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Each roller derby team consists of 14 rostered skaters per game. At any time there are up to 5 skaters from each team in play, one jammer and four blockers. The blocker with the stripe on her helmet cover is the pivot. The pivot often servers as the leader of the blockers, and may, if necessary, switch positions with the jammer – this is somewhat rare, and is called “passing the star”. The blockers play both offense and defense. They want to help their jammer through the pack while keeping the other team’s jammer from passing. The pack is defined as the “largest cluster of blockers from both teams”. The jammer is the skater from each team wearing the star helmet cover. Jammers have two goals, to get lead jammer status and to score points.
A roller derby bout consists of two, thirty minute halves. Game play is broken into jams lasting a maximum of two minutes each. There are 30 seconds between each jam where players rotate and reset for the next jam. Each jam offers each team the opportunity to become the lead jammer. If the score is a tied at the end of the bout, it goes into a sudden death jam. The teams will skate a full 2-minute jam, with no lead jammer. Jammer accrue points on the first pass, and each subsequent pack pass. If the score remains tied, additional jams are played until the tie is broken.
Lead jammer is awarded to the first jammer to clear the pack by passing her opponents legally and in bounds. After breaking through the pack, jammers race around the track attempting to lap the pack of blockers. Every time they do, they score a point for every blocker that they pass legally and in bounds. They can also receive points for opponents who are in the penalty box (by passing one blocker on the track) and can also get a fifth point (on each pack pass) for lapping the opposing jammer (nicknamed a “gland slam”). It is important to remember that the goal is not just to score points but to score more points than the opposing jammer. This is why it is important to gain Lead Jammer status. The lead jammer can call off, or end the jam with a hand to hip motion. Understanding this will help you understand some of the strategy you might see on the track. It might be confusing to see the lead jammer call off the jam after only passing two opponents when she could easily have passed all four. This is often because the opposing jammer has moved into scoring position.
Referees will assign penalties. A penalty earns a skater a 30-second trip to the penalty box. A skater who racks up seven penalties in a game will be ejected. Each team can have a maximum of two blockers and one jammer in the box at a time. If the penalty box is full when a new player is sent to the box, she must wait until another player is released before serving her penalty. If the jam ends while a player is still serving time in the box, the time carries over to the next jam. If both jammers are sent to the penalty box, then the first jammer is released early when the opposing jammer arrives at the box and the second jammer is only required to serve the amount of time that the first jammer served. If both jammers arrive at the same time, then they each serve 10 seconds before being released.