Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Roller Derby

I love Roller Derby! I gave this presentation to my communication class today and thought I'd share it with ya all! Hopefully I can inspire a wave of new fans!

Roller derby has started making a comeback in the last nine years, but this isn’t your mama’s roller derby. This new wave of derby has replaced those sweatbands, spandex and staged hits with short skirts fishnets and women who know how to kick some serious butt!
Roller derby today is played mostly by women and has stemmed a sort of feminist culture due to how aggressive the game is played. Lawyers, doctors, teachers, bankers, etc, that can range from 18 to almost 70 gather to play, and they leave the woman that world sees behind the minute they lace up their skates.

"Put some skates on, be your own hero." This is what Kristen Wigg’s character in “Whip It” tells Ellen Page after she told her she was her new hero.

This describes exactly what roller derby is. This game isn’t about sitting on the sidelines and watching people take action. It’s about lacing up your skates and being who you want to be!

I'm going to cover all the basics (history, lingo, clothes and alter egos) so at your next bout you'll be totally caught up.

The history of roller derby begins in the 1930’s and continues through the 70’s.
1935- Leo Seltzer invents roller derby, during the Great Depression. It started out as a race on a 45-degree banked track where men and women raced against time. It was basically a traveling show like a circus, which took place 5 days a week. Since contestants were paid with food and shelter, it was very alluring to a lot of people during this time. A few years later the rules were revamped and transformed into a game similar to the one that is played today.
1950's- Television brought popularity to the sport and derby arenas were frequently sold out.

In the 1960’s Leo Seltzer’s song, Jerry Seltzer, took over. He understood the crowd’s excitement over the hard hits and knockouts and implemented football-like strategies into the game. Most of these aggressive maneuvers were often staged and rehearsed.
In 1973, derby goes bankrupt and appears to be done forever.
2000's -The reincarnation of derby began, when the player’s (mostly women) decided to re-invent the sport. The tracks became flat to reduce costs and can be played anywhere. Setting up a banked track is time consuming, not to mention costly to store when not in use. Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) was created in 2004 and helps set regulations, rules, and also organizes bouts.

Lingo and Rules:

Bout:-One game of roller derby, this consists of two, thirty-minute periods.

Jam-A jam is a two-minute period where both teams compete to score points. A jam can end early if the Lead Jammer calls the jam off.

Jammer-The Jammer is the only player on the team that can score points and is labeled by a large star on her helmet. Jammers start exactly thirty feet behind the lead pivot blocker who is positioned at the front of the pack. There is only one Jammer per team on the track at any time.

The Pack (blockers)-a group of five players from each team skating around the track consisting of blockers. The Pivot (who is labeled by a large stripe on her helmet) leads the pack and controls its speed around the track. The Jammer’s main objective is to break through or around the pack.

Non-scoring pass-- Jammer is not able to score points, but the first Jammer through acquires Lead Jammer when determined by the referee. The Lead Jammer is able to determine when to call off the jam, which can be a wonderful strategy to prevent the opposing team from scoring. When the Lead Jammer wants to call off the jam she can at any point, put both her hands on her hips. Jammers usually repeatedly tap their hips to bring attention to the call.

Fishnet burns or Rink Rash--When the skaters do get blocked or hit, they wear their bruises and scrapes with pride. Burns from sliding across floor.

Illegal Target Zones:anywhere above the shoulders, on the back of torso, back of the booty, back of the thigh, below the mid thigh.

Legal Target Zone's-the arms, hands, chest front and side torso, hips, mid and upper thigh, including the inner portion” (WFTDA, 2010). Due to the increased risk to the skaters they must all wear protective gear (wrist guards, elbow pads, knee pads, mouth guards and helmets), failure to do so will result in a penalty. Players can also wear optional protective gear such as padded shorts, chin guards, shin guards or tailbone protectors.

Clothes and Alter Ego's

The game isn’t the only thing that’s been a bit transformed from its earlier roots. “When we lace up our skates, we take on new names- like Rice Rocket, Misty Meaner, Raquel Welts, and Triptease-and alter egos. All the better to kick an opponent’s ass and not feel guilty in the morning; we make ourselves into the girls of our dreams”(Joulwan, 2007).

“All is fair in love and derby –so long as the refs don’t see. On the track players are hitting each other like we’re out for blood—but five minutes after, and it’s all hugs and thanks.”(Delano, 2010).

In conclusion, now that you know a bit more about its history, some lingo and rules, and a bit about the clothes and alter egos you should fit right in at the next bout. (Which by the way, the season normally starts in April).
This definitely isn’t the roller derby from the 1970’s. The women that skate out onto the track are heroes, each in their own unique way. It may look like it is all fishnets and short skirts but the women that come out to play, play for keeps. It’s intense, hard-hitting, and hard-core, just like the women who play it.


  1. Whip It was the bomb! I learned a great deal just now...hope you got an A on your assignment.

  2. Thanks! I got a 94%, I got marked off cause my speech went over 2 minutes...OOps! I can't help it, I love to talk about Derby! :)

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. This has been an ongoing dream of mine. I go on Thursday to watch the girls practice (just moved to this city) and see what I think after witnessing the awesome madness in person. I'm crazy excited.