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Roller Derby

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Roller Derby Skates


When many of us think of roller derby, we think about 1960s/70s TV footage of skilled, but tough roller skaters zipping around an oval shaped skating rink, knocking each other down, and routinely getting into fights! Well guess what, not that much has changed for those that participate in the sport of roller derby today. Roller derby is still a highly competitive contact sport that requires skill, physical toughness, and determination. The roller skating rinks used today can either be banked or flat with cones strategically placed to facilitate the game.


Roller derby is a female dominated sport. Although some men still play, along with a few co-ed teams, the sport is now famous for its tough female teams. Most roller derby players in today's leagues are considered amateur and are not paid. Today's roller derby players could be characterized by the following traits: dedicated, committed, determined, tough and skilled. Roller derby has been played in countries all over the world, but originated in the United States. Let's take a look at the history of roller derby.


Roller Derby History


In 1922, the Chicago Tribune first used the term roller derby to describe an upcoming roller skating race; this is the first reported use of the term "roller derby". In 1935, a sports promoter by the name of Leo Seltzer held a roller skating race that mirrored the endurance bicycle races from the Great Depression. Leo Seltzer's races consisted of teams of two (male and female) and the goal was to be the first to complete 57,000 laps around the rink. Roller derby started out as a marathon! Leo Seltzer trademarked the term "Roller Derby" and a new sport was officially born.


Over the next two years roller derby began to evolve into more of a contact sport. This was due, in part, to a sportswriter named Damon Runyon. Damon Runyon reported that the most exciting moments during the race occurred when skaters collided. It appears that from this observation, promoters began changing the rules allowing for offensive and defensive players. They also reshaped the roller derby rink by banking the floor, and segregated the teams by gender. Roller derby continued to grow through the 1960s, but started to decline in the 1970s. During the mid 1970s roller derby was rarely shown on television, but was still played and watched by the sport's loyal fans. In 2001 roller derby leagues started popping up all over the country, with the first teams forming in Austin, Texas. This new era of roller derby history began with predominately female teams organized in both professional and amateur leagues; this is where we find ourselves today.   


Roller Derby Rules


So, what are the rules in roller derby and how do you win? Roller derby is still a race with the objective of finishing first. Roller derby games are comprised of 20 minute periods. Each game consists of multiple races that are referred to as a "jam"; each jam lasts up to two minutes. The five players consist of three different positions: one jammer (the player that can score); the pivot (last line of defense) and three blockers (defensive positions). The blockers try to keep the other jammer from scoring while trying to help their jammer score. The pivot sets the pace of the race and is the last line of defense to prevent the opponent's jammer from scoring. Each position has a design on their helmet to identify their position; pivots have stripes, jammers have stars, and blockers helmets are clear.


When the referee blows the whistle to begin the bout, the players begin to skate. When the teams are 20 feet out, the referee blows the whistle a second time and the jammers begin to skate. The jammers try to break through the pack, thereby getting a point for each player passed. The bout can last up to two minutes, but the lead jammer can end the bout by placing her hands on her hips. At the end of the bout the score is calculated to determine the winner of the bout or "jam".


Some of the specific roller derby rules are as follows: 1) players cannot block with elbows above the shoulders. 2) they are never allowed to clothesline 3) players cannot trip or block from behind 4) players cannot intentionally fall in front of opponents 4) players cannot be insubordinate to officials. Breaking any of these and other rules can land a player in the penalty box. Players my spend up to a minute in the penalty box or be ejected from the game altogether for major infractions.


Roller Derby Safety


Roller Derby is a contact sport and players can and do sustain injuries. To minimize injuries, safety measures should be put in place. Some of the safety measures roller derby players should consider are as follows: 1. Continuously improve skating skills 2. Learn how to fall safely - then practice falling 3. Stay in shape through strength and endurance training 4. Wear safety pads; elbow pads, knee pads, wrist guards and a helmet (these are mandatory), and consider wearing hip and tailbone pads 5. Follow the rules.  














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