To be honest I had no idea what to expect when I began writing this article about Roc City Roller Derby. I had only a vague understanding of the rules and the only exposure I had to the sport was clips I had found online. So when I arrived at the opener for the travel teams, the Roc Stars and the B-Sides, I was completely blown away. The air was electrified, the game play was fast, the stands were full and loud; and I was immediately sucked in.
Roc Star player, Asa Clubs, took me aside to explain the game to me. By the time she began rattling off the penalties and the various intricacies of the game my head was spinning; here are the basics for those who wish to attend a game:
Jammer: The speed skater who scores points by passing opponents while inbounds. The first Jammer to break through the pack the first time around is called the Lead Jammer. The Lead Jammer may call an end to a jam by putting her hands on her hips; this is normally done when she has scored as many points as possible and before the opposing Jammer is able to score more points.
Blocker: Blockers play a key role in game play; they act as key offensive and defensive players by blocking the opposing Jammer from getting through while helping their Jammer through the pack.
Pivot: Pivots are the lead blocker of the pack; they set the pace of the pack and are the last line of defense. They are also the team leaders responsible for calling out plays on a moments notice.
The game consists of a series of jams, which can last for up to two minutes; each jam starts the same basic way:
The whistle blows and the pack takes off, when the last blocker crosses the pivot line, the Jammers follow. Jammers work to get through the pack the first time to establish who “Lead Jammer” is. The Lead Jammer can call off the jam at anytime. On subsequent passes, jammers earn points for each opposing Blocker that they pass.
The Blockers during the game try to keep the opposing player from getting through while helping their Jammer around the rink. “Its offense and Defense at once, so there is a lot of strategy involved.” B-Side Captain Stonewheelz Stella explains “[The game] is extremely physical and mental; you can’t just go out, hit people, and expect to win.”
Roc City Roller Derby formed in February of 2008 and started playing for the public in 2009. For people who have never attended the game there is a misperception about the game. “[The general Public] either think its fake, everything is staged and the winner is already decided, like it’s not a real sport” Says Roc Star player Karma Lized “Or they think it is an outright brawl, like the whole thing is a bunch of fighting in fishnets”
One experience I had while at the game sums the whole experience up. I was met with the same response every time a roller girl found out this was my first game, a small smile and a simple response “So you’re hooked right?” I was and anyone else who attends a game will be to.