The lingo of derby can be a confusing and alienating barrier between those who are in, and those who are not. For the typical new skater or fan, simply trying to adjust to a new language can frighten them away from learning more about the great sport of roller derby. Which one is the skater, the person who asks: “Do you do the derby?” or the one who asks “Do you skate flat track?”
While this glossary is in no way complete, it is intended to give the beginning skater or fan a general knowledge of the language of roller derby. Like any language, there are regional dialects that could change the meaning of a drill name or technique (girls outside of H.A.R.D., for example, probably do not what a “Trucker Breaker” drill is). Use this as a guide, not as the strict rule set.
**I have added some extra terms in. I realized I had missed a fair bit the first time through. It is considerably longer than it maybe needs to be, but it is a more complete guide to terms and lingo.
25 in 5 – The drill or qualification of doing 25 laps around the flat track in under 5 minutes.
Bearings – They are those little circles on the inside of your wheels that make your wheels spin. Every couple of weeks they need to be cleaned and re-oiled so that you can go fast. You like going fast, right?
Bearing Press – A device used to SAFELY remove bearings from a wheel (usually with the intention to CLEAN THEM).
Bench Coach – The individual who is calling line-ups on the bench during a bout.
B.o.D.– Board of Directors. This is the body that governs a league. Each league has different roles, but some typical positions include President, Secretary, Marketing and Sponsorship.
Bout – AKA Competition. Boxing has matches, football has games, roller derby has bouts. Each bout is two thirty minute half made up of individual jams.
Blocker – A skater on the track that is not a jammer or pivot. They work as a team to play offense and defense simultaneously.
To Block– To hit competitors and to either stop the opposing team’s jammer, or help your own through the pack.
Bridge – When a blocker skates to the edge of proximity to create a “bridge” and extend the pack an extra 10 feet, so that the jammer can be hit for another 20 feet. See “proximity”. Or a zebra. This part of the rules gets tricky.
Canonballing– Weeee!! When a player uses a team mate as a projectile weapon to stop an opposing player.
Can Opener– AKA “pop up block”. A hit where a player dips, and “pops up” into an opposing player. Ideally, the target is just above the breast of the opposing player (the pocket below the collarbone and armpit)
Certification– A test of skating skills and rules knowledge to allow a player to earn roster qualification.
Challenge Bout– A thirty minute non-sanctioned bout.
Derby Deeds– A very popular derby podcast. Tune in for up to date debate and information on all things roller derby.
Derby Name – The name derby girls earn after their qualification time as a skater tot, and after they have passed their certifications (No, you do not get one after your first practice. Think of it as a rite of passage, so suck it up and do another lap.)
DerbySkinz– Tiny little hotpants that are often sparkly.
Disco– Verb. “To disco” is to improperly complete a 180 turn. It happens when a skater glides in a wide circle to complete their 180, instead of stepping through or completing a tight circle.
DNN– Derby News Network. A website that live streams bouts from all over the world.
Duck Walk – A type of start, usually for jammers. With toes pointed outward, the skater begins their run by pushing downward into the back wheels and pushing out. This is helpful for skaters who are not used to toe stops or have dance plugs.
Durometer– This references the hardness of your wheels. The durometer is just one piece of the “what wheels should I buy?” puzzle. As durometer goes up, so does the hardness of the plastic of the wheel. The slicker the floor, the softer the wheel desired. Think of a floor made of gummy bears. You wouldn’t want to skate on it on wheels made of gummy bears!
ECDX– East Coast Extravagana. The largest collection of WFTDA sanctioned games over one weekend in the world.
Edges – The edge of your wheels that can be used to redirect direction quickly. By balancing on edges, skaters can quickly redirect their motion into a slalom or a lateral.
Eggshells – A skating technique where you keep all 8 wheels on the floor as you propel yourself forward (legs go wide, legs come in small) Great to practice and teach plow stops and to work on the strength for crossovers.
Ejection – Bad skater. Go to your home. Ejections happen when a skater accrues seven trips to the box throughout the course of a bout, or if one very egregious penalty occurs. Any ref can call for an ejection, but only the head ref can actually eject someone.
FiveonFive Magazine– Every quarter, W.F.T.D.A. offers up delicious articles written by roller boys and girls worldwide. It’s extremely informative and relatable.
Fresh Meat – The term for a new skater.
Gaskets – Compression sleeves for your knees that fit comfortably under professional knee pads. BUY THEM AND SAVE YOUR KNEES.
Home Teams– Intraleague teams that rarely play teams outside of their own league. Ex. Philly Roller Girls’ Broad Street Butchers.
Initial Pass – The first pass of the jammers through the pack; no points are awarded on this pass.
A Jam– The period of time that a bout is divided into between the first whistle blow and the fourth whistle that whistles the jam over. The maximum period of time a jam can be is 2 minutes. A jam can be whistled dead at any time by the lead jammer.
To Jam – Verb. The action of a skater who is given the position of jammer and wears the star.
Jammer– Noun. The skater who is wearing the star and is attempting to earn lead jammer and score points for her team.
JRDA– Junior Roller Derby Association. The start-up governing body for junior derby leagues.
Jumping the Apex – When a skater uses their momentum to hop across the inside corner of the track, NEVER LANDING OUT OF BOUNDS.
Knee Down Start – When an entire team starts on one knee in order to create a “no pack” situation at the first whistle, which will immediately cause the jammers to be released.
Lanes– Lanes are the imaginary lines that split the track into 4 different ovals. Imagine the lines on a track and field track. Establishing lanes helps blockers to know their assignment and to carry out strategies.
Lead Jammer – Status awarded to the first jammer to complete their initial pass of the pack without any penalties awarded, and without having gone out of bounds before reaching the pack.
Major Penalty – A penalty committed that has a “major” effect on game play. Majors will result in one minute in the box. Contact your local zebra for a full list of major penalties.
Minor Penalty– A penalty committed that has had a “minor” effect on game play. When four minors have accumulated, one minute in the box must be sat by that skater.
MRDA – Men’s Roller Derby Association. First referred to as “merby”, Men’s Derby has seen a huge surge in participation since 2010. The MRDA was founded as the governing body of men’s leagues.
Minor Penalty – A penalty committed that has a “minor” effect on game play. Four minors accrued during a game results in one minute in the penalty box.
NOller Derby– The fan’s reactions to slow derby have created this hilarious term for the strategy. There was a jam at the 2011 Western Regionals that involved all blockers standing still for a complete 2 minute jam. Correct, that means no jam whistle, it means NOller derby.
NSO – Non-Skating Official. Without them we are nothing. These are positions held during a bout including (but not limited to): Penalty Tracker, Jam Timer, and Outside Whiteboard.
OSDA– Old School Derby Assocaition. Teams can be co-ed or play banked track. Usually if a team is not WFTDA, they are OSDA.
Pace Line – A practice drill where skaters are in a line and keep a steady pace (Yes, it’s that simple). Usually they attempt to stay an arm length apart, unless the drill or skill level require a larger spacing.
Pack – Where the “action of derby” takes place. The pack is defined as the greatest number of skaters from BOTH TEAMS on the track. Enter loopholes galore for the manipulation of game play.
Panties – Yes, they are worn over top of fishnets, but it is also the name of the helmet covers worn by the pivot (with the stripe) and the jammer (with the star).
Panty Slide– Also known as a baseball slide. Not commonly used, the panty slide involves a two knee fall where the skater then shifts their weight backwards onto their hip and elbow of one side (keeping the skate low!).
“Pass the Star” – This can only be done in proximity of the pack. The star panty can be taken off the jammer’s head ONLY by the jammer herself, and passed to the pivot, who then becomes the jammer. There are all kinds of rules, regulations and stipulations involved with this. If you want to know them.. Read your rule book.
Pivot – The skater in the pack who wears the stripe on her helmet. Her job includes pacing her team, communicating pack strategy and being the last line of defense to keep the opposing jammer in the pack. The moral of the story? Listen to your pivot.
Plow Stop – The most commonly used method of stopping in roller derby. It looks like the widest part of an eggshell, and can be used to stop jammers, control pack pace, and in general, get in someone’s way.
Poodle– The act of a blocker taking a fourth minor in order to clear her penalties. She starts behind the jammer (or where ever is closest to the penalty box “over” the pivot line), dances a little so the zebras see her, and then goes right to the box. Used usually when a jammer accrues three minors (this way a pack will be down one blocker instead of the team being down one jammer).
Proximity – Proximity to the pack is 10 feet. You can hit within 20 feet of the pack. Up to 10 feet, you are still a part of the pack. Enter more confusion about pack definition and how to use it.
RollerCon– The largest annual roller derby convention. Held in Las Vegas in the last weekend of July, some call it “the birthplace of WFTDA”. It consists of challenge bouts, sanctioned bouts, classes, derby weddings and the Black and Blue Ball.
Scrum– This is something new to derby. It is in reference to the cluster that happens in slow derby in front of the jammer line. All four blockers from both teams line up in front of the jammer line and create a very tight pack of blockers that the jammers have to fight through (lots of toe stops happening)
Self-Assist – When a skater uses another skater (on her own team) to propel herself through the pack quicker. Hips are preferable. Jerseys happen.
Skater Tot – A new skater. Also known as a “fresh meat”
Skate Tool – The best ones have several arms for different lug nut sizes as well as a bearing popper. They are a handheld tool for skate maintenance. (now clean your bearings)
Slalom – The act of cutting quickly across the track. One foot leads, as the skater drives her force into the back skate into the edges of her wheel to direct herself quickly either to the inside of the outside. Also useful for completing hip checks.
Team USA – The winners of derby’s first World Cup in Toronto in 2011. Captained by Joy Collision of Charm City Roller Girls, the team of all stars remains intact and will be playing internationally in the upcoming months.
Toe Stop Start– When a skater starts perched on her toe stops and runs on them, balanced on the front of the skate.
USARS– United States of America Roller Sports. USARS offers insurance for leagues that are not sanctioned by WFTDA.
Whip – When a blocker assists another skater. Most commonly (and most helpful) at the FRONT of the pack and whipping a JAMMER. Whips include, but are not limited to: outside, inside, leg, and waitress. See the YouTube for examples.
Widow – The significant other of a derby participant.
Wife – Skaters will often find someone who plays (usually within their own league) who they instantly connect with. Rollercon is one of the more popular places for derby girls to “marry”.
Winning the After-Party– Sometimes you may not win the bout, but you can still win the after-party. Montreal is infamous for being a crazy set of wicked great girls to drink with post-bout.
WFTDA – Women’s Flat Track Derby Association. The largest governing body of roller derby. (it’s like the NFL of derby)
“The WFTDA” – Another name for a flat track of specific proportions.
Zebra – A referee.
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