This month, we thought it might be fun to come up with a glossary of derby terms that our friends and fans might be wondering about. These include both “official” words and phrases as well as some examples of derby slang (of which there is much!). This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it might just help you decode the strange words coming out of the mouth of the derby girl or guy in your life!
Bout: (n) A derby match played between two teams. Bouts consist of 2 30-minute periods. Each period consists of up-to-2 minute jams with a 30 second break between each. Jams may be ended early at the discretion of the lead Jammer. Each team has 3 1-minute time-outs per bout and officials may call as many official time-outs as necessary.
CDD and Rocktown lined up and ready to start the next Jam. Photo by Dan Purdy.
Jam: (n) Jam is the term used for the activity during a bout. Each team sends out 4 Blockers and a Jammer for each bout. The teams play until the Lead Jammer calls the jam off by tapping her hips with both hands or the jam ends after 2 minutes.
Jammer: (n) The designated point-scoring player. Each team fields one Jammer and four Blockers per jam. Jammers are distinguished from the other players by a panty worn on the helmet with a star on either side. Jammers must begin the jam behind the Jammer line. Once the whistle blows and they are released, Jammers make their way through the pack of blockers and complete laps around the track. After making an initial pass through the pack, Jammers will score for each opposing Blocker passed on subsequent laps.
Blocker: (n) All players who are not Jammer. Blockers must stay within the engagement zone to be able to engage with other players. Blockers usually work together to create both defensive strategies, such as holding back or knocking down an opposing Jammer, or offensive strategies, such as clearing opposing Blockers out of the way for their friendly Jammer.
Pivot: (n) A Blocker who is designated by wearing a helmet panty with a stripe of contrasting color down the center. The Pivot primarily plays according to the same rules as the other Blockers, but may assume the role of Jammer if the Jammer Panty is handed to her by the Jammer. When this occurs, there will be no Pivot and the Jammer will become a Blocker. The Pivot sometimes takes the role of captain or leader for the group of blockers in the jam, but does not necessarily have to.
Pack: (n) The pack is defined by the largest group of players within 10 feet of each other from both teams. The Jammer is not included in the pack definition. The definition of the pack is crucial to game play. Players may engage with each other within the pack and the surrounding engagement zone. A Jammer is declared Lead Jammer if she clears all opposing Blockers in the pack legally before the other Jammer does. A player who breaks up a pack by moving out of it, whether intentionally or not, has committed a Destruction-of-Pack penalty. When the pack is split, broken, or otherwise does not exist, no one on the track may block or hit another player.
Engagement zone: (n) The area 20 feet in front of or behind the pack. Players in this zone do not contribute to the definition of the pack, but may engage with other players within this area. If there is no pack there can be no engagement zone.
Where would we be without the zebras and NSOs? Photo by Dan Purdy.
Bench coach: (n) A team coach during a bout. The Bench Coach helps the team devise strategy and gives feedback. Works with Bench Manager to determine who will play. The Bench Coach may be a player in the league, but may not play in the bout. The Bench Coach may also be a Captain or Alternate/Co-Captain.
Bench Manager: (n) The person who makes line-ups for each jam and determines who should be on the track at any given time. The Bench Manager and the Bench Coach work together to manage the team during the bout.
Fresh Meat: (n) Players new to derby are called “Fresh Meat” until they pass an initial skating skills test. Fresh Meat attend special Fresh Meat practices where basic skating techniques and an overview of game play is taught.
Zebra: (n) An official, so-called because of the typical black and white striped shirts.
NSO: (n) Non-Skating Official. NSOs are part of the officiating team. They keep track of penalties, the score, and the official clocks. Without NSOs keeping track of these details the game simply could not happen.
Boom shakes the room in the Jammer Panty. Photo by Dan Purdy.
Panty: (n) A helmet cover used to differentiate the Jammer and the Pivot from the other players on the track. Panties are usually made of a stretchy material so that it may be easily secured to the helmet. A Pivot panty has a stripe of contrasting color down the center. A Jammer panty has a star of contrasting color on either side. Panties for each team must be easily distinguishable from each other.
WFTDA: (n) The Women’s Flat Track Derby Association. The Dames are proud to be a member of the WFTDA, which includes more than 1,000 leagues. The WFTDA produces official rules for play, certifies officials, sanctions bouts, ranks teams, and runs tournaments.
Flat track: (n) An oval track laid out on a flat surface for roller derby. The most typical type of track on which modern roller derby is played.
Banked track: (n) An oval track built up as a banked surface, where the outermost edge is higher than the innermost edge, typical of the classic derby era of the 30s through the 70s.
Truck and Trailer: (n) A block undertaken by two players together. One takes a position to the front and is the “truck.” The player behind grabs onto her hips and pivots out from side to side behind her as the “trailer.” This allows the trailer more power and stability in hitting. The truck and trailer may also cover more lateral space on the track this way, increasing their combined blocking ability.
AlMighty crISIS and Spank Puncherella use the Truck and Trailer to hold back DC’s Jammer. Photo by Dan Purdy.
Goat: (n) A term used by blockers to point out a skater from the opposing team who may be easy to hold back either because of their relative position on the track or skating ability. By holding back this player, or “goating” them, the blockers may be able to define the pack where they want it to be, therefore freeing up their Jammer by forcing the other opposing blockers into an out-of-play position.
Out of Play: (n) Being outside of the engagement zone. Hitting when out of play is a penalty.
Track Cut: (v) When players leave the track for any reason (hit out of bounds, fall out of bounds, etc.), they must return to the track behind any players who were parallel or ahead of them. If a player returns to the track ahead of a player who was ahead of or parallel to her when she went out, she has committed a Track Cut penalty.
Booty Block: (v) To block a player by getting in front of them and impeding their forward or lateral movement. So-named because the rear-end of the player is often crucial in executing this maneuver.
Stonewallup for the Booty Block! Photo by Dan Purdy
J-Block: (v) To block a player by getting slightly ahead of them in a crouch and then popping up into their chest with the shoulder.
Hammer and Nail: (n) A block executed by two players, wherein one player gets ahead of the opponent and either traps them or booty blocks them along a line, while a teammate hits the player out of bounds.
Passive defense: (n) Any defensive strategy that does not include actively blocking or hitting. A typical example is when blockers from one team linger at the back of a pack and allow the opposing blockers to move ahead and break the pack, thereby allowing their own Jammer to pass through unimpeded.
Juking: (v) Any quick movement to dodge or fake out an opposing player. Juking usually involves jumping, running, moving side-to-side or other quick movements, often on the toe stops.
Derby wife: (n) A term adopted by many in the derby community to designate their best derby-friend. See our earlier blog post about Derby Wives!
Derby Name: (n) A name a player adopts within the derby community. The practice of taking on derby names began with the derby revival in Austin Texas in 2001. These names, and in fact entire theatrical personas, were taken on the players to heighten the entertainment value. The tradition has continued to today for most teams. Players usually choose their own derby names, which often include puns, to represent an interest, a character trait, or to be intimidating.
9 month injury: (n) Derby slang for a pregnancy, indicating that just like any other injury, the player will be back after 9 months…right?
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