Thursday, September 30, 2010

OC Jammer

One topic I have been meaning to delve into as of late is the role of jammer on a roller derby team. If none of their skaters are in the penalty box, a team will send out five players: Four blockers and one jammer. The jammer, denoted by the large, prominent star on her helmet, is the only point-scorer for her team. And as the sole skater who can score points, all opposing blockers will be doing everything in their power to prevent that from happening. Essentially, putting on starred helmet cover is to paint a glowing bulls-eye or target on your back.

It's why some girls loathe jamming and others, like myself, revel in it. It's a rush to snake your way in and out of the pack, picking up points for each opposing skater you pass. You dodge heavy blows, try to stay up with the ones that connect and race for that lead jammer status (and the ability to call off the jam at a critical junction).

Jammers are sometimes vaunted as the rock stars of their teams, though this is a bit short-sighted. (Garnering points is important, but perhaps even more so is a team's defense; their ability to stymie opposing jammers and prevent scoring passes.) Even so, jamming is hard work. And the fastest skaters aren't necessarily the best jammers. Because a good jammer should be swift, have good stamina --enough to sprint the full two minutes a jam may require-- and loads of cunning, be light on her feet and able to juke and weave, and have an inexhaustible personal reservoir of moxie and grit.

An able jammer should be able to hold her own while her teammates tackle the opposing jammer

A good jammer should be able to get through the pack and pick up points without being dependent on their blockers (whose main focus should be on the opposing jammer) to break up walls and protect them opposing skaters. She should have what I call 'jammer eyes' --that is, the ability to see holes and paths where others might see none-- and be able to anticipate the movement of other skaters. She'd ideally be exceptionally quick taking off of the line. And, equally as vital, she should be savvy and smart: Know when it is wisest to "hit it and quit it" (i.e. pick up four quick points and call off the jam before the other jammer can accrue any points), to positionally block the opposing jammer and whittle down the clock instead of going for more points, or to gun it when the other team's jammer is sent to the box and results in a power jam.

Jammer's eye view: Jammers have a few short seconds to devise a plan before reentering the pack

Jamming can intimidating, but it can also be an exhilarating experience.

Do you have what it takes?

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