Seven Things: I Learned About Roller Derby

This past weekend I squeezed in a roadtrip with Boyfriend down to Chicago to visit some favorites from my BC days.  KC was in town to support her roller derby league, the Gotham Girls, in the Women’s Roller Derby Championships and invited us to watch a couple bouts with her on Saturday afternoon.

So. Exciting.  Even Boyfriend, who cares exactly 0% about sporting events was enthralled.  Also he really wants me to join a league, despite the fact that I haven’t been on roller skates since I was roughly 9 years old.  We shall see.

Never having seen a roller derby bout, I made KC explain all sorts of details to me, from the basics, to strategic moves, to history, to name choosing.

7. Each team has 5 skaters on the track at a time.  4 in the pack, and 1 Jammer.  It is the Jammer’s job to try to make it through the pack, around the track, and back through the pack to score points.  The pack is acting both defensively to prevent the other teams Jammer from breaking through, and offensively, to help their own Jammer through.

Lining up for the Jam

6.  Roller Derby began in the 1940s as war time entertainment.  It was a staged event with a predetermined winning team, staged plays, and bouffants.

from Life magazine via source

5.  Roller Derby as we now know it made it’s comeback in 2003/2004.  Matches are now real sporting events (read: not staged).  There are currently leagues in 48 states, the only states without being North Dakota* and Montana.

4.  There are two types of Roller Derby tracks, flat and banked.  Banked track roller derby is still associated with being scripted.  Flat track required finer maneuvering because (nerd alert) of the lack of inertia.  Flat track also allows for the crowd to be right up in it, including suicide seating, in which you might just end up with a derby girl in your lap.

3.  Derby names are registered in a national registry.  There is quite the art to picking your derby name, which generally include a mixture of puns, historical or fictional characters, sex, speed and violence.  Good examples I saw or met  this weekend include Pipi Strongstocking, Sandra Day O’Bomber, Beatrix Slaughter, and Puss in Glutes (the one and only KC).

2.  While Roller Derby is generally a female sport, there are men’s leagues beginning to pop up around the country.

1. Derby Girls have great dance parties!

*I stand corrected, ND does in fact have roller derby, my interweb searching must have yielded out dated results… or they aren’t registered nationally yet.

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4 Comments on “Seven Things: I Learned About Roller Derby”

  1. Katie Says:

    Clare my dearest, I think you have a fact wrong. I know for certain that there is Roller derby in Fargo. I walk by the civic center with its brightly pink and yellow flashing sign at least once a week advertising the next roller derby event. Now perhaps with it being a mere mile or less from the MN border it isn’t counted, but I’m standing up for my state’s… reputation?

    All joking aside, I’m glad you had fun! It would be awesome to see you doing this. If you can do rugby, I would guarantee you could handle roller derby… as long as you get that skating thing down.

    Love you and talk to you soon!

  2. clare Says:

    Ha! thanks for the info. I always strive for accuracy in my posts, correction noted

  3. Mom Says:

    So you didn’t explain exactly how you score points…Does the jammer just have to get through the opposing pack to score? The sport sounds a little like Quidditch on wheels with a seeker (minus the snitch)and a team that operates basically independent of their own seeker but tries to undermine the opposing team’s seeker.
    And, if said Boyfriend wants you to take up roller derby, is he committing to come and watch you in a sporting event???

  4. clare Says:

    the jammer scores a point for each member of the opposing team that they pass when they get through the pack. there are also some details about the first jammer to get through the pack initially becoming the lead jammer and being able to call off the jam (end point scoring)


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