Derby FAQ

About the Sport

Video by Devine Intervention

What is roller derby?
Roller derby is a full contact sport played by two teams of five players on quad roller-skates on an oval flat-track. Game play consists of a series of short matchups (“jams”) in which both teams designate a scoring player (the “jammer”) who gains points by lapping members of the opposing team. The non-scoring players (the “blockers”) attempt to assist their own jammer while hindering the opposing jammer — in effect playing both offense and defence simultaneously. Watch this Video: The Basics of Flat-Track Roller Derby on YouTube.

WFTDA has more information about flat track roller derby on their website.

Isn’t roller derby fake?
No, roller derby is a real sport with real contact. This is NOT pro-wrestling on skates. Our girls train hard to learn how to make effective contact within the rules of the game (no elbowing, back blocking, grabbing, tripping, etc.); our skaters learn to give AND to take hard hits. We follow the rules set forth by our governing body the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) and as a member league get voting rights when rule set changes are proposed. There is no pre-determined outcome nor staged antics or fake hits in modern flat-track roller derby.

Isn’t it just fighting on roller skates?
Definitely not! There are strict rules (check out the 40 page rule book at Legal blocks allow contact between players’ arms from shoulder to forearm, fronts’ from neck to waist, hips, and thighs. Blockers may also use their bodies to block other skaters. Illegal moves include grabbing, tripping, blocking from behind, elbows to the face and fighting.

Is there a derby season?
Due to the demanding nature of the sport, we practice all year round to maintain our fitness and skating skills. The roller derby public game season for Canadian teams typically runs somewhere between March and October. Our all-star teams travel to play games pretty much year round. The practice schedule changes frequently depending on location availability and the time of year.

Do all players score points?
No, only jammers can score points for their team. You can spot the jammer by the star she wears on her helmet. The other players are blockers and form the pack. They must help their jammer skate through the pack while trying to prevent the opposing jammer from doing the same. No points are scored during the initial pass through the pack because this is when the lead jammer is designated. Points are scored starting at the second pass through the pack. Each jammer scores one point whenever she legally passes an opposing blocker.

Why would the lead jammer want to stop the jam?
Being lead jammer means the player has a very important strategic control over the jam. The lead jammer will usually choose to stop the jam when she has scored points and the other jammer has scored none, or fewer, in order to finish the jam with more points than the opposing team.

What happens when both jammers are in the penalty box?
Scenario: Jammer A commits a major penalty and is issued a one-minute penalty. She goes to the penalty box. During this minute, jammer B also commits a major penalty and must also go to the penalty box. When jammer B sits in the box, jammer A can immediately go back on track, even if she hasn’t spent a full minute in the box. Jammer B will remain in the penalty box the same amount of time as jammer A, which will be less than a minute.

Is there a maximum number of penalties a player can receive during a match?
Yes. When a player receives their 7th major penalty, she is expelled from the match.

What is the pivot’s role?
The pivot wears a stripe on her helmet. She is the only player who can replace the jammer to score points on the track. In a move that is called a Star Pass: the jammer will pass her helmet cover to the pivot who must promptly put it on her helmet to score points. The status of a lead jammer is not transferred.

What happened to the raised track?
Virtually every modern roller derby team (with the exception of a few in the U.S.) play on a flat track – as opposed to the banked tracks of old. Purchasing a banked track requires huge financial investment and a space in which to house it. Flat track derby can be played on a variety of surfaces both indoors and outside, including wood, sport court, and smooth concrete. The accessibility of various flat track spaces allows leagues to remain independent and maintain their skater-owned and operated ethic. The game is also more athletic and physical on a flat track. Skaters must use their own physical strength to gain speed and momentum, rather than allowing the track to assist them.

Why are there so many referees during a match?
The pace is very quick, so we need a whole army of referees and officials. During a match, there are seven referees and 15 non-skating officials. All the tasks must be executed very quickly and simultaneously. Inside the track, officials watch the pack and the jammers, track the penalties and manage the official time. Outside the track, officials also watch the pack and the jammers, keep track of and display the score and manage the penalty box.


About becoming a Member of RVRG as a skater

What are the eligibility requirements for the Learn to Skate/Fresh Meat program at RVRG?
We accept men and women 18+ to our Fresh Meat program. Women graduates are invited to join us as a player, and while men are always welcome to participate as a coach or referee, our league is currently a women/female identified league for 18 years old and up. There is no age limit, we have skaters 18 – 47 years old currently active in our league and we have seen a few skaters play derby into their 50s.  If you are a man interested in playing Roller Derby you are welcome to complete the RVRG Fresh Meat program and then move on to the Ottawa Men’s team called Slaughter Squad at CCDD. If you are currently under 18 you can participate in the Ottawa Junior Roller Derby program.

What equipment do I need to get started?
Besides quad roller skates, you are required to wear a multiple impact helmet (hockey helmets are perfect), elbow and kneepads, and wrist guards at all times on skates. A mouth guard is required for most drills and scrimmaging. You may rent your skates and equipment for approx. 4 weeks, at which time you will be expected to have your own quad roller skates and equipment.

How much does the equipment cost?
Start-up costs can vary depending on the quality of the skates and equipment you purchase. For instance, skates range anywhere from $100 to upwards of $700. There are several great online resellers and dealers of quad roller skates and roller derby equipment listed in the “Required Gear and Equipment Resources” section of this package. Skate shops (like and offer fresh meat packages geared towards new skaters but bear in mind that it can take between 2 and 3 weeks for delivery and custom skates take anywhere from 6 to 10 weeks.

What happens at Fresh Meat practice?
At Fresh Meat practice you will learn the skills needed to pass the minimum skills requirement test used to assess your ability and safety level. By passing the minimum skills requirement test (“mins”), we can be confident that you’ll be able to enter full league practices with the skills you need to scrimmage safely. At the end of the fresh meat session, if you pass mins and have read and understand the latest version of the WFTDA rules, you will join our league as a Murder Doll, and we will register your derby name and number with the international roster. As a full league member you will be eligible to try out for a team during recruitment periods.

Do I have to know how to roller skate?
No. We will teach you how to roller skate. We all have members of all different skill levels, but, with lots of practice and hard work, almost anyone can become an awesome skater.

Do I have to be a certain size to play?
Absolutely not! On the track there are advantages to being big or small, short or tall. Our league has a variety of body types, as do most other leagues.

What if I get hurt?
We try to do everything possible (strength training, lots of practice and communication) to minimize injuries, but be prepared to get hurt occasionally. Sprains, strains, pulled muscles and fractures are just a part of a roller girl’s life. If you get injured it is important to report the injury to the Fresh Meat co-ordinators immediately. RVRG has secured insurance for its members and for the Fresh Meat. In order to take advantage of its benefits, prompt reporting is essential. Once a league member, injuries are reported to members of the insurance committee. With the exception of head injuries, it is at the discretion of the coaches and your captains to request a doctor’s note before you return to the track. Any injury to the head, however, requires clearance from a doctor. We try very hard to prevent skaters from further injuring themselves and others at practice. Please be honest with yourself and with your coaches if you are injured.

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