Madie Sans Merci

Apr 292010

Dolly Rocket of Charm City Roller Girls doing some amazing pivoting. (photo credit:

So last week’s post was all about the jammer, who often gets the most attention anyway so I move on. This week I’m going to tell you more about the Pivot.
Now I’ve said multiple times but for those who are behind, the pivot is the lady with the helmet cover (panty) with a single stripe down the middle. I also discussed the privilege that pivots have of being eligible to become a jammer if for some reason the current jammer cannot swing it.
But this isn’t the only thing that differentiates the pivot from the rest of the blockers in the pack.
Often you’ll hear of derby girls referring to the pivot as the last line of defense but only after being around for a few months do you truly get the understanding of what the purpose of this position is (or at least it took me a while to truly grasp the understanding). Luckily for you though, I’m here to impart my knowledge.
Okay, the pivot is pretty much like the captain away from the bench. The pivot calls out the plays and helps to control the speed of the pack ALONG WITH being the last line of defense against a jammer who has just busted through the pack. But being a pivot is not just about having the mouth guard that’s easiest to talk around. It’s about being able to take in the situation and call what play needs to be done right there on the track.
From what I’ve seen with my own team, the captain, Sigga Please, and co-captain, Zarathrustya, do tend to play pivot a lot not only for their abilities to scream at their blockers but for this insane skill we derby girls like to call panty chasing. First they put their hips square in front of those jammers and try to

In the photo Zara is squaring her hips in front of jammer Rock Bottom and even though Sigga does not have the pivot panties on, she is getting the pack to slow down and force Zara out of the zone of engagement. (photo credit: Skunk Rolla, RSRD)

keep them in the zone of engagement. If for some reason this fails, they haul ass and swing their hips around in front of the jammer and slow her down. The hardest part about this is that most of the time, pivots are at the front of the pack. This is their rightful place, so when they take off to engage in some good old fashioned panty chasing, the pack is busy doing other things; and the pivot ends up out of play and has to let the jammer by.
Another two fellow Red Stick Roller Derby ladies who make amazing pivots are Sour Patch Kid and Rock Bottom. Whenever they are pivots, I know what is going on with the pack and where I should be. My team was playing against Magnolia Roller Vixens and they have this badass blocker named Kamdemic and she and I were out for blood from each other. At one point we both completely passed the pack up and just kept hitting each other. I still remember the sound of Rock Bottom screaming “MADIE LET HER GO, FALL BACK! SLOW DOWN!”


This is that moment that will live forever in my brain. Kamdemic and I going at it while rock yells at me to let her go. (Photo credit: Cajun Eject Her)

That’s how a pivot works, you should always be able to hear her mouth, she should always be barking commands at you, and you should always be trying to keep her in the zone of engagement as she tries to nail the jammer. After writing this I’ll never be able to get this out of my head.

Apr 222010

Hey Derby obsessed.  It’s Madie here again.  This time taking you deeper into the world of quad skates and booty blocks.

In my last entry, you learned the basics of the sport of flat track roller derby.  Today, I’m going to talk about something I considered as seldom seen as cool inline skaters (sorry guys but its all about the quads). A procedure called duh duh duh duh wait for it…


Here, Rock Bottom and Sour Patch Kid would've been secret my mind.

First, a basic explanation.  Pivots, the ladies with the striped panties, and jammers, the ladies with the star panties, have a special relationship.  In my mind I always treat this as some sordid affair that takes a lot of work, which is the reason for its rare occurrence.

The procedure known as “Passing the star” occurs when a jammer takes her panty off and passes it to the pivot, who puts the panty on her helmet and skates on as the jammer.

The reason for my affair idea is because only the jammer and pivot are allowed to touch the panties.  If for some reason they drop the panties, only the pivot or jammer can recover it.  And it is possible to drop them because blocks are legal for attempting to prevent a star pass.

There are a few catches to this:

If the jammer who wants to pass the star is the lead jammer, the second she takes off her starred panty she forfeits that position and the jam continues without a lead jammer.  If she decided to remain jammer after taking off her helmet cover and puts it back on, she still has lost the lead jammer status.

Passing the star can only be done legally inside the zone of engagement.  The zone of engagement is 20 feet in front of and behind the pack.  So say a jammer was exhausted and fell way behind the pack, a pivot couldn’t fall way back and get the star to go on and score points.  That jammer would have to push until she was in the zone of engagement.

The star cannot be passed back to the original jammer or to anyone else after the pivot takes it.  This sucks because maybe that pass didn’t do anything for the team’s point predicament.  Or the original jammer was doing better than the newly elected.


Ms. Volatile goes charging around the pack (Photo by Maggie Bowles)

Now I’ve only ever seen this once in my short nearly 8 months of roller derby and trust me when I say you never really know when it’s coming, and it’s quite hard to catch.  It was when my team played the Psyche Ward Sirens of Houston Roller Derby.  I was watching the merch table (kind of but I was missing an impeccable match so I sort of watched the table and bout from a spot rather distant from both). What I saw was our lovely, loudmouthed jammer Heidi Volatilee go charging into the pack with no avail (HRD is a kickass league).   She screamed something that I’m sure was unintelligible to nearly everyone and next thing I know Rock Bottom is slipping the jammer panty on over her pivot panty and pushing her way out of the pack.

Afterward I asked Rock Bottom about it and she said she had no idea it was going to happen.  And honestly I didn’t see it happen.  I saw Heidi as the jammer, then Rock as the jammer.  If this had been an official account that was all I could give. No more, no less.

So passing the star is almost some sort of mythical act, like something you’d see in Harry Potter. But it happens.  And if you catch it, you’re a lucky one.  Trust me. Watch this video a million times so you can prepare yourself for catching a glimpse because that’s are there are.  Glimpses.
Toronto vs Detroit

Apr 152010
Old School

Old School Roller Derby Brawl (

So you see a bunch of hot girls in fishnets and hot pants and knee high socks with fear-striking names printed on the backs of their shirts and quad skates on their feet. At first you think WTF? Is that some sort of crazy roller skating gang? Close. When you finally realize they are the wonderful ladies of roller derby, you either know NOTHING about it or you think its like the roller derby of old with brutal brawls and skates to the face.

Well I’m here to correct you.

So there are two types of roller derby: Flat track and Banked track. The banked tracks are the slanted, bowl like tracks. Their rules are a bit different but the game is essentially played the same way. What I’m going to explain is flat track roller derby, the thing I’ve devoted a good portion of my life to.

First off, there’s the reigning body of flat track roller derby: Women’s Flat Track Derby Association or as its better known by derby girls WFTDA (often pronounced whiff-ti-duh). They are the ones who make up the rules, rankings, requirements, and all official things that most leagues abide by.

Helmet panties

Pivot (left) and Jammer (right) for purchase at (

So once, seconds before a bout, a guy asked me “So do y’all have a ball or something? How exactly is this played?” For all of you reading this who are in the boat with him here is your basic explanation.

Now to throw you right into the pool of sweat and fishnets, here is some derby terminology you will need to know:

Jam – Roller Derby is played in two 30-minute halves, which are broken down into 2-minute sessions called jams. Between each jam, teams have 30 seconds to get their new line-up onto the track. If they don’t make it, they play without the people missing. They don’t let this slide. My team once didn’t realize they were letting us have another jam so we had our jammer, who just happened to be the wonderful Rock Bottom, and 1 blocker while the other team had all of their members.

Pack – this is a group of 8 ladies – 3 blockers from each team and 1 pivot from each team. They are always fighting for position and control of the pack. This is where you will see the best hits.

Jammer – this is the lady with the star panty (yes the helmet covers are called panties) on her head who scores the points. She is typically the faster of the girls on the team and takes most of the hits as she tries to make her way through the pack. The best jammers I’ve encountered are the smaller girls who can get real low to the ground to dodge those hits. They also are expert jukers. Baby Face Assassin from Houston Roller Derby is 4’10 ½ and a helluva jammer.

Pivot – this is the lady with the stripe panty on her helmet. She calls the plays and helps control the speed of the pack. She can usually be found in the front of the pack. They also serve as the “last line of defense” for jammers who have passed the other blockers. Pivots are often the panty-chasers of the team.

Lead Jammer

Lead Jammer (www.ratcityrollergirls)

Blocker – These are the pantiless (only in terms of the helmet covers, mostly) ladies. They are responding to the calls of the pivot, stopping the opposing jammer from making it through the pack and helping their jammer get through. Often when fighting for position these ladies throw some mean hits and take down some blockers in the best of ways. I focus in on the pack while the jammers are making their way around.

Lead Jammer – this is an amazing status that all jammers fight for. Lead jammer is awarded to the first jammer that makes it out of the pack successfully and without any penalties. Lead jammers have the ability to call off the jam by tapping their hips. You can identify them by the ref on the inside of the track following them with one hand raised and the other pointed at them. This is something I envy, as a relatively newer derby girl, I tend to stick to blocking and I watch our lead jammers with the greenest of green looks.

Flat Track Measurements

Flat Track Roller Derby Track Measurements From WFTDA

Now that you have the terminology, let’s explain how the game works.
First the blockers and the pivots (the pack) line up at what is called the pivot line and the jammers at the jam line. The ref blows one long whistle and the pack takes off. He blows the whistle two short times and the jammers take off. Remember only the jammers can score points. Now the first pass through the pack the jammers are fighting for lead jammer status. After getting through, the jammer loops around the track and goes in for a second pass aka the first point-scoring pass. Each subsequent pass in the jam is a point-scoring pass. The jammer gets a point for each player of the opposite team they pass. Jammers can also score an extra point in what is called a grand slam. This is when one jammer laps the other. It is quite an amazing feat of teamwork to witness.

Penalties are frustrating but awesome at the same time. The most common penalty I’ve seen is elbows. When you “engage” or hit another girl on the team, you can’t use your elbows at all. This is a problem a lot of people struggle with including yours truly. You also can’t use your feet (tripping) or your head or your forearms or hands. The second most common is cutting the track. When any player gets knocked out of bounds they have to come in behind the person that knocked them out without having passed anyone else they were behind. There are more obvious examples like going through the middle and gaining position but most often its getting pushed out of bounds and coming back in at the wrong spot. And the third most common penalty, in my opinion, would have to be back blocking. This is when you are behind someone and pushing them or hitting them from behind. This penalty is probably common because we have a phrase “sit on her” which is where you put your butt on a girl trying to pass you and keep it there. If she does anything other than trying to step around you, she gets called for it. For more on penalties see official rules.

Well there you have it folks. The lowdown on the hoedown. Roller Derby is quite possibly the most amazing thing ever. And if you think you can’t do it, come out to a bout. It’ll change your life. I promise.
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