How to Play Roller Derby: A Beginner’s Guide

April 24, 2024

Roller derby, with its fierce athleticism and empowering spirit, has been captivating hearts and minds for decades. Originating in the 1930s, this full-contact sport has evolved into a dynamic and inclusive community that welcomes individuals of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds. If you're intrigued by the idea of strapping on some skates and joining the ranks of roller derby warriors, you're in for an exhilarating journey. In this beginner's guide, we'll break down the basics of how to play roller derby and help you get on your own derby adventure.


Step 1: Gear Up

Before you hit the track, you'll need to gear up with the right equipment to ensure your safety and performance. Here's what you'll need:

  1. Quad Skates
    Unlike inline skates, quad skates provide better stability and maneuverability, making them ideal for roller derby.
  2. Helmet
    Protect your noggin with a certified helmet designed for roller sports.
  3. Knee Pads, Elbow Pads, and Wrist Guards
    These are essential for cushioning against falls and impacts.
  4. Mouthguard
    Safeguard your teeth and jaw with a properly fitted mouthguard.
  5. Derby-specific Apparel
    Comfortable and breathable clothing that allows for unrestricted movement is key. Many skaters also wear colorful and personalized uniforms to express their team spirit.

Step 2: Learn the Basics of Roller Derby

Roller derby is played on an oval track, with two teams of five skaters each. The objective is simple: score points by having your designated scorer, known as the "jammer," lap members of the opposing team while navigating through blockers.

Here are some key terms to get you started:

  1. Jammer: The skater who scores points by lapping members of the opposing team.
  2. Blockers: Skaters who form the pack and work to impede the opposing jammer while assisting their own.
  3. Pivot: A designated blocker who sets the pace of the pack and can become the jammer if needed.
  4. Jam: The period during which points can be scored. Jams typically last up to two minutes.

Step 3: Master the Skills

Roller derby requires a combination of speed, agility, and strategy. Here are some fundamental skills you should focus on:

  • Skating Technique
    Practice basic skating skills such as strides, crossovers, and transitions to build speed and agility.
  • Stopping
    Learn different stopping techniques like the plow stop and T-stop to control your speed and come to a halt safely.
  • Blocking and Juking
    Work on blocking opponents effectively while also mastering juking, or quick directional changes, to evade blockers.
  • Pack Awareness
    Stay aware of your position within the pack and anticipate the movements of both teammates and opponents.

Step 4: Join a Roller Derby League

The best way to learn and improve in roller derby is by joining a local league or team. Most leagues offer beginner-friendly programs and training sessions where you can learn from experienced skaters and coaches. Don't be afraid to reach out and connect with your local roller derby community—they're often incredibly welcoming and supportive of newcomers.


Roller derby isn't just about playing a sport; it's like being part of a big, supportive family. Get into the spirit by backing up your teammates, challenging yourself to get better, and making everyone feel welcome and included, whether you're on the track or not.

So, what are you waiting for? Lace up those skates, strap on your gear, and unleash your inner warrior on the roller derby track. Whether you're in it for the competition, the camaraderie, or the sheer adrenaline rush, roller derby offers an experience like no other. Get ready to roll, block, and jam your way to victory!


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