be used to describe the length of the track (e.g., from jammer line to jammer line).

Scoring Pass – After a jammer makes her way through the Pack in a jam, every time she laps and approaches the pack she will begin a scoring pass. A jammer’s first pass through the pack is non-scoring and she will receive no points. Her second and subsequent passes through the pack are scoring passes. Points are only scored during a scoring pass. Jammers may make scoring passes simultaneously and independently of one another.

Power Jam/Jamming Unopposed – When one jammer is sent to the penalty box the remaining (opposing) jammer is said to be on a Power Jam or is Jamming Unopposed. In this scenario the jammer on the track has the advantage of controlling the pace of play and garnering the full offensive attention of her blocker team. Power Jam is an unofficial but widely used term. The play scenario and effect on the game is similar to that of a Power Play in other sports, but only occurs when a jammer is sent to the penalty box.

Lap Point/Extra Point – If one Jammer completely laps the opposing Jammer, she will score an additional point each time she fully laps her. The same rules for scoring points on opposing blockers apply.

Grand Slam – When a jammer scores 5 points in a single scoring pass- the maximum available in a single scoring pass. This is similar to the Baseball Grand Slam but results in 5 points earned rather than 4. Grand Slams only possible in Power Jam and Lap Point scenarios. Due to the impact of minor penalties on scoring, a Power Jam or lapping the opposing jammer will not always result in a Grand Slam.

Ghost Point/Box Point – Point(s) awarded the jammer for opposing blockers/jammer in the penalty box. Because the opposing players cannot be physically passed on the track, the jammer is awarded these points as soon as she passes any opposing player who is in play and scores her first point of the scoring pass. Subsequently a jammer may pass one opponent and score up to 4 points if two opposing blockers and the opposing jammer are in the penalty box at the time. Ghost point is an unofficial term describing a scenario where a jammer is scoring points on skaters who are not physically present.

Calling Off the Jam – A jam ends naturally after two minutes but may be ended prematurely by a Lead Jammer choosing to call off the jam. A lead jammer may at any time place her hands on her hips to signal that she wants to end the jam. The referees signal the end of the jam with 4 whistle blasts (the same signal is used for end of jam due to lead jammer call off, natural end of jam, and end of jam due to interference or injury). This strategy can help prevent the other team’s jammer from scoring points if the lead jammer loses the advantage.

Assist – A skater providing a boost of speed or force to a teammate. Assists happen in the form of pushes (both forward and lateral) and whips (linked arm sling). Energy is transferred from one skater to another in order to propel the assisted skater. Assists are utilized to propel a skater through the pack quickly or into an opponent with additional force.

Pass the Star – A jammer may remove her helmet cover (star cap) and hand it off to her team’s pivot. Once the pivot has placed the star cap over her own pivot cap she assumes the role of jammer for the team and may begin accruing points as the jammer. The original jammer becomes a blocker. Only the original jammer and designated pivot may assume the roll of jammer in this manner. Lead jammer status is non-transferable to the pivot jammer and is relinquished as soon as the lead jammer initiates the star pass by removing her helmet cover. Passing the star allows a teammate with fewer penalties or more energy to complete the jam and continue to attempt to accrue points on behalf of her team.

Block – Any motion, engagement of an opponent, or position that attempts to impede the progress or motion of an opponent. Blocking is used to stop/slow down the opposing jammer or neutralize opposing blockers by keeping them from competing their objectives. Any form of hitting, body checking, slowing, or skating to impede may be considered a block. Common blocking technique includes knocking an opponent down or out of bounds in order to impede their progress.

Penalty – A rule-breaking offense observed and called by a referee. Penalties are awarded to an individual skater and each skater’s own penalties are tracked individually. See common penalties.

Minor Penalty – An offense against the rules with minor consequence. Skaters accrue minor penalties as they commit the offense but will not be sent to the penalty box until they’ve received the 4th infraction. The 4 infractions may be any combination of minor penalties. Penalty box time is served for every 4th infraction as they build through the game (4th, 8th, 12th, etc.).

Major Penalty – An offense against the rules which impacts the game or another skater severely. A skater committing a major penalty will immediately serve her time in the penalty box.

Penalty Box – A set of seats (chairs or bench) adjacent to the playing track where skaters server their penalty time. All penalty trips to the box (awarded for major penalty or 4 minor penalties) require the skater to spend 1 minute in the penalty box. Only two blockers of a team may serve penalty time at once so a team will always have 2 blockers in play. Jammers may serve penalty time regardless of the number of blockers in the box so a team may have a maximum of 3 skaters in the penalty box at one time (2 blockers, 1 jammer). If a jammer is sent to the penalty box while the opposing jammer is already in the box, the first jammer in the box is allowed to return to play and the second penalized jammer will serve the same amount of penalty time as the first had- in this manner there is only one jammer in the penalty box at any time and play can resume with a jammer poised to score points.

Common Penalties
- Back Blocking/Pushing – Any contact to an opponent’s back which causes the opponent to fall or lose position in the pack.
- Low Block/Tripping – Contacting an opponent at the knee or lower. This may happen actively when engaging an opponent in an improperly placed hit or passively by impeding an opponent with your body in a way that causes her to trip or fall. A skater who falls to the ground but fails to keep her arms and legs from tripping others may commit this offense.
- Cutting the Track – Passing a player or number of players when position outside the track boundary (out of bounds). This is an illegal pass or illegal attempt to better the skating position in the pack.

Related and Recommended Reading:

Check out the WFTDA’s Roller Derby 101 page and their FAQ.