What’s Roller Derby really about?

Roller derby was invented by an enterprising Chicago man in the Great Depression. He changed the face of endurance skating, where coed teams simply raced around a track. Leo Seltzer added physical contact and team work  and took his travelling troupe around the country, ending up on radio broadcasts and eventually TV.

By the 1960’s Roller Derby evolved into a contact sport and the scoring system was developed. Unfortunately in the 70’s due to the economic slump, Roller Derby took a brief nap. In 2001, determined Texas women woke up the sport and a slew of willing participates across the country, Canada and oversees.

Roller Derby today is a little different than it was, the leagues are mostly skater owned and operated. The skaters are amateurs, not paid in any way. In fact, most of the time skaters pay monthly dues for the privilege of skating. None of the action is choreographed. Skaters go all out for their team, often breaking bones, collecting bruises and suffering painful muscle tears.


Roller Derby appeals to a wide range of people. The women who skate can be college students, married women with kids, teachers, business owners, really from every walk of life. The refs can be their significant others, or just guys who love to skate. Regardless of where they come from all are committed to the extreme training involved.

Girls, who can’t even skate, can join in and quickly learn the ropes with the help of fellow teammates through their intense practice sessions. Commitment and a desire to play are really the main requirements, (aside from mandatory medical insurance.)

If you go to a Roller Derby bout (it’s not a game, or a match, but a bout) be prepared for a very fast paced event. The scoring isn’t that difficult to understand once explained. If you’ve only seen the older version, or if you have never witnessed the sport, this is what to expect:

Four players from each team line up on the track, there will be three blockers and one pivot for each team. (the pack) One jammer for each team lines up twenty feet behind the pack. The designs on their helmets show  what position they are playing, blockers’ helmets are plain, pivots’ are striped and jammers have a star design.

The jammer is the only one capable of gathering points. She needs to be fast and agile to move through the pack. Each time she passes an opposing skater she earns a point. (after the first pass through. No points are scored until the jammers make it through the first time.

The two jammers fight to get through the pack first, to earn the right to be named lead jammer. Thelead jammer is the only one able to call off a jam at any time until the two minute period is up.

Once the first pass is complete, and one skater is named lead jammer, they earn a point for each opposing skater they pass

The pivots are up in front and set the pace for the pack. At no point can their be a gap in the pack, called a split pack. The ref watches for this and so the pivots are very important in ensuring the team stays together and they serve as a “last line of defense” for their teams.

Blockers are there, just as the name implies to block the opposing jammer and to help their own jammer through the pack. Roller Derby girls have to play both offense and defense at all times.

Roller Derby Bouts are broken down into two thirty minute periods or three twenty minute periods, made up of jams. The jams each last two minutes, unless the lead jammer calls it off early.

There are plenty of refs skating around on the inside of the track to watch for penalties.Penalties are part of the game. Illegal blocking, tripping, grabbing, fighting and general bad behavior will send a girl to the penalty box for a set amount of time. If the offense is more serious, the skater can be ejected from the bout.

The spectators at the events will also be from all walks of lives, skaters’ families, their coworkers, derby enthusiasts. You’ll see punk rockers, grandparents, tattoos, suits and kids. Where else is their such a great cross section of culture.

Article extracted from Associated Content.

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