Unknown Sport: Roller Derby
The way to describe roller derby is to tell you it’s like rugby on wheels, whilst being slightly drunk. The moves these women pull off at such a speed where one second you’re tackling a jammer, the next you’re being flattened on the floor is crazy to look at.
And funnily enough, that’s how some of the players first discovered it. “We were on a night out and were reminiscing about when we were younger and how roller disco’s were so popular. After searching on Google I found out it’s moved on and wanted to have another go at it!”
Beat Girl, a member of the London Rockin’ Rollers, also didn’t go searching for Roller Derby, “I got drawn into roller derby walking past a queue of people outside York Hall Leisure Centre in Bethnal Green about four years ago. Jack Attack and Sin D Doll (LRR skaters) were at the entrance, faces painted and wearing all their kit. My boyfriend and I joined the queue out of curiosity and entered the world of roller derby, I was immediately hooked!”
Since its creation in the 1930’s by Leo Seltzer and Damon Runyon, Roller Derby has become one of those sports that has been neglected by the masses, but has grown in support from die-hard fans who seem just as invested in the sport as the athletes are.
And they definitely are athletes. It seems weird to be cheering one girl tackling another to the ground, but the support is what makes the sport so enjoyable to watch. Some sports today are wrapped in bubble wrap where no one person can put themself at risk of any slight injury (ahem football!) and roller derby is the perfect anecdote to this.
I went to watch a game between the London Rockin’ Rollers against Swansea City Slayers and it was safe to say I wasn’t sure what I was expecting. With the sport still starting out, the players are well known to the fans and it is very much a community, similar to tennis or Formula 1 but on a smaller, more familiar scale.
The sport is still trying to establish it’s roots and it is fun watching a sport with such vibrancy and passion progressing in such a short space of time. Although the number of games played each season is very up to logistics and money, the roller derby girls are never short of competitions. “We’ve all been busy training for our last bout of the season against the Blitz Dames and a few of our skaters are going to be competing in the roller derby World Cup in Dallas next month so everyone is working really hard in preparation.”
So let WNOL Sport give you the rundown of how to play and all the information needed to become a certified roller derby fan!
Alright then, how does it work?
No need for a pen and paper here. The sport consists of two teams of 14 simply in the same direction around track. Each of the periods is played for 30 minutes with each “jam” [session] lasting two minutes. The aim is for each team’s “jammer” [point scorer] to try to lap people from the opposing side and in turn score points.
Seems rather boring! Why is it dangerous?
What I forgot to mention was that whilst those members skate around the track at speeds of 30mph, each team tries to block the opposing lead Jammer by any means possible whilst trying to assist their own Jammer. This includes blocking opponents using their hips, bum and shoulders. Imagine fighting over the last biscuit with your brother, and times that intensity by ten. There are crashes, bumps and injuries aplenty.
Is there a local team to London I can get behind?
Funny that you should say that, the team to get behind is the London Rockin’ Rollers! (Names are often funny pseudonyms) They were formed in 2007 and have risen through the ranks to be one of the most feared in the league.
“Part of the attraction of roller derby is that it’s so refreshing, it’s not another version of a ‘men’s sport’ for women. There are of course incredible men’s roller derby teams including London’s Southern Discomfort but it’s still primarily most popular as a women’s sport, and it’s a contact sport on skates! Where else can you find a female sport packed full of speed, aggression, athleticism and impeccable skating skills.”
Woah! I’m not doing that, can I just watch instead?
Yes, it has become an international sport and you can support your local team if they have graduated to the WFTDA (women’s flat track derby association). The modern roller derby, which is fast becoming the ‘it’ sport, arrived in the UK in 2006, and already has 90 UK leagues, so there will always be someone you can watch.
If you’re feeling a bit braver than most, every year there is a new intake of “fresh meat” with tryouts starting early next year. All ages and capabilities are encouraged and it is a great way to meet like-minded people who love fist bumping and some war paint.
I want to see them live! When do they play next?
This Saturday (15th November) The London Rockin’ Rollers take on the Birmingham Blitz Dames at the Newham Leisure Centre. London Rockin’ Rollers first took to the track in 2007 in the UK’s first ever interleague game. For tickets visit the LRR website where prices start from £10. Doors open from 4pm.
I defy you to go against WNOL Sports recommendations and not watch a bout, but if you do need some more convincing, have a look a this video.