What exactly is roller derby?

Roller derby is played on an oval track.  Players called “jammers” attempt to pass groups of players called “the pack.”  This involves somewhat simultaneous defense and offense, resulting in a great sport to watch.  Roller derby is a full contact sport played at a break-neck speed -- on wheels. Come by and see one of our bouts to see for yourself!

Aw, yeah! Like the Thunderbirds on TV?


Yes and no. Roller derby dates back to the 1930s, but the Roller Games of the 1960s through 1980s were "scripted sports entertainment." Modern roller derby is just as exciting to watch, but has a greater focus on strategy, teamwork, and sportsmanship instead of staged fights.  

Wait, So it's like "Whip It"?


Again, yes and no. "Whip It" is to roller derby what "The Big Lebowski" is to bowling -- the sport and its rules were not the focus of the film and the portrayal none too accurate. But hey, if Ellen Page got you interested in roller derby, it's all good!


Of course there are rules!  Each roller derby BOUT is comprised of two minute intervals called JAMS. Each jam starts with two teams with five players each – one JAMMER (the one with the star on her helmet) and four BLOCKERS (including one in a striped helmet who's called the PIVOT). The jammers try to exit the pack first and race ahead to pass the pack again, scoring a point for each opposing player passed. The team with the most points at the end of the game wins! 

Why don't you skate on a banked track?

Banked tracks are expensive and kind of immobile. Flat track roller derby allows leagues to set up on skating rinks, basketball courts, and parking lots without accumulating a ton of overhead expenses. Plus, there's just more leagues in flat track than banked! In fact, 98% of roller derby is played on the flat track!

Is roller derby violent?

Roller derby is a contact sport.  However, there are many rules as to where and how that contact can occur.  We wear protective padding and while the sport is exciting to watch, safety is a main concern.


Our bruises don't lie!

What is WFTDA?

The Women’s Flat Track Derby Association is the international governing body for the sport of women’s flat track roller derby and a membership organization for leagues to collaborate and network. WFTDA sets standards for rules and safety, and determines guidelines for the national and international athletic competitions of member leagues.


What's with the weird names?

Adopting a skater name is not required, but its an opportunity to create an alternative persona on the track or show off a side of your personality. League members are allowed to pick a unique skater name after a few months of intense training. Some say that you need to earn your derby name. Some others say you don't pick the name, the name chooses you. Others just pick a pun that makes them laugh. Check out some backstories behind skaters' names in our Skater of the Month blog!


No problem! You can email us at questions@sfvrollerderby.com and we'll get back to you with answers!