Ummmm . . . so what the heck is a “Jam”??
Maybe you’ve been to a bout or two, perhaps you have a co-worker who’s a Dame, or better yet, maybe you yourself have just become a member of the league, yet you still find that you can hardly understand what in the world everyone at practice is saying during the scrimmage drill! Well, my friends, have no fear! We’ve got you covered. Here is a not-so-comprehensive, but oh-so-very-helpful explanation of some derby terms or phrases that may have you scratching your head.
So here it goes! When one makes the super awesome decision to begin their derby journey, you come in as “Fresh Meat.” This is a skater who’s learning basic skating techniques such as safe skating, proper stance, and proper ways to fall and recover quickly, as well as getting a general idea of how derby is played. After you’ve got the basics nailed down and you begin to feel more comfortable and stable as a skater, you’ll likely take the test to become a Level 1 skater. By this time, a lot of thought has probably gone into picking a proper “derby name.” A derby name is a name that the person feels best represents the persona or character that best represents their derby self. It is often a combination of puns, character traits, or even something just plain intimidating (i.e. Nacho Baby or Bashin Robbin). These unique names identify you as a skater on the track and allow you to cultivate a persona that you feel best represents your “derby you.”
So now you’ve been to a few practices. You’ve built a rapport with a few of your fellow teammates. Perhaps you feel comfortable enough now to take the plunge and find yourself a lovely “Derby Wife.” That’s right; if ya want a derby wife, put a ring on it! This term is actually gender-neutral. This is the person who you’ve gotten closest to, who helps you through the rough times, tells you when your pads are smelly and is willing to ride with you to the hospital if you get banged up during a bout, practice, or after party.
A Bout is a derby matched played between two opposing teams. Bouts are broken up into two 30-minute periods. Those 30-minute periods are broken up into “Jams.” Oh, the excitement of a well-executed jam! Jams are the “meat and potatoes” of the bout. A jam can last up to two minutes. That’s right: two minutes of action-packed, nail-biting, feet-stomping derby-rific goodness. Each team sends out one jammer and four blockers at the beginning of each jam. The blockers work together in both an offensive and defensive manner. On the one hand, a blocker wants to hold back the opposing team’s jammer, and on the other, they’d like to clear out the other blockers in order to make an open pathway for their jammer to get through. Since the jammer is the only one who can score points for the team or call off the jam before the opposing jammer begins to score points (if she is the “Lead Jammer”), its very important for the players to have good communication and intuitiveness with each other.
This is where the “Mama Hen” or the “Jammer Helper” becomes very important. The mama hen is a blocker who takes on the position of reminding the other blockers of proper positioning during game play, and also echos plays or strategies that the Bench Coach may have discussed prior to and during the bout. The jammer helper is the person who the jammer is relying on to assist them in making holes or clearing paths within the opposing wall of blockers so that they may pass.
Roller Derby can be very fast-paced and confusing to those new to the game. Thank goodness for the NSOs (Non Skating Officials) who keep track of the score, penalties, and official clocks. They, along with the referees, keep the game play as fair and safe as possible. Without them a bout would probably more resemble roller derby matches from the 70’s where you were lucky to get out alive!
If these basics have you nodding your head, excited to learn more, you can also check out some of our more advanced terms in Gretel von Metal’s Roller Derby A-B-Cs post from last June! To see these terms live and in-play (and then shout to your nearest friend “Look, the jammer is calling off the jam,” thereby impressing them with your extensive knowledge of derby terms), come on out to our last bout of 2014 on November 15th at Augusta Expoland!