What Is Roller Derby?

Roller derby is a contact sport played by two teams of five members roller skating in the same direction around a track. Game play consists of a series of short match ups (jams) in which both teams designate a jammer who scores points by lapping members of the opposing team. The teams attempt to hinder the opposing jammer while assisting their own jammer—in effect, playing both offense and defense simultaneously!

Modern roller derby is an international sport dominated by all-female amateur teams and was (as a roller sport) under consideration for the 2020 Summer Olympics. Learn more about the game by watching the video or contact us and join!

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Skaters
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On Skates Referees
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Non Skating Officials
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Track

How It All Began

Roller derby began as an endurance sport during the Great Depression. It quickly evolved to a team sport where two teams of five skaters circled the track in a pack, each team sending out an offensive “jammer” who rounded the field and lapped opponents, scoring a point for each opposing team member he or she passed. Teams consisted of alternating women’s and men’s squads accumulating points into a final winning score. The sport exploded with the advent of television and continued to evolve, or perhaps devolve, into the campy theatrics that many still remember to this day.

Roller derby was born again in the early 2000s in Austin, Texas. Lacking the budget for a traditional banked track, the skaters drafted a modified set of rules to allow the same basic game to be played on a flat surface. The ability to mark track boundaries on any suitable flat surface, such as skating rinks, basketball courts, parking lots, and airplane hangars, rather than building and storing a large banked track, has made it possible to play the game just about anywhere. The play-anywhere nature of the flat-track game greatly reduces the capital needed to form a league, thus allowing small groups of determined skaters to get a fledgling league off the ground.

The Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA)

The Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA), formed in 2004, develops and maintains the standardized rules for roller derby, in use by WFTDA member and non-member leagues internationally. The WFTDA also serves as the sanctioning body for flat track roller derby games, hosts regional and national tournaments, sets safety standards, provides roller derby insurance to athletes and leagues, and serves as a networking venue for flat track roller derby leagues to share resources and get advice.

WFTDA-Derby

Where We Are Now
Roller Derby Today

Modern Roller Derby

Today’s flat track roller derby is a legitimate sport, and the hits, spills, and competition are all 100% real. The fast-paced action, body checks, and whip assists are all still very much part of the game. However, flat track rules and the different physics of skating on a flat surface, versus a banked track, make the strategies and game play very different. Punching, tripping, and blocking from behind are illegal, as are elbowing, clothes-lining, and cutting the track. Just like any other contact sport, there are strict rules and penalties for such infractions. A small army of referees is required to enforce the rules, which are in place to protect the athletes’ safety and preserve fairness. Protective gear is required for all skaters and referees, and both skaters and referees are required to pass a minimum skills assessment in order to participate in sanctioned bouts.

Leagues are typically non-profit organizations run by the skaters themselves. A successful league requires hours of volunteer work from skaters, referees, and non-skating officials alike. Leagues may consist of one or several teams that may or may not travel on a national scale. The DIY spirit that drives the sport allows roller derby leagues to create their own unique identities and adapt their structures to reflect their local communities.

Where We Began
History of Roller Derby

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Revival Year
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WFTDA Leagues
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Apprentice Leagues
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Rulebook Pages