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The rules of roller derby, according to Milwaukee's Brewcity Bruisers

The Brewcity Bruisers league kicked off its 13th season on January 27 at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena. Frigid weather didn’t stop roller derby fans from coming to support. But if you’re new to roller derby, watching a match can be a confusing and chaotic experience.

It certainly was for me, so we stepped into the rink with the Brewcity Bruisers to learn roller derby. Here’s a beginner’s guide to the Brewcity Bruisers league and how to watch a roller derby match in Milwaukee.

The Brewcity Bruisers(BCB) league was founded in 2005 as one team. Today – 14 years later – the league is made up of four home teams, an elite travel team and training camps for skaters of all ages.

The roller derby matches that take place at UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena are the home team bouts (bout = match). The four teams areRushin’ Rollettes, Crazy Eights, Shevil Knevils and Maiden Milwaukee.

Roller derby is real. It’s a full body contact sport and is in no way choreographed or embellished for the crowd. Nicole Armandariz, a BCB skater of five years, says it takes “mental toughness and strength” to be competitive in the league.

Aside from toughness, it takes a lot of skill and knowledge of the game. Here’s a quick breakdown on how roller derby works:

A roller derby match is split up into two 30-minute halves. On the rink, you’ll see 10 skaters total. Each team has one jammer and four blockers out at a time.

You’ll recognize jammers by the big star on their helmets. Their goal during the jam (or round) is to continuously skate laps and score points. The blockers form a human wall to try and stop jammers from skating those laps.

When jammers skate continuous laps, they can begin “scoring passes” which means they will score a point for every blocker they pass on the rink. The jammer can rack up points in the two-minute jam, or they can score and call it off.

When you see a jammer touch their hip and hear the ref blowing their whistles, that means the jammer has ended the jam. This is why matches sometimes stop frequently after the jammer has skated just a few laps.

For more roller derby rules and information on how to watch a bout or become involved with the Brewcity Bruisers league, visit BCB’s website here.