Roller Derby: The Fun and Rude Version of Skating

You see girls in shorts, colorful outfits and roller skates. But the roller derby is not just that. Few sports have the characteristics that make roller derby what it is: Self-management, feminism, companionship (family), DIY, punk, rock, counterculture, tattoos, respect and even love for the opposing team. In roller derby, you can find players of all ages and complexions who come from other contact sports, skating, or even those who had never done a sport, all equally attracted to the derby lifestyle.

What is Roller Derby?

As a term, Roller Derby exists since 1922, when the Chicago Tribune used it to describe skate races of several days. By 1930 the promoter Leo Seltzer and the sports chronist Damon Runyon accredited to themselves the invention of the rules of the contest, making it about physical contact and teamwork. The golden era of the discipline was in the ’50s and then decades passed by, until the year 2000, when a group of skaters rescued the sport from oblivion. Actual roller derby is a contact sport on traditional skates, in an oval track, with mostly female players and is played without a ball.

Maybe a non- connoisseur will ask: But if there is no ball… How are the points marked? What is the point of a bunch of girls rolling around a track on roller skates?

The one in charge of scoring the points it’s called ‘the Jammer’, recognizable because this is the skater with a star in the helmet, this player adds points whenever she advances to the opponents. Hence the contact, because the rivals will try, based on strength, speed, agility, dexterity and strategy to keep her from moving forward.

The Modalities

Since the revival of the sport, the number of teams practicing it grew quickly. So, by 2004, a group of women’s leagues formed what is now the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA), which coordinates and establishes the rules governing competition among members of the leagues, organizes championships and sets up rankings. It all started in Austin, Texas. Now there are certified leagues worldwide. The majority of the teams plays under the WFTDA rules, even the non-associated ones. But also, there´s another modality to practice roller derby called Renegade, which does not accept any type of regulation.

The Equipment

Roller derby is played with traditional skates (the ones with 4 wheels on 2 axes). According to the WFTDA, every player must be equipped with body protections such as wrist guards, elbow pads, knee pads, a mouth guard and a helmet. Additional protections may also be used, as long as it does not interfere with the other people on the track. Furthermore, a special helmet covers are used to identify on the track the special positions of skaters (a star for the jammer and a stripe for the pivot).

Did you find this sport an interesting thing to watch or even practice? We encourage you to look for the team in your city (a quick Facebook search should do the trick), even if you do not know how to skate. And even if you do not know how to skate,, reach out anyway, teams always need referees and NSOs (referees without skates). You will not regret it.


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