Jammer Strategy – Before the Whistle Blows

There is so much strategy in roller derby. Blockers have set plays, different positions for different scenarios, and must constantly be communicating in order to be effective.  Jammers are a bit different.  Sure, I communicate with my blockers when I can, and perform set plays from time to time, but I believe most of my jammer strategy occurs in my head, right before the jam starts.  Below are a few tips for new jammers to keep in mind when stepping up to the line.

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  1. Always know what you are planning to do when the “5 second” whistle blows.

I have talked with jammers in the past who admitted having no real plan on how to attack the pack when the jam starts.  This stresses me out.  I need to have at least a Plan A and a Plan B or I will not be effective.

For example: I approach the line.  I assess the blockers and jammer on the track.

Plan A:  I attack the seam between the 1st and 2nd blockers.

Plan B: If my initial attack doesn’t work, I will redirect to the outside of the pack.

Even if you doubt your plan, being able to act quickly right when the jam starts is an advantage.  Sometimes just taking the blockers a bit off guard is enough to get you through the pack.

2. Know what to do in different situations

Are you absolutely clear how to handle jammer-up (and jammer-down) situations? Do you know what jammers from the other team you might bulldog against? Do you know what your coach’s hand signals mean when they are yelling and gesturing at you from the bench?  Do you make sure to check the penalty box before calling off the jam?  Do you know when to yell at your blockers to run up or slow down in different scenarios?  It is great to have the answer to these questions (and more).  Being an extremely knowledgeable jammer is a very valuable asset.

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In addition to knowing as much as you can about how your team works, I think there is one other key attribute that make a great jammer:

Taking (good) offense when (good) offense is given.  Sometimes you are given offense but it is neither advantageous or effective.  Hence the caveat for “good” offense.

You could be the greatest skater of all time, but if you are not taking the offense given to you, you are being detrimental to your team.  This brings me to my next tip…

3) Learn how to read your blockers’ signals – (almost telepathy)

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After skating with the same people for years, I began to understand even the most subtle signs given to me on the line.  Even the slightest of eye contact or shift in body weight was enough for my blockers and I to know what was going to happen once the whistle blew.  As a jammer, you don’t want to give away any plans for offense by doing something as obvious as nodding to your blocker. Also, blockers don’t want to have to give elaborate hand gestures to the jammer to make sure everyone is on the same page.  Blockers and jammers must discuss strategies for relaying information before/after jams and during practices.  Figure out how you are going to communicate with each other (just short of reading their minds).

And if you figure out how telepathy works, let me know!  Although this article makes me believe it only takes 10 steps to master…


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