Roller derby can seem like another world, where the inhabitants speak a whole new language.
“Who has the panties?”
“I’m going to jam this one”
“My derby wife is great at duck walking”
To help you out, we present you with the Sheffield Steel Rollergirls Roller Derby Dictionary! This list is nowhere near comprehensive, we’ve got a hulking great WFTDA website for that. But it does include words and phrases common to roller derby (and some that might be unique to us Sheffield Steel Rollergirls). So enjoy, and watch out for that Zebra.
27 in 5 – An endurance test that must be passed as part of the WFTDA Minimum Skills requirements. Twenty-seven laps of the track in five minutes. Hurts, but so, so satisfying when you FINALLY PASS IT YEAH IN YOUR FACE OLD ME!
Apex – The bendy bit of the track.
Ball – This is a Public Service Announcement: There is no ball in roller derby. Yes, I’m sure. No, the answer hasn’t changed since the last time you asked.
Banked track – In ye olde days of derby, the sport was played on supercool yet superexpensive banked tracks (see Whip It). Then some smart babes back in ~2001 decided hey, how about we create a version that can be played on basically any skate-friendly surface? And so flat track roller derby was born.
Blockers – The skaters who try to prevent the jammer from breaking through the pack.
Brace – A blocker skating backwards as part of a wall, pushing and pulling their team to help control the wall’s movements and block the jammer.
Call it off – Ending the jam. The lead jammer can call off the jam at any time before the 2 minutes is over by touching her hips repeatedly. Kind of looks like the jammer is doing a spontaneous dance party.
Checks – See hitting.
Crossovers – Otherwise known as Operation Make Go Faster. Okay not really, but crossovers are an amazing way to pick up speed, and they look pretty darn cool too.
Derby debut – A skater’s first public bout.
Derby direction – Anti-clockwise/the direction we skate on track.
Derby Dynasty – Sheffield Steel Rollergirls is one big glorious family, made up of lots of littler families. All new skaters are given a family to make sure that they are supported as they start their derby adventure.
Derby stance – A squat on skates. The best, most stable position for your body to be in while skating. Allows you to make and take hits, sneak around blockers, go faster. Knees and feet are shoulder distance apart, knees bent at 90 degree angle and not extended past your toes, back straight, shoulders back, head up. Seems horribly unnatural and uncomfortable at first, but gets easier. Promise. Really.
Derby stank – Not to be confused with derby stance. Derby stank is that distinctive odour that comes from sweating into your kit for hours at a time, and then being not exactly fastidious with hygiene because I’M HUNGRY FEED ME.
Derby widow – The poor abandoned spouse or partner of a rollergirl. Roller derby breaks hearts.
Derby wife – A roller derby soul mate. Your eyes meet across a sports hall floor and you know, “I want to skate with and hit that person super loads forever and ever”.
Duck walk – An acceleration technique where the feet are angled at 45 degrees with toes pointing outwards, stepping quickly forwards. Elegant. Just like a duck on wheels.
Engaging – Any sort of interaction with another skater, on track, during a jam.
Engagement zone – Where skaters may legally engage with each other, extending from 20 feet behind the rearmost packmember to 20 feet in front of the foremost pack member, within the track boundaries. A jammer may engage with another jammer outside of the Engagement Zone.
Falling is learning – Important derby motto. We fall ALL THE TIME in roller derby – it’s nothing to be embarrassed about, and you can even take pride in your more spectacular falls. Just try to fall on your knee pads and not your butt. Or head.
Flat track – The type of track that most roller derby is now played on. Can be set up on any skate-friendly surface, such as skating rinks, sports halls, basketball courts, particularly nice car parks, etc.
Game – Two 30-minute halves made up of lots of 2-minute (or less) jams. Sometimes called a bout.
Get lower – The eternal cry of every coach, to try and get you into derby stance. However low you think you are, oh grrrl, you can get lower. Yep, even you. I don’t care if you’re lying down, you can still get lower.
Goating – Blockers from one team surround a blocker from the opposing team and stay slow, so they become the pack and force the other skaters to be called out of play. Used to help your jammer if she’s struggling to get out of the pack.
Hitting – Wholesome derby fun. Players use their hips, butts and shoulders to gain advantage on the track. Also known as checks. Zero punching allowed.
Hustle – Our pre-mins coach ADHDemon’s favourite word – get your butt on track!
Initial pass – The first time a jammer breaks free of the pack. No points can be scored on the initial pass.
Intraleague – Bouts played between members from the same league.
Jam – The two-minute period where all the fun happens. The jam may last less than two minutes if the lead jammer decides to call off the jam. There may be any number of jams in a bout.
Jammer – The point-scoring player on each team. Wears a jammer panty on her helmet, with stars on each side. Only the jammer can score points in a jam.
Jumping – Is there a better feeling than when you land your first jump on skates??
Lead jammer – The jammer who gets out of the pack first becomes lead jammer, and can end the jam before the 2 minute jam period is up, as long as she doesn’t pick up any penalties.
Minimum skills – The basic requirements that all skaters need to pass before they can play roller derby for realz. Some you will pass easily, others will become your nemeses and you will curse the WFTDA for making you learn them WHY WHY WHY must I transition on both sides WHY WHY can’t I weave faster WHY is 27 in 5 such death and then oh! You’ll pass them and wonder why they ever seemed so hard. Patience, and practice, my pretties.
Minute of pain – Bruise-inducing hitting drill. Three skaters stand in a row. On the whistle, the skater in the middle hip-, shoulder- and body-checks the skaters either side of her for 60 seconds (using legal hitting and target zones, obvs). After the minute, the skaters shake it out, and the fun begins again until everyone is nicely battered. Proper fun.
Non Skate Official/NSO – Off-skates officials who make sure all the roller derby action can happen. NSOs time and track jams, penalties, points and much, much more. (Interested in being an NSO? We’d love to have you!)
NSO School – Held on Tuesdays. Skaters and non-skaters alike can come along to learn how to do all the various NSO roles and wield the Clipboards of Power.
Out of play – When a skater is no longer in the engagement zone. Don’t engage with another skater after an ‘out of play!’ call from a Zebra, or you’ll get – you guessed it – a penalty.
Paceline – A drill where skaters form a line, usually an arm’s length distance apart, and practice weaving, speed control, stopping and all manner of fun things.
Pack – The largest group of blockers, containing skaters from both teams. The jammer is not considered part of the pack.
Panty – A helmet cover. The jammer and the pivot from each team wear a helmet cover to show their position. Jammers wear stars, pivots wear stripes.
Panty pass – The jammer can remove their panty and pass it to their pivot, who will then become the jammer. Also known as Star Pass. This change is final – the pivot cannot return the panty to the jammer once a legal panty pass has been completed.
Penalty – There are approximately twelve hundred million rules in roller derby. Break these, and a Zebra will issue you a penalty. Penalties are served in the penalty box for 30 seconds.
Penalty Box – Where you sit to do your time after earning a penalty.
Pivot – Blocker wearing the striped pivot panty. The jammer can pass her star panty to her pivot, who will then become the jammer and can score points. No other blocker can take the jammer panty.
Plow stop – A way of slowing down or stopping that involves widening your stance and turning your feet inwards.
Points – Scored by the jammer as she passes members of the opposing team.
Pre-mins – Skaters who have not yet passed their WFTDA minimum skills. Variously known as fresh meat/rookies/newbies/fluffies, depending on the league. SSRG pre-mins practice on Wednesdays and Sundays.
Post-mins – Skaters who have passed their WFTDA minimum skills. SSRG post-mins skate on Tuesdays and Sundays.
Quads – Otherwise known as roller skates/skates/wheelie shoes.
Referee – See Zebras
Rhino – A skater who blocks like a brick wall and jams like a steamroller.
Rhinocorn – A skater who is some kind of magical combination of a Rhino and a Unicorn. Beware the Rhinocorn for she is deadly (and amazing).
Roller derby – The greatest sport there will ever be.
Scrim/scrimming/scrimmage – Gameplay practice.
Skate Central – Where skaters who have passed minimum skills train on Tuesdays.
Skating Official – See Zebras
Sock Derby – Roller derby without the roller. The exact origins of sock derby are unknown, but the premise is simple: skates off, socks (or trainers) on, and voila, sock derby. Useful practice for learning game play and rules, especially for pre-mins.
SSJR – Sheffield Steel Junior Rollers.
SSRG – Sheffield Steel Rollergirls.
Star Pass – see panty pass.
Straightaway – the straight bit of the track.
Sundays – Weekend training where no one ever is hungover, nope, not at all, we are ATHLETES.
Team Awesome/Team Badass – SSRG’s scrimmage teams.
Team Death Leopards/Team Steel Panthers – SSRG’s intraleague teams.
Track – Slightly wonky oval shape that we skate on in derby direction.
Transitions – Turning around. Can be done by stepping or jumping.
T-stop – Method of stopping by bringing one foot behind the other to form a T shape.
Tuesdays – Big Girl Skate Sessions.
UKRDA – United Kingdom Roller Derby Association. Lobbies for and promotes roller derby across the country.
Unicorn – Pixie-footed skater who blocks like a cunning fox and who slips through the pack like a hot knife through butter when jamming.
Vodka – Combined with tea tree oil makes a great derby stank deflector.
Wall – A line of blockers, formed to prevent the jammer from getting through the pack.
Wednesdays – Sheffield Steel Rollergirls’ sessions for pre-minimum skills skaters.
WFTDA – Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, or wooftduh. Catchy, huh? These guys look after the state of flat-track roller derby worldwide.
Wheelie shoes – Supercool slang for quad skates. Roller derby can often be summarised as ‘we wear wheelie shoes and hit our friends.’ It’s beautiful.
Wheels – You might hear a lot of complicated-sounding talk about wheels, but really – if you skate on a sticky floor, you want hard wheels. If you skate on a slippery floor you want softer, stickier wheels. You can get all fancy with different configurations as you learn more about your own skating style, but when you’re just getting the hang of not butt-planting every session it’s not a priority.
Whip – A skater uses another skater’s momentum to give herself speed or better her position.
Whip It – The film that spawned a thousand rollergirls. Come on, be your own hero.
Zebra – A Skating Official, so named for the black and white stripes on their uniform. The ones who keep the players in line/give us all the penalties for being naughty.