Everything You Need to Know About Roller Derby

AU58This article was originally published in Absolute Underground #58

Roller Derby is a hard hitting sport that is back with a vengeance. In existence since the 1930s, the sport has surged and withdrawn over the decades and now it’s seeing a new surge. Retaining the colourful team names, like Prince George’s, Rated PG Rollergirls, and member names, such as; The Fenzie, Hot X Buns or Maya Mangleyou, of the 70s, the modern sport focuses on the athleticism over the bravado and aims for a demonstration sport spot at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

The game is played by two teams of up to twenty, on roller skates, not roller blades. Each team puts five players on the track for a “Jam”. Both teams assign a “Jammer” with a helmet cover marked with a star, whose job is to pass all the members of the opposing team on an oval circuit. Each opposition member passed during a two-minute or less, “Jam” scores the team a point. The team with the most points at the end of the two half-hour periods, wins the Bout. Unlike Hockey, Soccer, Football, etc. there is no ball/puck or net, only the players, and only the Jammer can score points.

Blockers, the four non-jammers, work to stop the opposing team’s Jammer from scoring by obstructing the path of the track with their body, legs and hips. Once a Jammer passes at the hip, they are considered to have scored, and are no longer blockable by that opponent. Using arms and hands will result in a one-minute penalty.

While there are seniors, mixed and men’s teams, it’s the women teams and leagues that are prevalent in the Flat Track Derby’s around the world. The Roller Derby Association of Canada sports 44 member leagues from coast to coast to coast.

In Victoria, the Eves of Destruction league runs events from April to late September, traveling from Esquimalt to the four corners of the Pacific Northwest and hosting home games with their four teams up against visitors from as far away as Everett, Washington..

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AU: Why roller derby?
Bareleigh Legal #18 Calgary RDA All Stars — Why not? I had played most every other sport and wanted something new and exciting. I instantly became addicted and can hardly remember life before derby.

H-Bomb #12mt Faster Pussycats What I like about roller derby is how included I feel. I’m not the strongest nor the fastest skater on my team, but everyone encourages and respects everyone else. I always feel like I’m welcome, and part of the team.
Derby keeps me healthy because of the physical exercise, but it also keeps my mind healthy and clear. If I’ve had a bad day at work, as soon as I get out on the track I feel better because my mind can take a break from the everyday things that cause me stress.
I also love that roller derby challenges me both physically and mentally. It’s a sport with a lot of rules, and you are constantly thinking and doing things at the same time. Derby is a combination of strategy, strength, skill and teamwork.

Cat the Conqueror #6969 Derby Debutantes Rollerderby is physically challenging endurance and strength and also mentally challenging with all of the strategies to learn as you are always playing offensive and defensively in each jam.

AU: What do you enjoy about it?
Bareleigh Legal #18 CRDA All Stars — I love that roller derby is a competitive full body contact sport for women–I love the athleticism, intensity, strategy, physicality and community…I 5995P9
pretty much love everything about it.
Ruin #98 Cut-Throat Car Hops I love that there is so much going on in roller derby that it’s impossible to think of anything else while playing or practicing. The best thing after a stressful day is to go to practice and forget about everything else and just work hard. I also love testing my resilience – getting hit over and over again and knowing that I can still get up everytime and continue working with the team. It’s really powerful to learn how strong I am, both mentally and physically when I’m put to the test.

H-Bomb #12mt Faster Pussycats Roller derby was really the only sport for me. I had never been involved in team sports until I started playing roller derby. I was quite shy as a kid when it came to sports, and had no desire to join a sports team.
In 2006, I read a story about a local woman who wanted to start a roller derby league where I lived. I had no idea what roller derby even was — all I knew was that it was played on roller skates. I was sold.
I skated for about two years with that first league in Chilliwack — which unfortunately didn’t survive — and then I transferred to Terminal City Rollergirls in 2009.
AU: How did you get involved?
Ruin #98 Cut-Throat Car Hops I spent a couple of seasons watching the games at Tri-wood Arena. It looked so exciting, and something in the back of my mind told me that it was something I could do. In the fall of 2012 CRDA held tryouts for new skaters and I decided to see if I was any good on skates. It was way more difficult than it looked, but I loved every minute of the tryouts and the boot camp so I was then allowed to join the freshmeat team in January of 2013. I spent several months learning all the skills I’d need – stopping, falling, and basic footwork. Once I passed the initial benchmark test I was allowed to join the Smash Squad and then skate with the rest of the league. I got to know many of the skaters and the different house teams over the summer and then by September I was drafted to the Car Hops. I’ve spent the time since improving my skills and learning how to work as a team.

Dani Darko #28 Riot Girls I was chatting with my friend Amanda one day, and she told me that she was going to Fresh Meat with the Eves of Destruction and write an immersion journalism piece on the sport. I thought she was crazy, but I immediately told her I was coming with her. I ordered my skates the next day, and we started skating in parking lots at UVic.
I started in Fresh Meat with the Eves of Destruction, but failed my first time through the basic skills test (I was really out of shape, had some health issues to deal with, and had never roller skated before). After that, I decided to become an official, and learn the sport better, while I worked on some fitness and lifestyle changes. I’ve since become a lot more athletic and active, which made it much easier for me to pass my basic skills after moving to Vancouver. I’m now in my seco5980P9nd season as a player, and loving it.

AU: What advice do you have for those looking to join?
H-Bomb #12mt Faster Pussycats Start skating now. Our league has try-outs in September for our annual Fresh Meat program, which is basically a four-month long rookie training camp.
You can also join a group called Raw Meat Vancouver, which is a year-round, drop-in skating group where you’ll learn the basics of roller skating and the rules of roller derby. Raw Meat is great for the months leading up to Fresh Meat, or for those who simply need a bit more on-skate time before trying out for Fresh Meat.
As long as you’re a woman and 19+ years of age, you’re welcome to join roller derby. We have skaters of all ages, sizes, and skill levels. Don’t let fear or anxiety get in the way of you joining derby. We are all there to have fun, be healthy, and meet new friends. People are there because they want to be there, not because they have to be there.

AU: What are the risks?
Dani Darko #28 Riot Girls Like any full-contact sport, there is definitely the risk of injury. Ankle breaks and MCL tears are on the higher end of the scale, but bumps and bruises are really common. Personally, I’ve sprained my wrist, had a large calf muscle contusion, and gotten 11 stitches and an amazing black eye from my glasses breaking during a scrimmage. I don’t wear glasses to play, anymore!

Cat the Conqueror #6969 Derby Debutantes Risks are, you’re addicted to the sport and you’ll want to play all the time, which is why there really are derby widows.
Injuries happen in a full contact sport but do what we can to avoid it by having a full training program for fresh skaters, and before they can play with us they must pass WFTDA (Women’s Flat Track Derby Association) minimum skills test. We wear elbow, wrist, knee-pads, gaskets, mouth-guards and helmets anytime we are on skates.
Even with strict safety precautions accidents happen anything from bruises, sprained knees, broken ankles, and concussions. This is why We have 7 referees at each game and medics to keep people safe.

Pages to check:
RollerDerbyCanada.ca
EvesOfDestruction.com
TerminalCityRollerGirls.com
CalgaryRollerDerby.com
GTARollerGirls.com

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