The Full Wiki

Roller derby: Map


Wikipedia article:

Map showing all locations mentioned on Wikipedia article:

Charlotte Rollergirls vs. the Cape Fear Rollergirls (both of North Carolina) in a classic roller derby scrum, or jam.

Roller derby is an Americanmarker-invented contact sport—and historically, a form of sports entertainment—based on formation roller skating around an oval track, with points scored as certain players lap members of an opposing team. In past decades, roller derby had been primarily a professional or paid sport for both women and men. Contemporary roller derby is international, predominantly female, typically operates on an amateur (or unpaid) circuit, and has a strong do it yourself ethic which often features both athleticism and a punk third-wave feminism aesthetic.


The term roller derby dates at least as far back as 1922, when the Chicago Tribune used it to describe multi-day, flat-track roller skating races, similar to banked-track marathons reported on by The New York Times in 1885 (a six-day race) and 1914 (a 24-hour championship), among others.

Promoter Leo Seltzer and sportswriter Damon Runyon are credited with modifyingthese endurance competitions in the 1930s by emphasizing the physical contact and teamwork—and thus the more spectacular aspects of the sport. Seltzer trademarked the name Roller Derby, reserving it for use by his traveling troupe of professional skaters. Roller Derby took root as an icon of popular culture as matches were held in numerous cities throughout the U.S. and sometimes broadcast on radio and, eventually, on television.

Rival organizations such as Roller Games (featuring the Los Angeles Thunderbirds) came and went as the sport/spectacle endured several boom-and-bust cycles throughout the second half of the 20th century. The initial business model of roller derby finally collapsed in the mid-1970s, but the sport underwent several professional, on-and-off TV revivals which were spearheaded by veteran skaters, including a continuation of Roller Games under new management, a 10-year International Roller Skating League (IRSL), and the short-lived, TV-only spectacles RollerGames and RollerJam.

Contemporary roller derby

While a small number of for-profit organizations, consisting largely of veterans from earlier revivals, continued to organize one-off matches in California into the early '00s using paid skaters, an international grassroots DIY revival occurred that was organized by young women unaffiliated with previous incarnations of the sport. The contemporary revival restored a focus on athleticism, albeit with modern-day campy accoutrements. The balance of athletics and camp –which are not necessarily mutually exclusive– varies from league to league.

Roller derby has since spread beyond its American roots, with leagues extant in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

All-female, grassroots leagues

Windy City Rollers (Chicago, Illinois).
Nearly all contemporary roller derby leagues are all-female and self-organized, and were formed in an indie, DIY spirit by relatively new roller derby enthusiasts. These leagues deploy traditional quad roller skates, and a punk aesthetic and/or ethic is often prominent. Many, if not most, are legally incorporated as limited liability companies, and a few are non-profit organizations. Most compete on flat tracks. Only 4 compete on banked tracks.

Each league typically features two or more local teams which compete in public matches, called bouts, for a diverse fan base. Members of fledgling leagues often practice and strategize together, regardless of team affiliation, between bouts. Moreover, as the business and infrastructure of the sport matures, successful local leagues form travel teams to compete with the roller derby leagues of other cities and regions.

Most players in these leagues skate under aliases, many of which are creative examples of word play with satirical, mock-violent or sexual puns, alliteration, and allusions to pop culture. Examples include Sandra Day O'Clobber (Sandra Day O'Connor), Scariett Tubman (Harriett Tubman), Skid'n Nancy (Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen), Goldie Knoxx (Goldilocks, Fort Knoxmarker), and Anna Mosity (animosity). Some players claim their names represent alter egos which they adopt whilst skating. By the 2009 season, however, a small number of players on at least three leagues had started skating under their real names.

The names of the bouts themselves are typically as sardonic and convoluted — for example, Nightmare on Hull Street (Nightmare on Elm St.), Seasons Beatings, (Seasons Greetings), Night of the Rolling Dead (Night of the Living Dead); Spanksgiving (Thanksgiving), Grandma Got Run Over By a Rollergirl (Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer), Skate & Destroy Her, Cupid's Quarrel, Shamrock and Roll, Pushin' Daisies, Cinco de May-hem (Cinco de Mayo), and War of the Wheels (War of the Worlds).

The camp can extend to players' uniforms as well. Costumes are often inspired by or comparable with rockabilly or burlesque fashions, and tattoos and tutus are commonly in evidence. In some roller derby leagues, showy on-track behavior, half-time entertainment and randomly selected "penalty games" emphasize the "entertainment" in sports entertainment. The extent to which such non-athletic stylizations are embraced varies from league to league, and continues to be a source of some contention.

Inasmuch as roller derby is a contact sport, the risk of injury is non-trivial. Injuries range from common bruises and sprains to broken bones and beyond. As is the case with many sporting events and other large public gatherings, many modern roller derby games are required to be played with EMTs on hand. Some leagues prominently display their injuries, and safety and injuries are a perennial topic on skating blogs and other forums.

Although the 2000s revival of roller derby was initially all-female, some leagues later introduced all-male teams, and co-ed games.

Mixed-gender, for-profit leagues

A handful of leagues, mostly mixed-gender, have origins in earlier incarnations of the sport and heavily promote themselves as professional due to their history, management, membership, style of play and marketing considerations. As of the mid-2000s, most of these leagues do not compete in regular seasons, but rather schedule infrequent special-event games, drawing from a relatively small pool of skaters to form the roster of two teams put together just for the event, or on one team that plays against a similar club from another league. Team names typically pay homage to memorable Roller Derby and Roller Games teams of the past.

Such leagues include Roller Game (Japan), National Roller Derby League (California), American Roller Derby League (California), American Roller Skating Derby (California), and Roller Games International (California).

Associations and governing bodies

Many leagues choose to be members of organizations that are chartered to facilitate competition between those organizations' members. Although they don't "govern" the sport in a broad sense, such organizations may formulate and publish rules of play, sanction specific competitions, organize tournaments, publish rankings, certify referees, and provide other services for their members in good standing.


In 2004, a number of all-female leagues formed what is now the Women's Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA), which coordinates and sets the rules that govern sanctioned inter-league competition among its members. The WFTDA member leagues create "travel" teams who play against each other in regional matches, although some leagues that are not WFTDA members have independently arranged their own travel teams and inter-league bouts. WFTDA also publishes rankings and organizes annual championship tournaments for its members in good standing. While not directly affiliated, many independent leagues around the world have adopted the WFTDA rules and standards either completely or as a foundation for their own rules.

Other organizations

In 2004, members of Arizona Roller Derby split off to form the Renegade Rollergirls. Their form of roller derby has no referees or penalties, and has a unique scoring system. As of August 2009, there are seven Renegade Rollergirls leagues.

In May 2007, a handful of leagues formed the Old School Derby Association (OSDA), whichpromotes, for inter-league play among its members, a set of rules inspired by earlier, banked-track incarnations of the sport. OSDA combines aspects of both old and modern rule sets to create a fast-moving, ultra-defensive game. The organization membership is open to all; men, women, co-ed, flat track and banked track. As of August 2009, there are five member leagues.

In November 2007, three northeastern men's roller derby teams formed the Men's Derby Coalition. The skaters are all men (with one league being the men's half of a co-ed league) and skate by WFTDA's rules. There are currently four members of MDC.

For purposes of "amateur" competition, all roller skating sports are within the scope of the International Roller Sports Federation (FIRS) its member continental confederations, and those confederations' national members. One such national organization is the governing body for roller sports in the United States, USA Roller Sports (USARS). Although USARS members include the WFTDA and many individual roller derby skaters, as of 2009, USARS does not recognize the authority of any roller derby-specific organization and does not actively govern roller derby competition or any other league activity. USARS also does not yet acknowledge roller derby by name in its bylaws; it only acknowledges "artistic, speed, and hockey", although its membership application for individuals has additional categories "noncompetitive", "recreation" and "aggressive"—roller derby was listed under the latter in 2005, and is its own category in 2006.


Most current roller derby leagues use rules developed by the Women's Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA).

A summary of the WFTDA rules follows:

Roller derby takes place on a circuit track. Offense and defense are played simultaneously. The two teams playing send five players each onto the track — three blockers (defense), one pivot (last line of defense) and one jammer (scorer). Helmet covers are used to display the players' positions: a striped cover is used for pivots, a cover with two stars is used for jammers, and no cover is used for blockers.

Pivots and blockers from both teams start the game by forming a single pack. In a pack, all players face counterclockwise. The pivots line up next to each other, followed by a layer of four blockers, followed by a layer of two blockers. The two jammers, who are not considered to be part of the pack, are positioned 20 feet behind the pack. At this point, no differentiation need be made between the two teams; as long as the pack formation is as described above, it does not matter if the team members are interspersed randomly in the pack.

The referee signals the start of jam formation by blowing a whistle. During jam formation, the entire pack moves counterclockwise, during which time players can change position. All pivots/blockers must remain in the pack (i.e., no more than 20 feet in front of or behind the largest group containing blockers from both teams ). Jammers remain stationary during jam formation. When the last person in the pack has passed where the front of the pack was initially lined up, the referee blows the whistle twice, signaling the jammers to take off, and play begins in earnest with a jam.

A jam is a 2-minute countdown period during which both teams attempt to score points. Points can only be scored by the jammers, who, moving counter-clockwise, attempt to pass the pack and lap around as many times as possible. After passing the pack the first time, jammers earn one point each time they legally pass an opposing blocker/pivot. During a jam, all pivots/blockers must remain in the pack. Pivot/blockers attempt to assist their jammer through and out of the pack while simultaneously stopping the opposing jammer from exiting the pack. If a pivot/blocker falls or otherwise becomes separated from the pack, she is out of play (i.e., cannot block or assist the jammers) until she catches up to the pack.

The first jammer to legally pass all pivots and blockers once the jam begins wins the status of lead jammer for the remainder of the jam. The lead jammer can decide to end the jam at any time before the 2 minutes are up. She does this by placing her hands on her hips repeatedly, which signals the referee to officially call off the jam.

After a lead jammer has been established, both jammers have the option of passing their positions to their teams' respective pivots (passing the star). This is done by removing the 2-star helmet cover and handing it to the pivot. The pivot then becomes the jammer, and the jammer becomes the pivot for the remainder of the jam. If the original jammer was the lead jammer, the position of lead jammer is not passed on; the position is forfeited for the remainder of the jam.

Demanda Riot, a Bay Area Derby Girl (San Francisco, California) prepares to block.

To impede the progress of the opposing team's jammer, players may block using body parts above the mid-thigh, excluding forearms, hands, and head. Elbows may not be used in blocking, and cannot be swung at other players or used to hook an opponent's or teammate's arm.

Each game consists of two 30-minute or three 20-minute periods. At the end of each jam, players re-form the pack and continue play.

Penalties are given to skaters who block illegally, fight or behave in an unsporting manner, or otherwise break the rules. Possible penalties include sending players to a penalty box (during which time opposing jammers score for opposing skaters in the penalty box when they score their first point in each pass) and expulsion of players. A skater goes to the penalty box for 1 minute immediately upon incurring a major penalty, or after accumulating 4 minor penalties.


As of 2009, several trademarks for "Roller Derby" are registered with the USPTO.

Two are registered by Roller Derby Skate Corporation, a manufacturer of wheeled skates, based in Litchfield, Illinoismarker:
  • A brand name and logo for roller skates, wheels, and repair parts, first used in commerce in 1935.
  • A brand name and logo for t-shirts, jackets, and trousers, first used in commerce in 1987.

In July 2008, an attorney for Gotham Girls Roller Derby filed a petition to cancel Roller Derby Skate Corp.'s registration of the mark "Roller Derby" for entertainment exhibitions. The petition to cancel alleged that "roller derby" is merely descriptive of the services it intends to identify and therefore is not eligible for trademark protection. In addition, the petition alleges that "roller derby" is a generic term referring to the sport of competitive skating, that the registrant engaged in fraud when it filed its trademark renewal, and that Roller Derby Skate Corp abandoned the trademark because it had not used the trademark in connection with skating exhibitions for over a decade. The mark was canceled in March 2009.

Other USPTO-registered trademarks still in effect that contain the phrase "roller derby" include the following:
  • "American Roller Derby League" an organizer of sporting events, namely, roller derby competitions, first used in commerce in 1998.
  • "Gotham Girls Roller Derby", first used in commerce in 2005.
  • "Texas Rollergirls Rock n Roller Derby", an entertainment exhibition involving a contest between teams of roller skaters, first used in commerce in 2003.

From 1950 to 1980, "Roller Derby" was a trademark registered in Canada by Leo & Jerry Seltzer's companies for printed matter, skates, merchandise, and ratings systems relating to roller skating races. However, that registration was expunged in 1980 and has not been active since then.

The common noun "roller derby" is generically used to refer to the sport in all its forms.

Nonfiction literature

  • Michelson, Herb. A Very Simple Game: the Story of Roller Derby. 1971.
  • Deford, Frank. Five Strides on the Banked Track: The Life and Times of the Roller Derby. Little, Brown and Company, 1971. ISBN 0-316-17920-5.
  • Coppage, Keith. Roller Derby to Rollerjam: The Authorized Story of an Unauthorized Sport. Santa Rosa, California: Squarebooks, 1999. ISBN 0-916290-80-8.
  • Fitzpatrick, Jim. Roller Derby Classics... and more!. Foreword by Ann Calvello. Trafford Publishing, 2005. ISBN 1-4120-6678-6.
  • Joulwan, Melissa. Rollergirl: Totally True Tales from the Track. Touchstone (Simon & Schuster), February 2007. ISBN 978-0743297158.
  • Mabe, Catherine. Roller Derby: The History and All-Girl Revival of the Greatest Sport on Wheels. Speck Press, 2007. ISBN 1-933108-11-8.

Documentary film and television

  • In 1949, Roller Derby Girl, a 10-minute short film produced and directed by Justin Herman was released as part of Paramount's Pacemaker series. It was nominated for, but did not win, an Academy Award in 1950.
  • In 1971, the documentary film Derby (titled Roller Derby in the United Kingdommarker) was released. Directed by Robert Kaylor and produced by Jerry Seltzer's own company, the film follows skater Mike Snell as he becomes immersed in the world of 1970s professional Roller Derby, and provides competition footage as well as a behind-the-scenes look at the lives of several Roller Derby pros.
  • In 1986, the 57-minute documentary Roller Derby Mania was released direct to video (NTSC VHS) in North America. It features the L.A. T-Birds roller games team, and includes archival footage of the game's previous incarnations. A Region 1 DVD edition was released in 2003.
  • In 1991, the 30-minute documentary Roller Derby Wars was released direct to video (NTSC VHS) in North America. It was released on video in the UK in 1993 (PAL VHS).
  • In 2001, Demon Of The Derby, a biographical documentary about aging roller derby star Ann Calvello, was released.
  • In 2004, the 32nd episode of the sports documentary series Woodie's World aired on ESPN and contained a segment on a 1971 roller derby revival.
  • In 2005, the 9th episode of the sports documentary series Timeless aired on ESPN and spotlighted the LA Derby Dolls.
  • Jam, a film about the lives of derby skaters and promoters, premiered in 2006. The film won Best Documentary at the South by Southwest film festival.
  • In 2006, the 12-minute documentary High Heels on Wheels was released. The film features several former professional skaters reminiscing about their roles as female athletes and "out" lesbians in the roller derby community.
  • Hell On Wheels, a documentary about the creation of the all-female roller derby league in Austin, Texas, in 2001 that sparked the modern derby revival premiered in March 2007 at the South by Southwest Film Festival.
  • In 2008, ESPN SportsCenter aired and published on the Internet Roller Derby Revival, a short feature about the current roller derby revival.
  • In 2008, the Australian Broadcasting Corporationmarker aired Roller Derby Dolls, a short documentary about the recent revival of Roller Derby in Australia.
  • In 2009, Metro Sports aired Roller Warriors, a 7-part documentary series covering the 2008 Kansas City Roller Warriors season; the series was issued on DVD later that year.

See also


  1. Roller derby leagues worldwide.
  2. (This article ran on the Web site only.)
  3. (This is a post on the main YWTF blog.)
  4. “Roland Cloni of Akron, world’s champion roller skater, who yesterday tried out the track in the Broadway armory, where the national roller skating derby will be held this week, asserted new world’s records can be established for flat tracks. The derby will open tomorrow and run until Saturday.”
  5.,9171,755740,00.html 1936 TIME magazine article
  6. ; ; ; ; ; ;
  7. ; ; ; ; ; ;
  9. See also the accompanying blog post.
  10. Treasure Valley Rollergirls
  12. The skating attire expresses each woman’s personality in a manner somehow both burlesque and empowered at the same time. Short skirts, tight T-shirts, punk hair and knee socks are combined with a determined stance and padding tough enough to protect a football player. One mini-skirted skater takes a tumble, revealing a defiant message printed on her undies: “Kiss My Skates.”
  13. Skating on old-time quad skates, the typical roller girl could be described as hard-rock, tattooed, new-wave-burlesque or rockabilly.
  14. Like mud wrestling, roller derby has historically been seen as a way to entertain largely male audiences with hot, dirty catfights. And with its bad-gal costumes and prospect of girl-on-girl bruising, roller derby still skates a fine line between sport and spectacle. Though modern skaters have reimagined the sport as a form of self-expression and performance (not unlike the recent feminist revival of burlesque), as well as an athletic contest, the titillation factor threatens to undermine the legitimacy of the game. And not surprisingly, recent media coverage of the sport has focused on the novelty of sexy girls in fishnets on four wheels. Spin called the sport “the best catfight on earth,” while the Tucson Citizen quoted a male fan who opined, ‘“For some spectators, the chance of getting a roller derby girl in their lap is a part of the attraction.”
  15. "injuries range from sprained ankles and dislocated shoulders to torn eyelashes and “fishnet burn” from sliding across the floor of the rink."
  16. (Web site calling for donations to help a roller derby player who suffered a spinal cord injury).
  17. WFTDA rules require the home team to provide "at least two licensed or certified medical professionals with expertise in emergency and urgent medical care" to be present during the warm-up and game (according to WFTDA Standardized Flat Track Roller Derby Rules, Version 3.0, sec. 9.2; Version 2.x and 2006 rules sec. 9.3). OSDA rules require "a medical trainer, EMT, or doctor present or immediately available at all times," at least for banked track games (according to OSDA 2007 Banked Track Rules; the 2008 flat track rules don't have such a provision).
  18. Derby injuries? - SkateLog Forum
  19. USPTO TTAB Cancellation Proceeding
  20. Registration # UCA38059.
  21. Deford 1971:110.

External links

Embed code:

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address