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.