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Roller Derby Terminology

Added 18 Aug 2017 by GFORCE

What's a Power Jam? Who scores the points? And where's the Blocking Zone? Find out what wacky words are used when playing the wonderful game of Roller Derby...

Blocker – A skater whose job is to stop or block the other team’s jammer from passing while also enabling their own team’s jammer to score. Typically, there are four blockers per team on the track, including the pivot. The remaining blocker positions are often referred to by number: two, three, and four, usually with the pivot at the front and the four at the back.

Pivot – The blocker who stays to the front of the pack and regulates pack speed. The pivot also has the unique ability to, via a panty-swap, exchange places with the jammer. The pivot can be identified by the stripe on the helmet.

Panty– A stretchy helmet cover that is used to designate the jammer (with a star) or a pivot (with a stripe).

Jammer - The skater on the track who can score points. The jammer is identifiable by the star on her helmet. The jammer starts each jam behind the pack. After she has lapped the pack once (known as a nonscoring pass), she is eligible to score points for each subsequent skater she laps.

Blocking zone – A part of the body with which it is permissible to hit another skater. Blocking must be done to a legal target zone.  Legal blocking zones include the arms from the shoulder to above the elbow; the torso; the hips; the butt; and the mid- and upper thigh. Illegal blocking zones include elbows; forearms; hands; head; and any part of the leg below the mid-thigh.

Back block– A penalty that is incurred when a player makes contact with an opponent’s back, which is an illegal target zone.

Power jam– A situation wherein one team’s jammer has been sent to the penalty box, and thus only the team with a jammer on the track can score.

Penalty box– When skaters accumulate four minor penalties or one major, they must skate off the rink and spend time waiting here (1 minute per infraction) until they can return to play. The penalty box has 3 seats for each team, one of which is designated for the jammer. Thus, the most players than can be in the box at once from any one team is two blockers and one jammer.

Assist– A motion administered by one player to help another player (usually the jammer) gain advantage. An assist can include pushing, pulling, redirecting, or whipping another skater.

Whip– An assist technique wherein one skater uses another skater’s momentum to propel herself. For example, a jammer may grab a blocker’s arm, and the blocker will use her power and momentum to pull the jammer forward.

Pivot line– The starting line for the pack that is in front of the jammer line. Only the pivot is permitted to start on the pivot line; all other blockers must be lined up behind her hips. The pack may cross the pivot line once referee blows the first whistle to signal the start of the jam. If any skater crosses the line before the whistle, it is designated a false start.

Jam– A two-minute period during which the action happens. The jam may last less than two minutes if the lead jammer decides to call off the jam. There may be any number of jams in a bout.

Bout– One roller derby ‘game’ or ‘match,’ which lasts 60 minutes and, per WFTDA 4.0, is divided into two 30 minute periods.

Calling off the jam– The power of the lead jammer, who can end a jam at any time by tapping their hands against their hips. This strategy can help prevent the other team’s jammer from scoring points if the lead jammer loses the advantage.
Grand slam– When a jammer succeeds in lapping the opposing team’s jammer.

Hip whip– A form of assist in which a player (usually the jammer) grabs her teammate’s hips to swing themselves forward.

J-block– A powerful hit that employs an upward trajectory of the blocker’s body. The blocker stays low, and when they’re ready to hit, gets in front of their target, swoops their body low and then upward in a J-motion, and throws their shoulder into the target’s chest.

Whip– An assist technique wherein one skater uses another skater’s momentum to propel herself. For example, a jammer may grab a blocker’s arm, and the blocker will use her power and momentum to pull the jammer forward.

Penalty kill– When a team stalls or tries to slow down the action while waiting for a teammate (usually the jammer) to be released from the penalty box.

Recycling– When a set of two or more blockers rotate in a circular motion, sending one blocker after another to issue continuous hits to an opponent. This is also known as a waterfall.

Scoring pass– Any pass through the pack after the jammer‘s first pass (the nonscoring pass). At this time the jammer racks up points for each opponent she passes.

Snowplow– A technique for slowing down or stopping in which the stance is widened and the toes are turned inward to decrease momentum.

Wall– When two or more blockers skate side-by-side to create a multi-player block to contain another team’s player(s).

Zebra– A nickname for a referee.

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