Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Would you like some toast with that JAM?!

Tripsy Rose Lee is back with another post. Last time she shared her personal derby experience with you. Today, she writes to explain more about how the game is played. Read on to learn some of the rules and find out what position on the track might suit you best.

Starting out in roller derby gives you the opportunity to experience all positions in order to find your place in 'the pack'. I wanted to take some time here to analyze the difference in positions from both a technical standpoint as well as a personality/characteristic point of view. For those of you unaware of the type of positions in derby, I will break it down for you a bit. A derby bout is broken up into two 30-minute periods. These periods consist of smaller segments, referred to as 'jams'. Each jam may last up to 2 minutes at a time. During a jam, each team will have up to four blockers and one jammer out at a time (mind you, less if there are any players in the penalty box). Each blocker is assigned to a position, whether it be pivot, inside, outside, or back. I will analyze these particular positions a bit more in depth later on.

First off, you may be asking yourself.. What does it mean to be a 'jammer'? And furthermore, what does it taketo be a 'jammer'? A jammer can be identified on the rink by her helmet 'panty'. A helmet 'panty' is a spandex cover placed over the player's helmet. The jammer will be wearing a star on each side of her head. So now that you know how to identify a jammer, I will discuss the attributes a jammer may have. From a technical standpoint, a jammer should be fast. The reason being is that a jammer is the only player during a jam that can score points. Points are accumulated when a jammer passes through the pack, however, no points are scored the first time through. Jamming requires speed, endurance, stealth, and the ability to think and react quickly and efficiently. As a jammer, you need to get from point A to point B in the quickest way imaginable. Having said that, you have the obstacle of moving your body through a pack of blockers. Blockers from the opposing team are trying their damnedest to prohibit you from attaining your goal and blockers from your own team are there to assist you. With that being said, I want to mention the personality traits that jammers tend to have. First and foremost, I feel it is necessary to be trustworthy. You are depending on your teammates to 'have your back'. They are there to clear a path for you, help you through, and knock over any bitch that gets in your way!! Jammers also tend to be adventurous, strong-willed, and passionate. I have played as a jammer a few times and I can't elaborate the rush of it all. When I have jammed, I felt like nothing else mattered. I had a goal in mind and every other thought in my head disappeared. I would love to be an all-star jammer, like C-Roll or Amaretto Sourpuss, for example. But I have a long way to go to build up my endurance and speed!!

So, as I said earlier.. when starting out in derby, it is normal to play and practice all positions in order to get a feel for the overall game. So, I have played as a jammer and a blocker as well; two very different types of positions. From a technical standpoint, blockers are normally strong players with good aim, balance, and the ability to multi-task. It is vital to be able to multi-task as a blocker because you are required to know where all players are at all times. You must be able to differentiate between whether to play offense or defense. If your jammer needs assistance traversing the pack, you are on offense. If your jammer is through and the other jammer is attempting to break through, it is a defensive game. It is also vital to communicate well with your teammates. I have found that as a blocker, eye contact and conversation can go a very, very long way as far as derby goes. At times you will need to devise strategic plans on the fly, be able to fill in when your friend gets knocked out (aka waterfall), and be overall 'badass'. I find that blockers are generally more aggressive players; tough, resilient, and strong.

Under the general umbrella of 'blocker' as a position.. I can break it down a bit further for you. As previously mentioned, there are up to four blockers out at a time. The first blocker on the line will most likely be the pivot. She will be distinguished by a designated helmet 'panty' with broad stripe going from the front to back of the helmet. The pivot is generally responsible for controlling the pack, or more specifically, the speed of the pack. The pivot should be in tune with all players as well as, and especially, with the captain or coach of their team. It is pertinent to keep your eyes open for directions from the bench... speed it up or slow it down is generally where it's at for the pivot! The inside blocker will most likely be working with the pivot and is responsible for holding the inside line. Many jammers look to take the inside line to get through the pack, as it is the shortest distance to their goal. A good inside blocker will prevent the opposing team's jammer from getting through. The remaining two positions are outside blocker and back blocker, which may work together. As an outside blocker, I feel you need to be a bit fast and a bit aggressive. Back blockers can either work with the outside blocker defensively or assist their own team's jammer offensively. Now, I have vaguely generalized each blocker position, however, specific responsibilities for each position will be dependent on strategic plays.

Whether blocking or jamming, if you are playing roller derby... you are pretty stellar. If you are an observer of the sport, I hope this blog post has served you well and given you a bit of insight on what it means to be a roller girl or guy. There is an unimaginable amount of skill and compassion comprising every single position on that rink at a time, during each and every jam and during every single bout! Learn it, love it, and get your ass on a pair of skates!!


Captain Morgan said...

Hey Tripsy! Great right up! I also just wanted to clarify....in our league we call blockers positions pivot, inside, outside and back, but in other leagues, girls or guys might call positions 1,2,3 and 4 or pivot, 1, 2 and 3.....Leagues differ nationally, so it can be confusing...Having only jammed but a few times in my bouting career, I can definetely tell you jammers need speed :) However their is also different types of jamming...for instance in those few times I did jam, I simpply blocked my own way through the pack with the help of whips from my blockers.....but thanks Tripsy I really hope this helps our fans understand the game more!

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