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Roller Derby Training: Star Passing 101

Roller Derby Training: Star Passing 101

Three years ago my coach came into Terminal City All Stars practice and said “This team is going to be known for being the first and best team at passing the star.”  So we spent the next 18 months learning everything about star passing, repeating scenario after scenario and working out the kinks until we had gotten it down to a fine art.

At the time, it was rare to see a team use the star pass technique.  Most teams thought of it as a “oh no our jammer is tired/getting beat up/can’t be bothered to jam anymore” strategy.  Not something serious derby players would use!

But these days it seems like the star pass is back in fashion at all levels of play – being used for strategic, smart reasons.  And if you’ve read any of my other training posts, you’ll know how much I love SMART roller derby 🙂

So I thought I’d pass on my star passing wisdom to you. This post is a long one, but it’s packed full of information. So read it right through to the end – and then take it to your next practice and try it out with your teammates!

Star Passing Strategy for Roller Derby

Question: Why do you pass the star? Because it can be used for a strategic advantage and because it’s in the rules! And…

  • Stop the bleeding ie. force the other team to call it off.
  • Put another team off their game.
  • Fresh legs – you’re running a long jam so you want to split the 2 minutes between your jammer and pivot so that you have the freshest legs out there able to score as many points as possible!

1) Star Pass Rules

If you are going to use the star pass as a strategy you need to know the rules that apply to star passes inside and out. If possible, invite your refs to the practices that you are going to be discussing this strategy. If that’s not a possibility, get out the rule book!

Here’s a few that you should know: FYI this is based on the current, 2016 WFTDA rule set.

  • Only jammer and pivot can touch the cover.
  • You CAN skate backwards and/or out of bounds for the cover.
  • If you throw the cover and the pivot catches it – that does not complete the pass. But at this point the pivot can hand it back to the jammer. No pass, but no penalty.
  • As soon as leaves jammers hands and is successfully passed to pivot – pass has occurred.
  • Stars must be visible to SCORE POINTS.
  • You know a pass has been successful when the jam ref signals you as not lead.
  • Until the pass has been completed, the jammer is still the jammer – so gets penalties as the jammer. Even if helmet cover is not on.
  • You only need the cover on to SCORE points, not complete your initial pass.

roller derby uniforms

2) Technique of star passing

Honestly this helps!

  • Cover goes on at the front but not at the back.
  • Pinch and pull off the front

Drill: Get into pairs and practice passing and putting on. Yup it feels kind of silly, but trust me, you want to feel comfortable doing this stationary so that when you have to do it while skating it’s muscle memory.

Up and Over Pass

The technique that my team uses for star passing is to pass UP and OVER the opposing wall. Both the jammer and the pivot have to reach up to receive/hand off the cover. This technique means that the other team cannot block the pass with their bodies.

Around the Bend Pass

Another option for passing is to do so around the opposing players on the lines. There are definitely benefits to this type of pass (especially if your jammer/pivot are height challenged!) but it also puts you in a vulnerable position as you have to be close to the lines to do this, and the other team can physically block the pass with their hips.

3) Star passing Scenarios

On the line: If up against a strong jammer and have blockers in the box. If know that the other team always calls it short. Use up the time clock.

If don’t get lead and jammer is stuck behind the wall: Pivot is in a more advantageous position.

How to pass: Up and over is quickest and allows jammer to keep “jamming”

Notes: Time yourself with other jammer – have to do quickly.

Role of blockers: Make a wall to prevent spill over.

Question: What would you do if the pivot is in the back?

Stop the bleeding: If you have been passed twice by other jammer – set up the pass for the front. Stop the bleeding – works for a team that calls off jams short.

Set this up: As soon as have been passed twice then set up for a pass. Don’t worry about the other jammer! Goal is to reduce point scoring – 10-15 points is better than 25!

Fresh Legs: Running long jams. Jammer takes the first 1 minute, pivot takes the second minute. Obviously have to get lead first!

Notes: Jammer and blocker must be equally good at both jobs. Works well with jammers that are good at getting lead but gas out. However those jammers have to be able to transition to blocking.

Jammers: Know your role in the pack. Don’t put yourself in penalty trouble – no taking revenge!!

Where to pass: At the front or at the back 15 feet away from the pack. Not trying to be sneaky trying to keep clock running. Wherever the blockers are set up so that the jammer can join them easily.

Practice: Whoever gets lead runs the jam for 2 minutes and switches at the 1 minute mark (coach signals the one minute)

Penalty box: It’s set up so beautifully for you! Up and over to the pivot.

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4) How to practice star passing

The best way to practice star passing is to set up different scrimmage situations.

  • Set up to scrimmage with the rule that whichever team does NOT get lead must set up to pass. Allow the opposing team two scoring passes before the coach calls off the jam. Run this 5-10 times to see if the team can figure out how to execute the pass.
  • Break it down – go through the process step by step. Start the jam and then FREEZE. Now talk through exactly where people should be moving and demo in slow mo.
  • Find the problem spots – identify where things are going wrong and practice those parts over and over. Repetition is the key to mastery!

Role Switching Drill

This is a good drill to practice rapidly switching from jammer to blocker.

Set up: Groups of 4 – numbered 1-4

Drill: Pack starts skating. Coach calls out a number – this person is now the jammer. The other skaters have to block the jammer until a different number is called out and the original jammer has to quickly switch to the blocker role.

Note: There should be no pausing between switches. The goal is for the blockers to be able to reset quickly and for the jammers to switch between jamming and blocking.

Phew that was a lot of information! Well done if you made it to the end! You must be a SUPER SMART roller derby person 🙂

Later Skaters


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>>>> Want even more derby learning? Check out Strong Derby Stance: Technique & Drills

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