There’s a saying in roller derby: it’s for everybody and every body. We hear from roller derby players often, all telling us why they love the sport. Let’s be honest, who among us wouldn’t love to throw on some skates, take on an alternate identity for an hour, and take out some aggression on the track?
But even more than being a great workout, roller derby provides an incredible sense of community and female empowerment.
What is Roller Derby?
Though the sport saw a resurgence in the early 2000s, roller derby dates back to the 1930s. It’s been open to men and women since the beginning, but the sport has pivoted to be largely female-led in recent years. The sport increased in popularity during the ‘50s and ‘60s, only to fizzle out in the ‘70s.
In the early 21st century, some rebellious and badass women in Austin, Texas, decided to give the sport another go. The Texas Roller Derby embraced powerful women, bringing new life to the sport. Since the reinvention of roller derby in 2003, the sport took on a decidedly feminist slant, displaying the strength, ferocity, and tenacity of female athletes.
Roller derby rules are relatively simple. Each team consists of 15 players, with five on the track during each two-minute “jam.” One player from each team acts as the “jammer,” or the person responsible for earning points during each two-minute jam. The others work to block the opposing team’s jammer and help their own jammer score points. (Bonus points: the jammer gets a cool star on her helmet!).
Of course, roller derby is a highly physical sport, and players are allowed (and encouraged) to block their opponents with their hips, booties, and shoulders. They are NOT allowed to block by elbowing, tripping, or shoving opponents, or hitting on the head or below the knees. Players who break these rules incur a 30-second penalty.
It’s All About Community and Female Empowerment
At first glance, roller derby appears to be all about pitting one team against another. And while it’s definitely the epitome of a contact sport, community and inclusivity are at the core of every roller derby bout. Teams might be cutthroat on the track, but off the track, there’s a sense of comradery not often found in female athletics.
Some women assume they have to have the right “build” for roller derby. That’s simply not the case. Body positivity is a vital part of the sport. Coaches often tell players that “roller derby is for everybody and every body.” Acceptance is at the heart of each team. There’s truly a “we’re all in this together” feel that makes roller derby special.
Finally, there’s an inexplicable sense of empowerment that comes from racing around a track, wearing glitter, short shorts, and fishnets, all while bumping and hip-checking opponents. Many players take on a somewhat alternate persona on the track, using derby names like “Dollface Smasher,” “Miss United Skates,” and “Mary Choppins.” Players can be soccer moms by day and fiery fighters by night.
How to Join a Roller Derby Team
Does shoving your way through a crowd, occasionally falling on your butt, and getting cheered for hip-checking others sound like your idea of a good time? Roller derby teams are always open to new players.
You can start your derby dream by checking out the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, the most popular governing body for the sport. There, you can find out more about the rules and search for roller derby leagues near you. Many local teams offer boot camps for women to try the sport. You can also find local teams by doing a simple Google search for roller derby leagues in your town.
Then, get yourself some shorties and a sassy top. You’re a badass woman, joining other badass women, so why not dress the part? We hear from lots of roller derby players who love our fun designs and empowering message.
We can’t promise you’ll be the best woman on your team. But we CAN promise that you’ll find a community of accepting, fun, and fierce ladies who just might turn into your new best friends.
Keep on skating, you awesome woman, you!