July 20, 2012. Roller Derby is theatrical but it’s not just for fun, not just pigtailed girls on wheels, not just a show… It is a sport. For athletes. Roller Derby is theatrical because the game is packed with rules that make it that way. There are opportunities for strategic passes and sneaky blocks at every bend in the track. It’s what converts the loyal fans – that and maybe that derby is a female, contact sport where fishnets are part of the uniform.
In a roller derby bout, five members of each team play at a time—four blockers and one jammer. The jammer, whose helmet has a star on it, tries to skate through the pack of blockers, and then scores one point for each opponent passed in the two-minute window after the initial pass through the pack.
The blockers try to protect their jammer, the only one who can score points, while simultaneously trying to knock down the opponent’s jammer. Blockers are on offense and defense at the same time. Five or more referees are on the rink during each bout, and a bout typically lasts for two hours.
Here are some examples of derby moves that keep the fans coming back:
- Passing the Star: A jammer is marked by a star on her helmet cover. The pivot blocker is a blocker with a stripe on her helmet cover. The jammer may “pass the star” to the pivot — meaning, she’ll hand her starred helmet cover to the pivot, then the pivot becomes the scoring jammer. A jammer might pass the star because the pivot is in a better position to score or because of fatigue, injury or risk of penalty.
- Western Style: A new “Western Style” strategy has been developed in which a blocker who bumps the opposing jammer off the track skates backwards, forcing the jammer to re-enter further behind the pack. If a skater is bumped out of bounds, she can’t re-enter at an advantage – meaning she can’t re-enter in front of who bumped her.
- The Whip: A blocker or pivot grabs her jammer’s hand and flings her forward for speed and momentum.
- Walling Up: A basic “wall” consists of two blockers working together to take up as much width of the track as possible to make it difficult for the opposing team to maneuver. A wall can inhibit, slow down and ultimately trap the opposing jammer.
- Goating: The pack is defined as the largest group of in bounds blockers, skating in proximity, containing members from both teams. Skaters must maintain the pack. In the ‘goat herding’ tactic, one team surrounds a blocker of the opposing team, and then slows so that that group becomes the pack. The opposing team, skating ahead, are thus put out of play and thus cannot legally block the goatherders’ jammer.
- The Diamond: A similar tactic, wherein four blockers form a diamond, surrounding the opposing jammer to prevent her from getting through the pack.
- Slow Start When a team’s jammer is in the penalty box at the start of a jam, her team might try a slow start because the other team’s jammer can’t enter the jam until the last blocker passes the pivot line (basically the start line). A slow start delays the other team’s jammer.
About the Team
The Appalachian Rollergirls are an 18+ all-female skater-run flat track roller derby league based in Boone, North Carolina. Their mission is to encourage female athleticism, empowerment and community awareness through activities, events and charity involvement.
The league was founded in March, 2010 by an ASU student making a post on Facebook. Thanks to Facebook and a local businesswoman, over 80 women showed up at Skateworld to check out the revival of roller derby. ARG has since attracted more than 20 very committed women from around the high country. Their coach is a former speed skater who volunteers his time to make sure the rollergirls stay in the best shape.
Don’t miss it. The next ARG home bout is Saturday, August 4th at the George M. Holmes Convocation Center at 7 p.m.
ARG will take on the Carolina Bootleggers from Raleigh. ARG is anticipating this bout to be one of the hardest and most difficult on their 2012 schedule.
Tickets are available in advance online at www.theholmescenter.com and at local retail locations: Black Cat Burrito, Boone Drug at Deerfield and Lucky Penny. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Brady Bakken Family. Brady is a fifth grader at Valle Crucis Elementary school who has been diagnosed with Stage 4 Burkitt’s Lymphoma.
For more information, visit www.appalachianrollergirls.com.