Tag: glossary

Roller Derby Glossary: D

Roller derby glossary: D

Getting to grips with roller derby vocabulary, one letter at a time.

Defence (or defense to our American friends) 

The primary job of the blockers, i.e. stopping the opposing jammer from getting past. You may even see the jammer doing defence as ‘fifth blocker’, on occasion. Check out some great examples of defence gif-ified over on You Should Be Watching More Roller Derby Footage. Also, here’s a neat article on defence strategy during a power jam.

Designated Alternate

From the WFTDA rule set:

“The Captain selects an additional person to act in their stead; this person is the Designated Alternate. The Designated Alternate may be a teammate, coach, or manager. They must be one of the 16 individuals described in Section 1.2.4. A team may only have one Designated Alternate.”


A designated alternate…

  • can signal  for a timeout
  • can conference with the Hed Referee during an Official Review
  • must visibly display an “A” on their clothing, uniform, or arm


‘Down’ has a specific meaning within the context of roller derby. From the WFTDA rule set:

“Skaters are considered down if they have fallen, been knocked to the ground, have either or both knees on the ground, or have both hands on the ground. After going down or falling, a Skater is considered down until the Skater is standing, stepping, and/or skating. Stationary standing Skaters are not considered down, nor are Skaters who are falling but have not yet met the above criteria.”


Downed Skaters…

  • cannot undertake a legal star pass
  • cannot engage, or be engaged
  • returning to the track are subject to Low Blocking penalties even on the first instance, even if the downed Skater has fallen small
  • may legally be assisted by a Skater who is stopped or counter-clockwise stepping/skating

Image credit: kinfung man, Flickr CC

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Roller Derby Glossary: C is for…

Roller derby glossary: c

Getting to grips with roller derby vocabulary, one letter at a time.

Calling off the Jam

Ending the jam before the full two minutes has expired, initiated by the lead jammer placing her hands on her hips repeatedly. However, it should be remembered that “the jam is not over until the Referee officially calls off the jam.” (2.4.7). Orla Skew has written a really useful blog post on this topic with advice for both skaters and refs. Key takeaway: make big gestures and be sure to tap your hips repeatedly!


The WFTDA defines the captain as:

The Skater identified to speak for the team.

But what does this entail? Well, officially, all this business:

  • In the event that there is a disagreement regarding a Referee’s call or scoring, only the Captains or their Designated Alternates may discuss the ruling with the Referees (8.2.10)
  • To take a timeout, the Captain or Designated Alternate will signal the Officials to request a timeout. Officials will signal for the clock to stop (1.7.2)
  • If a penalty is committed by a Non-Skater (e.g., by a team’s bench staff), the penalty will be assessed to the Captain, unless otherwise specified. If such an action is committed during a jam in which the Captain is not skating, the Captain will serve the penalty beginning in the following jam (6.1.4)
  •  If a single penalty is committed by a group of teammates, or if no one single Skater can be identified as most responsible (including penalties committed during a jam), the penalty will be assessed to the team’s Pivot unless otherwise specified. If there is not a Pivot, it will go to the Captain (6.1.5)
  • Captains are responsible for supplying medical personnel with their Skaters’ medical and/or emergency contact information as necessary (9.2.2.)
  • The team Captain must visibly display a “C” on their uniform or arm (3.7.2)
  • If the Captain must leave the game, they can transfer their status to a teammate.

Of course, that isn’t all there is to being a captain. For more on what being a captain means outside of the game rules, check out this article by Croydon’s Apocalex on what it means to be a captain in a competitive squad. 


The WFTDA defines a counter-block as:

Any motion/movement toward an oncoming block by the receiving Skater. Counter-blocking is blocking. (

One difference between blocking and counter blocking relates to out of play penalties:

5.10.3 – No Skater may initiate a block while out of play, or to a Skater who is out of play. It is, however, legal to counter-block in such a situation. (5.10.3)


When trying to think of a definition of crossovers the best I could come up with was “that thing we do with our feet that makes us skate real fast”, because I’m a doof. Using a crossover technique while skating around a track, with your right leg stepping over and your left leg pushing under, allows you to skate the diamond and achieve maximum speed. I’ve heard various resources say that they’re better described as ‘crossunders’ because most of the power in the move comes from your left, crossing-under, leg. I posted a roundup of really useful resources for nailing crossovers a little while back if you want to know more.

Cutting the track

Cutting the track is common penalty with its own section in the WFTDA rule book. In brief:

When out of bounds (which includes Straddling; see Section 10 – Glossary), Skaters must return to an in-bounds position without improving their relative position. Violations are considered Cutting the Track.

But of course, because this is roller derby, things aren’t that simple! There are various factors that will impact on whether a penalty is called in relation to track cutting. I highly recommend familiarising yourself with the relevant section of the rules (5.11). 

Image credit: Horla Harlan, Flickr CC

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Roller Derby Glossary: B is for…

Getting to grips with roller derby vocabulary, one letter at a time.


If you don’t know what a blocker is already, you haven’t been watching enough roller derby. But here’s the WFTDA definition anyway:

“The positional Skaters who form the pack. The Pivot Blocker is one of the four Blockers per team allowed in each jam.”

Sure, watching the jammer is exciting as they’re the ones racking up the points, but for me watching the blockers can be just as satisfying. There really is so much skill involved in being a good blocker, whether operating as part of a wall or solo, as illustrated here:

Blocking to the Back

Soon after you start watching or playing roller derby, you learn that ‘full contact’ does not mean ‘hitting free-for-all’. One place you can’t hit an opponent is in the back. This is, rather fittingly, known as a back block. The WFTDA defines blocking to the back as:

“Any contact to the back of the torso, buttocks, or legs of an opponent. It is not considered Blocking to the Back if the Blocker is positioned behind the opponent (as demarcated by the hips) but makes contact to a legal target zone.”

Blocking to the back incurs a penalty when the contact “forces the receiving opposing skater out of their established position.” Blocking to the back can lead to an expulsion, if the action is deemed to be “a conscious and forceful attempt to block an opponent in the back egregiously, whether or not the action was successful.” The referee hand signal for a back block looks like this: “Arms are initially forward and bent at a 90-degree angle. They are then extended forward until straight out in front of the body.”

Blocking Zones

As well as places that a player can be hit (more about that when we get to ‘T is for… Target Zones’), there are:

“Areas of the body that may be used to hit an opponent when performing a block.”

Here’s a handy diagram of where the blocking zones are:

roller derby blocking zones

And that’s it for B! Did I missed anything? 

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Roller Derby Glossary: A is for…

Getting to grips with roller derby vocabulary, one letter at a time.

Apex Jump

A successfully pulled-off apex jump is a Beautiful Thing to watch.  The WFTDA rules glossary defines an apex jump as –

An attempt to legally shorten the distance travelled around the curve of the track by leaping over the track boundary and landing back in bounds.

– which just doesn’t seem to do this skilled move justice. Here are a couple of short videos which better illustrate this crowd-pleasing jump…


The WFTDA rules define an assist as:

Physically affecting a teammate. Examples include, but are not limited to, a push or a whip.

Like a lot of people, the first time I ever heard of roller derby was through the film Whip It. Although I now know that actual derby play is pretty damn far away from what’s portrayed in the movie, and that game-play itself has largely evolved past the use of whips, they are still a minimum skills requirement. Whips and pushes come up section 4 of the minimum skills, ‘Pack Skills and Interactions’. A skater  ‘must demonstrate the ability to perform the following skills legally, safely, and without losing balance, stumbling, or falling, while skating at a moderate pace’:

  • Give and receive an arm whip (inside whip and outside whip);
  • Take and provide hip, belt and clothing whips (my coaches couldn’t remember the last time they’d seen someone wearing a belt in roller derby, but there you go);
  • Give and receive a push.

DerbyDiva.com has created some nice little videos demonstrating how to do arm whips, hip whips and pushes:

Edit 11/10/15

Saw a lovely clothing assist in this Gotham Girls vs Angel City bout, so thought I’d make a little GIF and add it to this post:

roller derby clothing assist

And here’s an arm whip in London vs Victoria:

Arm whip London vs Victoria WFTDA

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