Anatomy of a Jam Or; “could You Please Tell Me What Just Happened Out There?”

One thing that always happens while I’m at a bout is someone will eventually ask me “why are they doing that” or “what happened there” or even “what in the world is happening?” Roller derby is an extremely fast paced sport with constantly changing situations. So to the newer eyes in the sport, what’s happening out there can often be confusing. Heck, it’s often confusing to those of us who watch, play, coach and ref it sometimes!

But there are also a lot of nuances within the game that, once you’re able to recognize them, can make what’s happening out there on the track a lot easier to follow and understand. Just like the way baseball is more than one guy throwing a ball towards another guy who is trying to hit it, football is more than guys just running into each other, basketball is more than 3-pointers and slam dunks and hockey is more than skating around hitting people and occasionally getting into fights, there is more to roller derby than women skating around in circles slamming and crashing into each other.

Over the last year or so, I’ve come up with this theory that any single roller derby jam can be broken down into 9 parts. Of course there are a couple of those basic 9 parts that may or may not happen due to circumstances on the track. But within each of those 9 parts, there are probably hundreds of different scenarios that can play themselves out. I’m not even going to attempt to go through every single possible scenario in each of those 9 parts in this article. I mean, I could go over 1000 different things and come bout night we would witness thing number 1001 that we didn’t go over. But what I will do is guide you through each one of these 9 parts of mine and perhaps give (especially) the casual fans and maybe even people into the game itself on several different levels (skaters, coaches, refs, die-hard fans, etc) some extra insight as to what exactly is unfolding out there on the flat (or even banked) oval.

Part 1: Pre-Jam.

Okay, maybe it’s not officially part of the jam. But there is a lot going on out there that a lot of people may not be aware of. Mainly these things have to do with analyzing who is and isn’t out there on the track and figuring out what their basic plan of attack and counter-attack will be during this jam.

The first thing a team usually looks for is to see if there are any players in the penalty box area. If there is, then they would be well advised to check and see if any of the players are standing up in the penalty area or if they are seated. If she’s standing, then there isn’t much time left on her penalty and whatever power jam or shorthanded strategies they may have will be short lived. Also, it’s important to know which position is sitting over in the sin bin. If it’s a jammer, then a team will probably be planning on going into either all-out offensive or defensive mode (depending on which teams jammer is serving the time). If it’s a blocker, then the questions are who are they and how many are there? If a teams star blocker is in the pokey, this is an excellent chance to go into offensive mode so your jammer can get out and on a scoring pass with a lot more ease than normal. If the blocker in the box is more of a role player, then the more defensive minded teams can probably go along with a strategy that’s a little more normal for them and not make any major adjustments. Only one opponent in the box means maybe a little more offense, but still pay attention to the details of defense. Two blockers in the box can free up a pair of blockers to focus only on defense while two more blockers can zero-in on the remaining two opponents out there on the track, neutralize those blockers as best they can and get their jammer out and on her way towards a scoring pass. Also, realizing which team has the upper hand personel wise before a jam can determine whether one team is going to drag the time out between the pack whistle and the jammers whistle as long as they can in order to kill the penalty time and which strategy the other team will use in order to counter those tactics.

It’s also important for a team to see who exactly it is that they’re currently playing against. When it comes to the blockers, you may want to single out the best opposing blocker and do everything you can to neutralize her. Maybe if there isn’t anyone out there blocking that sends shivers up your spine, your full attention can be turned to defense if you have the confidence that your jammer can slice her way through the opposing blockers on the track. You may also know that a certain opponent has a tendancy to take a certain type of penalty and skaters will plan on trying to coax her into taking one of those fouls so she can earn herself a trip to the penalty box.

And speaking of penalties, a quick check (usually) just behind the jammers line to see if there are any players lined up there is usually a good idea, too. Those players (unless they are crazy and don’t know their current whereabouts) are there illegally on an intentional basis. Some call it “poodling” while others call it being a “cougar.” What those players are doing lining up away from the rest of the pack like that is earning their 4th minor penalty so they can go to the penalty box almost immediately after the first whistle blows so they can serve their minute as soon as possible and re-enter play with a clean slate of minor penalties on the board. This is one of many risk/reward tactics that teams can use during a jam. But it’s important for the skaters on both teams to know that there is another skater out there, she will be back on the track in about a minute and she should definitely be accounted for.

Just like a quarterback scanning the defense he is up against as he is walking up behind his center before the ball is snapped, some simple reading of the other team before the first whistle blows to start the jam can go a long way in determining the success or failure of the jam for your team.

Part 2: First Whistle (aka the Pack Whistle)

Once the first whistle blows to begin the jam, strategies start to take their early shape. Teams that focus on defense first generally start to “wall-up” together in an attempt to create a barricade to hold the opposing jammer within the pack. Some teams like to claim the front of the pack. The biggest advantage to claiming the front of the pack comes when that teams jammer is able to break away from the opposing blockers and exit the pack without much more resistance. But the potential downside to owning the front of the pack is that when the opposing jammer starts to look like she is about to break free and begin her scoring run, the blockers have a tendancy to chase that jammer and run the risk of not only picking up out of play penalties, but also make it harder for them to drop back into the pack to help their own jammer get out and on her scoring run.

And there are other teams that prefer to set up their walls at the rear of the pack. One advantage to playing the rear of the pack is that if the opposing jammer gets around your wall, you still perhaps have an extra second or so to catch up with her and corral her since she usually still has to make an extra move or two in order to pass everyone at the front of the pack. It also makes it slightly easier to help aid your jammer navigate her way through the pack to get on her scoring run if the opposing jammer makes it through the pack first since there isn’t any slowing down to re-enter the pack from the front and can attack coming up from behind. And the disadvantages include having to play catch-up to a fast jammer that just broke through your wall first and also potentially setting up the possibility of one of your blockers getting trapped to become the “goat” later on in the jam.

Now, if a team is more offensive minded, this first stage of the jam will see that team starting to take out opposing skaters one-by-one by either simply putting their bodies on their opponents and leaning on them or trying to get them to hit the floor via the big hit. Offensive teams also don’t generally wall-up from left to right across the track. You can usually find an offensive team in a line formation from the front of the pack on back. They will align themselves either on the inside line to position themselves to push the other team to the outside of the track or somewhere near the middle of the track so they can push the opposing team towards the inside of the track. Either position is meant to create an open path to make their jammers life easier on her way towards a scoring pass. Of course, the positive to this strategy is that it increases the odds of not only your jammer getting through the pack quickly, but also helping her gain that coveted lead jammer status. And the negative is that playing an offense first strategy also increases the odds of the opposing teams jammer accomplishing what you wanted your jammer to do.

There are also the many, many scenarios that can happen when a team is shorthanded on the track thanks to one of their teammates being stuck in the penalty box.

Generally speaking, if team “A” has a player (or two, or three) in the penalty box at the start of the jam, they are going to attempt to lengthen the time between the first whistle and the second whistle out as long as they can in order to kill time so they can get back to full strength as soon as possible. The most conventional way of doing this is what’s called a “dragrace.” The idea is that after the first whistle blows, the shorthanded team takes their sweet time approaching the pivot line (this is the “drag” part of dragrace). Basically, the tactic consists of team “B” taking off like normal with team “A” skating towards the line one skater at a time. Team “A” will try to stretch themselves out just enough to both stay in play while also delaying the second whistle from being blown. Then once either the last blocker on team “A” has crossed the pivot line or the refs have determined that the remaining blockers from team “A” are out of play, the second whistle will blow. Then after the second whistle blows, the trailing skaters from team “A” will take a few fast steps forward in order to rejoin the pack or even make the pack take off at a higher rate of speed than normal in order to stretch the time out a little more to help get back to full strength with a minimal amount of damage on the scoreboard (this is the “race” part of dragrace).

But there are also counter-strategies to these tactics. One that used to be popular (and is still employed by some teams out there) was the opposite of the dragrace – the “racedrag.” The idea is that after the first whistle blows, the team on the powerjam takes off like a shot from the pivot line to either create a “no pack” situation or to force their opponents to take off faster than they want to (the “race” part). Then after the second whistle blows, they hit the brakes and recreate the pack which is hopefully moving rather slowly at that point (the “drag” portion of this strategy).

But the newest (and seemingly most popular) strategy involves the entire team on the track simply taking a knee before the first whistle even blows. The idea is that when a skater isn’t standing upright, she is considered “out of play.” So with an entire team taking a knee, there are no skaters with that team considered “in play” so the second whistle automatically blows since, technically, there is no pack at the time. And the fun part is that the team that takes the knee isn’t charged with a penalty for destroying the pack since, technically (a word that’s used a lot in the sport since people are always looking for technicalities to take advantage of), there was no pack in the first place. Of course the upside to this strategy (or counter-strategy) is that it gets the jam moving a lot sooner, thus giving team “B” a chance to post more points with all that newly earned time on their hands. But the downside to the strategy is that with an entire team on their knees to begin the jam, they can be exposed to big hits and trapping strategies a lot easier during the time they are on their knees until they can all get up and start moving.

The time between the first whistle and second whistle can vary. Sometimes it’s only a second, and there has been at least one time which there never was a second whistle thanks to everyone not passing the pivot line at the start of the jam. But usually it only lasts a couple seconds at most. Still, within those couple seconds there are all sorts of things taking shape that not only effect the now, but can effect the outcome of the entire jam.

Part 3: Second Whistle (aka the Jammers Whistle)

So, the entire pack has crossed the pivot line (or a “no pack” situation was called). This is when the jammers whistle is blown. It’s now time for the jammers to begin their approach to the rear of the pack during their initial pass.

Within the pack, those strategies that began to take shape after the first whistle blew should be close to taking complete shape. Walls should be set up for defense, players should be making contact and forming their lines for offense. If someone is out of position at this point, she now has to really hurry up in order to get where she has to be in order to be effective. She’s not doomed to failure yet, but she is definitely behind schedule and has to make up for lost time.

As for the jammers, once they get going their first order of business is to read the pack and try to make an initial map of their course through the pack. Of course roller derby is a sport with constantly changing conditions, so chances are what the jammer first reads and what she will eventually run into will be two completely different situations. Still, she is looking for any potential soft spots in the opposing teams defense and/or to see which players on her team are in the best position to make a block that could help her out during her journey through the pack. Compared to later stages of the jam, the initial pass is usually the most organized.

Different jammers have different approaches to the rear of the pack. Some jammers want to pick up as much speed as they can get, enter the pack and get through as fast as possible. The reward to this is the jammer has the first crack at earning lead status and get on her scoring run first. However, the risk as that she doesn’t have as much time to make adjustments to the changing game conditions and is more prone to picking up both minor and major penalties.

Other jammers will take a stutter-step or two to let the opposing jammer get in front of her so she can read and react to whatever changes the pack goes through when that jammer enters before making her decisions as to how she will navigate the pack herself. The risks and rewards are exactly the opposite of the jammer who plows head-first into the pack; the patient jammer risks not getting out of the pack and on her scoring run first along with dwindling chances of earning the coveted lead jammer status. However, with giving herself a little extra time to make decisions as opportunites open up in front of her, the odds of picking up a minor or major penalty are decreased quite a bit.

When it comes to a shorthanded or time killing situation, sometimes you will see the jammer in the shorthanded situations turn into a blocker of sorts during this period of time. She will scoot out in front of the opposing jammer and hit the brakes, thus giving her opponent less time to enter the pack and potentially go on a scoring run. The reward of this, as I stated, is that it gives her team a little more time to get their skaters back out on the track and into a regular strength situation. However, the risk involved is that the jammer is now making herself a little more prone to picking up similar penalties that her blockers may get during the course of a jam.

With the pre jam preperations and the two whistles being blown, strategies begin to take shape. Now it’s on to the meat of the action…

Part 4: Jammers Enter the Pack

It’s now time to see if all the strategies and counter strategies are working.

If both teams are playing a defense first strategy, both walls should be solid by now. The team at the rear of the pack will obviously allow their jammer to get by easily on her journey to the opposing wall at the front of the pack. Once that happens, it’s time to see which wall is better built with the parts on the track.

If one of the teams is playing with an offense first mentality, they should have most (if not all) of the opposing blockers seperated and on the same side of the track together (to the inside or outside of the track). If this has happened, the offensive team should be driving the other team to one side or the other, thus opening the lane for their jammer to get out of the pack and on her scoring run.

For the players who still find themselves out of position (either by force or by a bad choice or two), at this point they should be doing everything they can in order to make a difference within the pack. If they can catch up with their wall or line and take their place in it, they should be doing that ASAP. If they are really woefully out of position, an out of position blocker can still make a difference by simply taking the first opposing skaters body and distracting her from her duties.

If a team has the numbers advantage in the pack (meaning the other team is shorthanded), this is also when you might see the team at full strength (or with better numbers) try to trap an opposing blocker at the rear of the pack and slow things down as much as they can in order for their jammer to pass by a lot easier. It’s rare that you see this during the initial pass when both teams have their jammers eligible on the track, but it’s slightly more common when a jammer is sitting in the penalty box serving her time.

If a team is shorthanded, generally they try to get themselves to the front of the pack and skate as fast as possible without creating a “no pack” situation. This strategy forces the opposing jammer to spend more time trying to escape the pack and begin her scoring run. To counter this, you will see the opposing team either slow down to create a “no pack” situation (which could result in a penalty) or try to keep up with the team keeping the fast pace and play a physical game in an attempt to draw a skater from the shorthanded team in behind them, then slowing down as much as they can while watching the rest of the opposing team skate away, thus eventually making themselves ineligable to legally do anything since they are considered “out of play” once they are 20 feet or more away from the rest of the pack. Once that situation has been created, the jammer can easily pass the opposing skaters who are out of play and start making her way along her scoring run path.

Part 5: First Jammer Leaves the Pack

The biggest question once the first jammer escapes the pack after her initial pass is whether she has lead jammer status or not. Obviously, teams prefer it when she does. But just getting your jammer out of the pack and on her scoring run first is very important.

If she doesn’t have lead jammer, then she can’t call the jam off. So she’ll be going either the full two minutes or until the other jammer (if she has lead status) calls it off. We’ll just get this little part out of the way.

If she does have lead jammer, then the decisions as to what to do with that status begin.

If the other jammer is still stuck in the pack, then the jammer with lead status should definitely keep going and not have any plans to call the jam off anytime soon (unless it’s a relatively close game and her team is down with the game clock running down. Then she will make one scoring pass and call it off so her team can have enough time to get one more jam underway before the game clock hits 0:00).

If the opposing jammer is in the penalty box, then the skater with lead jammer status should definitely keep going (unless the same late game scenario as stated above is happening).

If the clock has hit 0:00 in the second half and the jammer on the team with the lead has lead jammer status, she will usually call the jam (and thus the game) off and skate into the locker room with a victory.

Meanwhile, back in the pack, at least one teams strategy should be changing quite drastically at this point. With the other teams jammer out on a scoring run, it is now extremely important that the team with their jammer still in the pack gets their jammer out of there as soon as possible in order to counter any points that are scored or even force the jammer with lead status to call the jam off before she can score any points. Not only is getting your jammer out of the pack during the initial pass the best way (only way, really) to score points in a bout, it’s also often an excellent point preventer since the opposing team usually will think twice before getting point scoring greedy and call the jam off.

The team with their jammer out on a scoring run first is usually doing a pretty good job of containing the opposing jammer. And this isn’t going to change anytime soon if it’s up to them. They will usually keep on playing the same defense that has been preventing the opposing jammer from getting out of the pack in the first place.

So that means it’s up to the team with their jammer still in the pack to turn from a defensive strategy (if that’s what they were employing in the first place) over to a more offensive strategy. Time is slim since the opposing jammer is hustling her way around the track and will be re-entering the pack soon. So the strategical mindset has to change in a hurry. They might try to form an offensive line to squeeze the opposing blockers to one side of the track or the other. But this takes a lot of time to set up, so at this point in the jam it’s rarely used. Instead, chances are you will see the blockers getting offensive by turning the pack game into a series of one-on-one matchups, isolating the blockers and creating small holes for their jammer to advance through.

Now, if the other jammer isn’t on the track, then the team with their jammer out and on her scoring pass will usually attempt to find an opposing blocker and trap her in behind them in order to slow the pack down as much as possible. Since the pack is defined (in so many words) as the group of the greatest number of skaters on both teams together, the idea is to force the rest of the opponents to skate away from the pack in the front and trap (some call the trapped skater a “goat”, others call it “icing” as in isolating the other player) one opponent and prevent her from escaping the pickle she finds herself in. Once this happens, the jammer can practically score at will since (if the trap is set up correctly) the isolated blocker is unable to stop the jammer while the rest of the blockers up front are, more than likely, out of play (at least on the first scoring pass of this happening). The team on the powerjam will continue to keep the pack as slow…if not at a complete stop…for as long as possible in order to maximize the amount of points they can score during this jam.

The drama of this jam has just picked up quite a bit. With one jammer out on a scoring run and the other jammer still desperately trying to escape the pack, this is a period of time that could determine whether or not a team rolls-up a huge double-digit scoring jam or maybe comes away with only a couple of points.

Part 6: Second Jammer Leaves the Pack

Of course, for one reason or another, this doesn’t always happen. Sometimes it’s due to the defensive dominance of one team within the pack that’s preventing the second jammer from ever leaving. Other times it’s because the jammer finds herself in the penalty box and doesn’t have a chance at leaving the pack for her scoring run. So this is the first of three parts of all this that doesn’t always happen.

Just like when the first jammer leaves the pack, the question becomes if the second jammer has lead status or not. If the first jammer to leave the pack has lead status, then it’s a pretty simple strategy for the second jammer – hustle your butt around the track as quickly as possible in order to either counter whatever points might be scored or to force the opposing jammer with lead status to call the jam off before she really wants to, hence preventing points from being posted on the board against your team.

Now, if the second jammer who leaves the pack does wind up gaining the lead jammer status, all of a sudden her and her teams earlier failures have turned into a mighty advantage. Most of the time…especially when the opposing jammer is well-out in front of everyone else…the second jammer will simply call the jam off in order to prevent her team from being scored on (or being scored on any more, if that’s the situation). Sometimes (especially if her team has the lead) the second jammer out of the pack who has lead status will wait for a bit to call the jam off just before the opposing jammer enters the rear of the pack for her scoring pass. This is a time killing strategy. But if a team is on the low end of the scoreboard, the smarter jammers will call the jam off immediately after earning lead status in order to save time. Especially in a close game, every second can count at the end of the game.

Meanwhile, back in the pack, other things are beginning to take shape. Sometimes teams will attempt to gather themselves back into a wall again (especially if it’s the other teams jammer who is out in front on her scoring run and will get around to the rear of the pack first). Other teams will start setting up a more offensive pack strategy (especially if it’s their jammer who is out in front and will be entering the pack for her scoring run first). With both jammers out on a scoring run and one of them has lead jammer status, chances are this will be a low scoring jam (unless penalties to both jammers are involved and neither winds up with lead status once all of that is sorted out).

If both jammers are out on their scoring pass, the jostling for position and strategical advantages are usually pretty much the same as parts 2 and 3 of this article. The only difference is that points are about to be scored or prevented. Which, as with any game, is a pretty important part of the story being told as to who will eventually win the game at hand.

Part 7: The First Jammer Enters the Pack For Her Scoring Run

It’s now time to put some damage on the scoreboard by earning some points.

Again…to get it out of the way…if the jammer doesn’t have lead status, she’s going to keep on going until the jam is over.

If the first jammer to enter the pack for her scoring run does have lead jammer, then she has several different options to choose from that center around what the other teams jammers status is.

If the other teams jammer either still hasn’t left the pack during her initial pass or is currently sitting in the pokey serving out a penalty, usually the jammer with lead status will make at least a full scoring run before calling the jam off (if she even does call it off).

If the other teams jammer is out on her scoring run but is well behind the rest of the pack, the lead jammer will probably try to make a full scoring pass through the pack before calling it off. However, if she gets stuck behind a blocker (or a wall of opposing blockers), is forced out of bounds by an opponent, gets knocked down by an opponent or in any way runs into some sort of difficulty while on her trek through the pack, she will probably call the jam off with whatever points she may have scored. Doing this will also prevent the other teams jammer from posting any points of her own. Perhaps picking up only 1-3 points during a scoring pass might be disappointing at the time. But if it turns out to be a close game, those 1-3 points (along with the points prevented by not allowing the other teams jammer to score any) could be all the difference between a win and a loss.

Within the pack, the strategies that both teams were attempting to put into place before the first jammer comes around for her scoring pass should be in place by now. Usually you like to see the blockers for that first jammer go into offensive mode in order to help their team post as many points in as little time as possible. Of course, this doesn’t always happen for one reason or another. The main reason is those blockers are still busy holding onto the other jammer to make sure she doesn’t escape the pack and begin a scoring pass of her own. Other teams are so defensive minded that they rarely…if ever…attempt to help their own jammer out while on her odyssey through the pack.

As for the blockers who are responsible for either limiting or preventing the first points of the jam from being scored…you hope that they are all in good position to make a play either individually or with a teammate or two. Having your wall located at the rear of the pack is the preferred location at this point. Being at the rear of the pack, not only do you have a clear look at the opposing jammer coming up behind you, you also still have that small buffer of time to catch up with the opposing jammer once she gets past you, yet still has to navigate her way through her team and whichever of your teammates are ahead at the front of the pack. So even if she does get past you, you still have a sliver of time to make up for it and perhaps corral her back into the pack (even if you’ve already been scored on).

If your jammer is in the penalty box, then the preferred place you want to be during the other teams scoring pass is at the front of the pack. Just like in the other scenarios listed above, the team that is about to be scored on has to speed up the pack a little more than normal to make it harder for the other teams jammer (not to mention her blockers) to score. And you definitely don’t want to be the “goat” or get “iced” at this point. Once that happens, the other teams jammer will not only be scoring points at an alarming rate, your other blockers will be far more prone to taking penalties (mainly out of play penalties, but also being exposed to many others taken out of desperation) as they scramble to make up for your current lack of production on the track.

But even if the opposing jammer gets through the pack, if she doesn’t have lead status or is just plain greedy, the pack with the trailing jammer still has yet another job to do; get their jammers points as easily as they possibly can.

Part 8: The Second Jammer Enters the Pack For Her Scoring Pass

Again, for varying reasons, this doesn’t always happen. Sometimes the second jammer never makes it out of the pack. Perhaps she did make it out of the pack, but the jam was called off by the lead jammer before she had a chance to score. Or maybe even the second jammer is feeling even more shame now since she is sitting helplessly over in the sin bin watching her opposing jammer rack-up points. So just like “Part 6″, this part doesn’t always happen.

If the second jammer doesn’t have lead status, she’s just going to keep on going until the jam is over at this point. She is already behind, so she might as well go all-out when cutting through the pack – especially if the other jammer has lead status. Although at the same time, she has to do it with caution since the last thing she wants to do is commit a silly error that leads to her being waved off to the penalty box. At that point, her team will be in a lot more trouble than they already are.

Basically, if the second jammer enters the pack for a scoring pass and doesn’t have lead status, she is trying to post a score equal or even better than the opposing jammer. If the second jammer to enter the pack has lead jammer status, it’s extremely important to call the jam off after picking up some easy points make extra sure the opposing jammer doesn’t score any more points than she already has. Especially if the first jammer made it through the pack and collected all 4 points she was eligible for. You’ve already played with fire once, so there is no need to get burned again. But at the same time, the second jammer (if she has lead status) must also be very careful if she runs into trouble within the pack. Afterall, the first jammer to leave the pack is probably steaming around the track and is mere moments away from picking up even more points for the opposition. So even though scoring points is still job #1 at this point, sometimes it’s best to cut things short, head back to the bench to lick your wounds and go try to get ‘em again next jam.

As for the pack, this varies greatly in situation to situation. If the first jammer is still in the pack, the second jammers team has to make a decision as to whether or not to keep on fully concentrating on the other teams jammer or maybe have a blocker split-off from the defensive mode and switch into offensive mode and act as kind of a fullback for her jammer by helping clear a path in an attempt to pick up points quicker and easier. If the first jammer has left the pack, then the second jammers blockers should definitely switch into an all-out offensive mode. Again, the first jammer is wheeling around the track at a high rate of speed and will be back to post more points soon. So the faster both this transition takes place and the second jammer gets through the pack, the better.

On the other side, if the first jammer is still in the pack, then her blockers also have to make the opposite decision; do they keep on going in a more offensive mode or do they begin to wall-up and switch to a more defensive strategy? One thing is for sure, though – if the first jammer has left the pack and is chugging around the track in an attempt to make a second scoring pass, then they better flip the switch to the defensive position in order to hold the second jammer not only within the pack, but to also keep her scoring to a minimum with the hopes that their jammer will be able to maximize her point scoring on her second pass.

Part 9: The First Jammer Leaves the Pack After Her Scoring Pass

When both jammers are in the pack, this could be either jammer. Just because you were the first one to enter the pack for a scoring run doesn’t always mean you’ll be the first jammer to complete the scoring pass.

If the jammer who leaves the pack first after her scoring pass doesn’t have lead status, she just keeps going until the jam ends. Again, just getting this scenario out of the way.

If the jammer who leaves the pack first has lead jammer status, then she has some decisions to make…..

If the opposing jammer still hasn’t left the pack on her initial pass and isn’t on a scoring run, chances are the lead jammer who just completed her scoring pass will continue on in an attempt to make yet another scoring pass. Points in roller derby come in bunches. So if you don’t take advantage of your opportunities to post as many as you can in any given jam, you’re acting foolishly (unless you just scored the winning points in the final jam of the game. Then you would be a fool if you continued along the path of another scoring pass).

If the opposing jammer is sitting in the penalty box, then the lead jammer who just finished her scoring pass will definitely continue on for the reasons stated in the paragraph above.

If the opposing jammer is on her way towards the rear of the pack and is about to score some points, then the lead jammer who just finished her scoring pass will probably call the jam off. Those points you earned were probably tough to come by. There is no need to let your greed get the best of you in your attempt to post more on the board. Take those 4 points, stick them in your pocket and continue on to the next jam.

If the opposing jammer is still in the middle of the pack on her scoring pass, the lead jammer who just finished her scoring pass will probably call it off. Again, you just earned some points and your blockers are still fighting to keep more points off the board. If you just took that jam 4-2, be happy with it and take a rest on the bench for a couple minutes.

As for the pack…they’re basically faced with the same decisions as in part 5 of this series. The team that just had their jammer leave the pack after her scoring run should switch into full defensive mode in order to prevent the opposing jammer from scoring any points or picking up even more than she already has. And the blockers for the jammer who is still stuck in the pack should probably kick it into all-out offensive mode so their jammer can attempt to match her counterparts point tally on the board during this pass. And if their jammer is in the box and the opposing jammer just cut through them for points, the jammerless blockers better communicate with each other quickly and clearly in order for that not to happen again on the pending scoring run that’s currently racing up from behind them again.


Now, does all of this happen during each and every jam? Usually not. Have all the possible scenarios been discussed in this article? Absolutely not. Roller derby is a game in which situations are constantly changing. The better teams out there at least have some basic ideas as to what they want to accomplish during any of these given 9 points during a jam (although as far as I know, I’m the only one who’s really thought it out this much…at least that I know of). Not to mention there are some different styles of play. I based this article on the most common set of rules – the WFTDA. But there is banked track, OSDA, Renegade and other types of roller derby that play with similar strategies, but can vary from rule set to rule set.

The better teams have practiced all sorts of different situations and have everyone on the team on the same page in order to make it so that some simple communication is all that’s needed to make the switches from offense to defense, adjust to shorthanded or powerjam situations, etc. But the idea of this article is to help describe what’s happening to the newer or more casual fans of the sport who might sit there during any given bout at any given time asking themselves or those around them “what just happened there” or “why did she/they just do that?”

And that’s my basic goal of this article; even though there is no possible way to help describe any of the thousands of different possibilities that can happen during any given jam, perhaps just figuring out some of the basics could be a good way for people to take their enjoyment of the sport to the next level.

And hopefully I accomplished that goal.

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