Category: Rules Corner

Rules Corner: Pack Definition and Destruction

The Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) develops and publishes the rules of Flat Track Roller Derby in Française, Español, and Deutche. Please visit the entire 2020 Rules of Flat Track Roller Derby.

This month’s topic is all about Pack Definition and Destruction, which are covered in separate sections of the 2020 WFTDA rules (section 2 “Game Play” and 4.2 “Game Structure Penalties”)

Let’s talk about the Pack. The Pack has a major impact on game play as it defines the area in which Blockers may legally engage and defines a “trip” on which the Jammers can make points.


The Pack is the largest group of in-bounds and upright Blockers in proximity and containing members from both teams.

In bounds means the only points at which the Skater is touching the floor are on or between the track boundary lines, except one arm or hand beyond the track boundary is not out of bounds.

An upright Skater is as Skater who is not down. A Skater is down when part of the Skater’s body or equipment (aside from skates) is touching the floor. One hand on the floor is not considered down.

Proximity means not more than 10 ft apart, as measured from the hips parallel to the inside track boundary (see graphic below), in front of or behind the nearest Pack Skater.

Note the Pack is defined only by Blockers, not Jammers. Additionally, Skaters who are penalized are considered no longer on the track and do not count for Pack definition.

No Pack means there is no group of in-bounds and upright Blockers from both teams skating within 10 ft of each other, or where there are two or more equally numbers groups of Blockers not skating within 10 ft of each other. (In other words, there can only be one Pack; if there are two groups of equal numbers of skaters from both teams that are more than 10 ft apart, the Pack is split.)

In a No Pack situation, Blockers may not give or receive blocks that have impact.


No, but the Engagement Zone depends on the Pack. The Engagement Zone is the area of the track in which it is legal for Blockers to engage or be engaged. Engaging means any sort of interaction with another Skater, including blocks and assists. The Engagement Zone extends forward and backward 20 ft from the foremost and rearmost Pack Skaters, respectively.


All Blockers from both Teams must work to maintain a Pack.
If there is no Pack, Blockers from both Teams must act to reform the Pack. For Skaters in the rear, this includes stepping or skating in the counterclockwise direction. For Skaters in the front, this includes coasting, braking, or coming to a complete stop. If these immediate actions are not sufficient to reform the Pack, the Blockers must make additional effort. Blockers in the rear group must accelerate up to a sprint towards the front group until the Pack is reformed. Blockers in the front group must actively brake until they come to a complete stop, but they do not need to skate clockwise.


Intentionally destroying the Pack is called “Destruction” and is illegal. A Blocker may not make a sudden movement that destroys the Pack, such as skating backwards, intentionally skating out of bounds, or taking a knee. If the Pack is moving counterclockwise or stopped during a Jam, it is illegal for a Blocker to skate clockwise if doing so will destroy the Pack.


A Skating Official will define the pack by extending both arms and using their hands to indicate the front and back of the pack. If there is No Pack, the Skating Official will give a No Pack warning by raising both arms with elbows bent and forearms vertical.

A Skater who fails to attempt to reform the Pack after a No Pack warning will be given a Failure to Reform penalty.

Blockers who are outside of the Engagement Zone will be given an Out of Play warning with one arm held up with the elbow bent at 90 degrees. They will be issued a Failure to Return penalty if they do not immediately attempt to return to the Engagement Zone. Blockers ahead of the Engagement Zone are only compelled to skate clockwise to return to the Engagement Zone if the Pack is stopped or moving clockwise.

Any Blocker outside the Engagement Zone is out of play and cannot engage or be engaged. A Blocker who initiates a block or assist while out of play will receive an Out Of Play Block penalty. A Skater, including a Jammer, who initiates a block on an out-of-play opponent will also receive an Out Of Play Block penalty.

A Destruction penalty will be issued is a Blocker makes a sudden intentional movement that destroys the Pack. There is no warning before a Destruction call.


The Pack is best understood through examples. The WFTDA Casebook includes some helpful scenarios, below.

First Scenario

In the image below, there is currently a Pack because there are Blockers from the White and Red Teams within 10 ft of each other. White Blocker 2 is not in the Pack but is in the Engagement Zone.

• Since White Pivot is defining the Pack, they will be penalized for Destruction if they make a sudden movement that destroys the Pack, such as skating backwards or taking a knee.

• If the Red wall skates forward (more than 10 ft ahead of White Pivot) while the White Blockers stand still, “No Pack” is declared. There is no penalty yet. Blockers from both Teams must act to reform the Pack. Red Blockers must coast or brake, including coming to a complete stop if necessary, to reform the Pack. White Blockers must step or skate in the clockwise direction, including accelerating up to a sprint if necessary.

Second Scenario

Red Jammer and White Pivot are skating in front of the Pack. Once they go more than 20 ft ahead of the Pack, they are outside the Engagement Zone. An Official gives an Out of Play warning to White Pivot.

• If White Pivot blocks Red Jammer, White Pivot receives and Out of Play Block penalty. They received an Out of Play warning and failed to immediately attempt to return to the Engagement Zone and blocked Red Jammer. Note that Red Jammer can legally counter-block.

• If Red Jammer initiates a separate and distinct block on White Pivot which causes impact on White Pivot, they will receive an Out of Play Block penalty.

Third Scenario

White Blockers form a four-person wall, blocking Red Jammer at the rear of the Pack when “No Pack” is declared.

• If one White Blocker skates forward to reform the Pack but does not do so for several seconds, the remaining three White Blockers are illegally continuing to block during a No Pack situation. One of the three White Blockers who was actively blocking Red Jammer should be penalized for illegal contact.

• If the Pack had been reformed immediately, no penalty should be issued.

• If all the White Blockers had been accelerating in an attempt to reform the Pack, no penalty should be issued, even if they did so while maintaining their wall and holding Red Jammer back.

By Ruth Slayed-Her Ginsberg

Rules Corner: Scoring

The Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) develops and publishes the rules of Flat Track Roller Derby in Française, Español, and Deutche. Please visit the entire 2020 Rules of Flat Track Roller Derby.

This month’s topic is all about scoring, which is outlined in the WFTDA rules  section 3 “Scoring.” Ok, you’re at a game and people are skating in circles and hitting each other. What’s going on? How does anyone score? You’re not the first to be confused by this. So, let’s talk about scoring. It goes without saying that scoring is one of the most important aspects of the game, as the team with the most points wins. While the concept is simple—one point for each opposing blocker—there are several nuances to scoring, a few of which are covered below.


The Jammer (skater with a star panty on the helmet) is the skater that scores. In order to score, the Jammer must skate through the Pack (largest group of in-bound blockers, skating or standing in proximity). Once a Jammer has skated through the Pack (whether or not they earn lead), they are eligible to score. A Jammer scores one point every time they pass an opposing Blocker on a scoring pass. A Jammer is considered to have passed another Skater when the Jammer’s center of mass, as demarcated by their hips, moves from behind the other Skater’s center of mass to ahead of it.

A Jammer may only “earn” a pass on the opposing Blocker while the Jammer is wearing the Star on their helmet with the stars showing. The Jammer must be upright and in-bounds during the pass. A Jammer also earns a pass if an opposing Blocker skates behind the in-bounds Jammer, thereby giving up their position.

If a Jammer does not earn a pass on a Blocker, they may yield position to that opponent and re-pass them, earning the pass, as long as they have not yet exited the Engagement Zone. A Jammer may only earn one point on each opposing Blocker per scoring pass, regardless of how many times they pass the Blocker before exiting the Engagement Zone.


Teams are allowed to field up to four Blockers. However, all four Blockers are not always on the track while the Jammer is earning passes. The most common reason is that the Blocker is sent to, serving time in, or returning from the Penalty Box. A team may also be short one or more Blockers if the Team fails to field the maximum number of skaters, or if a Blocker has to leave the track due to injury or to fix equipment.

If there are less than four Blockers on the track, the opposing Jammer still has the opportunity to earn all four points; otherwise, the Jammer would be at a disadvantage through no faults of their own. As soon as a Jammer earns a pass on an opposing Blocker, they earn a pass on any opponents who are “not on the track” (NOTT).

For example, if there is one opposing Blocker in the Penalty Box and one opposing Blocker off the track fixing a safety equipment issue, the Jammer will earn three points upon passing the first opposing Blocker on the track—one point for the in-bounds Blockers, one NOTT point for the Blocker in the Penalty Box, and one NOTT point for the out-of-bounds Blocker.


If a Jammer completes a trip through the Pack without the opportunity to earn a pass on an opponent, the Jammer is said to have earned a pass on that opponent. This include:

·         Opponents who are ahead of the Engagement Zone when the Jammer complete their trip through the Pack by exiting the front of the Engagement Zone;

·         Opponents who are ahead of the Engagement Zone at the end of the Jam when the Jammer is on a scoring trip and ahead of the rearmost Pack Blocker;

·         Any NOTT point they cannot earn because they complete their trip through the Pack without the opportunity to earn a pass on any opposing Blocker (which would earn them the NOTT point);

·         Opponents who are out of play behind the Pack, if the Jammer re-enters the track from the Penalty Box in front of that Blocker.


A penalized Jammer cannot earn passes on any further opponents until they complete their penalty. Upon release from the Penalty Box, the Jammer returns to the same trip through the Pack.

For example, four Blockers are on the track, Red 1, Red 2, Red 3, and Red 4. White Jammer passes Red 2 and Red 4, then is sent to the Penalty Box. After serving the penalty, White Jammer re-enters the track and is eligible to earn points on Red 1 and Red 3. The points are awarded after the Jammer exits the Engagement Zone or at the end of the Jam.

If the Jam ends before White Jammer is released, White Jammer is awarded two points from passing Red 2 and Red 4 before going to the Box.


Perhaps you remember a time when a Jammer could earn five points during a Jam (called a “Grand Slam”): one for each of the four Blockers and one Jammer Lap Point. Scoring lap points was complicated, inconsistent, and difficult to track. As such, at the end of 2018, WFTDA removed the lap point. Now, the maximum points in a Jam is four, one for each Blocker.

By Ruth Slayed-Her Ginsberg

Rules Corner: Direction of Game Play Penalties

The Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) develops and publishes the rules of Flat Track Roller Derby in Française, Español, and Deutche. Please visit the entire 2019 Rules of Flat Track Roller Derby.

This month we will discuss the direction of gameplay penalty, which is outlined in the WFTDA rules section 4 “Penalties.” Specifically, rule 4.1.3 “Other Illegal contact,” which states “Initiating a block is legal when a skater is moving counter-clockwise, in play, upright, and in bounds during a jam using legal contact zones…accordingly, skaters cannot initiate a block while down, out of bounds, out of play, airborne, stopped, or skating clockwise.”

When a referee calls a direction of gameplay penalty, the referee will blow one whistle tweet and speak in a loud clear voice stating: 1. team color, 2. skater number, and 3. what the penalty is. Here is the hand-signal for the direction of gameplay penalty.

We hope to make rules discussions less dry by offering skater essays on their personal learning experiences with the rules of derby. Our skater Bad JewJew (# 81) will cover skating clockwise vs. counter-clockwise in her discussion below.

Ah, the directional penalty. It seems like a straight forward, no confusion type of rule: skate derby direction (counter-clockwise on the track). The truth is, the rule can be a bit more complicated to new derby skaters in practice. Skaters must fight the instinct to drive the opposing skater/jammer backwards while skating inside the track.

A helpful visualization for me is I imagine a 360 degree circle around my body. In the circle, there is a line positioned where my skates are on the track (diameter of the circle). The 180 degrees in front of me is a legal hit and block zone. The 180 degrees behind me is a NO HIT zone, which means I cannot engage, block, hit or assist in this NO HIT zone. The illustration below shows the hit zones (in green) and the no hit zones (in red).

A skater is permitted to stop and/or skate clockwise on the track, but If a skater does skate in non-derby direction, that skater must be careful not engage an opposing skater moving in derby direction on the track.

Hopefully, gaining a better understanding of the how the directional penalties work will ideally help you have fewer of them called on you. At least, that is my hope for myself!