Lace Up: What is Roller Derby and How Can I Start?


Did you know that roller derby can get traced back to “skating marathons” in the 1930s? During the 1940s, it began to evolve into a competitive contact sport. Today, we have seen roller derby portrayed in Hollywood multiple times. 

If you live in roller skates and love extreme sports, you might fall in love with roller derby. However, if you’ve never heard of this competitive sport, you might have some questions. Like, what is roller derby? And, how do you get started? 

Keep reading to learn more about roller derby and how to lace up and hit the rink. 

What Is Roller Derby? 

Roller derby might just be your jam if you’re looking for speed and a full-contact sport combined. This fast-paced, full-contact sport gets played on quad roller skates. 

You race around an oval rink while players called “jammers” try to pass another group of players called “the pack.” This is where the defense and offense come in. When a jammer laps a member of the opposing team, they score a point. 

The objective is to score as many points as possible. However, it’s not as simple as it sounds; your “blockers” or defensive players can use physical force to keep the opposing team’s jammer from passing them. They can also use physical force to help clear a path for their jammer. 

How Do You Get Started in Roller Derby? 

Like any sport, you need some basic items and skills to get started in roller derby. If you think this might be the right sport for you, these are the basics you need to know. 

Buy Roller Skates and Gear

You need some basic gear before starting your quest to become a roller derby sports star. First, you need a pair of quad roller skates. Rollerblades or inline skates will not work for roller derby. 

Quad skates get used because they have a smaller wheelbase. The smaller wheelbase makes it less likely that skaters will trip on each other’s skates. They’re also more stable and easier to control. 

The skates you choose are essential, so do your research. If you’re not sure where to start, check out This site provides reviews of skates and skating tips that can help you on your path to roller derby stardom. 

You will also want protective gear. With roller derby being a full-contact sport, this isn’t gear you want to skip. 

The protective gear you need includes: 

  • Mouthguards
  • Elbow pads
  • Knee pads
  • Wrist guards
  • Helmet
  • Protective sports bra (for women) 
  • Groin guard (for men)

Hit the Rink

Before you try out, you need to be fast and solid on your roller skates. Take the time to practice skating at a local rink or in your neighborhood. 

In addition, there are some minimum skills you need before you can compete. Make sure you know what these skills are and spend time practicing them. 

Conditioning Is Key

Roller derby is an intensive sport. It’s important to build up endurance and strength on and off your skates. 

Do exercises that build up your leg strength, core, and stamina. Building your leg strength will help with speed, and building your core will help with balance. 

Learn Roller Derby Positions

There are 14 spots on a roller derby team. However, only five players are on the field at a time. Each player has a unique role, and you can identify their role by their helmet cover. 


The pivot makes the defensive calls for the team; they’re essentially the team captain. They start at the front of the team, and they’re the last line of defense to stop the opposing team’s jammer from escaping the pack. 

You will know who the pivot is because they wear a helmet cover with a stripe on it. 


Blockers will not have a helmet cover. They play offense and defense as needed. 

While they all have the same role, many teams will give them areas to focus on or “blocking positions” to help with strategy. 


At the start of the derby, the jammer will line up at the second starting line, and their cue to start is the second whistle. You’ll also know who the jammer is because they will wear a helmet cover with a star on it. 

Their job is to pass the other team’s blockers and get out of the pack as quickly as possible. The first jammer to escape the pack without any penalties gets a strategic advantage. 

At any time, they can stop the jam by placing their hands on their hips. 

Once the jammer laps the pack, they score one point for every blocker on the opposing team that they pass legally. 

Learn Roller Derby Rules

Roller derby might be a full-contact sport; however, rules still govern the type of contact and where. These rules help keep players safe. However, you’re still likely to be covered in bruises and scrapes when you play roller derby. 

Some things that constitute penalties in roller derby include: 

  • tripping
  • blocking above the shoulder
  • blocking a player when out of bounds
  • blocking with the arm below the elbow
  • charging from the rear

There are a lot of rules for roller derby, and if you want to play, it’s essential to learn them and know them well. 

Watch Roller Derby

While you might prefer to be on skates, watching roller derby gives you a unique advantage. You can see the techniques and strategies that different teams are using. 

When you’re ready to hit the rink, you’ll be able to incorporate the knowledge you gained from watching into your gameplay. 

Live Your Roller Derby Dreams

What is roller derby? Roller derby is a fun, full-contact, and fast-paced sport that you will love. If you’re ready to start playing, start by learning the basics and go from there. 

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