The Fascinating Evolution of Roller Derby

The term ‘roller skating’ usually brings to mind a mixed group of youngsters having some light-hearted fun to the sound of 70s disco music. 

Roller derby, however, is nothing of the kind. In fact, the only thing that roller derby shares with, well, pretty much any other roller-skating sport, is the fact that they use roller skates. 

Roller derby is a fast, furious sport, one in which the participants are required to be strong and gritty. 

Exploring the Sport of Roller Derby

Commonly thought to have begun back in the 1930s, roller derby evolved into a competitive sport attracting millions of spectators across the U.S. by the 1940s. 

The sport grew internationally, but lost popularity later in the 20th century, only seeing a revival around ten years ago.

Roller derby is, as we will see, certainly not a sport for the faint of heart.

How is Roller Derby Played?

Roller derby is played between two teams and has been made up predominately of women over the years, although that is slowly changing to include men and junior teams. 

Teams are made up of 15 members, with five members from each side on the track at any given time.

Each team will have a designated jammer and four blockers, with one of the blockers designated as a pivot. The jammer is responsible for scoring points, which can be done by passing members of the other team as they skate counter clockwise on an oval track. The blockers from the opposing team will do what they can to prevent the jammer from getting through the pack, while the jammer’s blockers will try to create a space for them to pass through.

That sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? 

Well, the rules are pretty stringent, and players have to be strong, quick and sharp to play both offence and defence and still stay within the boundaries of play.

In order to legally block another player, the blockers need to be upright, skating counter clockwise and within the engagement zone in the boundaries. Hands, elbows, feet and heads cannot be used to block another player, so they use speed, skating skill, and other blockers or pivots to force the opposing team out of play. 

Take a look at this short video which shows some of these tactics in action.

Please ask Stiaan to embed this video

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Should I Play Roller Derby?

Anyone can play roller derby, but not everybody should

As you can imagine, this contact sport can get quite rough, so players need to be made of tough stuff in order to participate. Injuries are common and training can be arduous as you require a strong core, excellent balance, strong arms and of course, the fitness to spend an hour on a track.

The Revival of Roller Derby

The revival of roller derby began in Texas around 2000 and has grown enormously. 

It has now been recognised as a ‘proper sport’ as opposed to the theatrical spectacle of yesteryear where scripted bouts of gratuitous showmanship (and a certain amount of staged violence) were the order of the day.

There is still a theatrical element with bright uniforms and some rather off-colour ‘derby names’ but the rehearsed show is gone, replaced by a serious group of toughs sportsmen and women.

There are dozens of roller derby leagues in the UK which you can join if you’re up to it, or to simply go along and watch the fun. 

Of course, Roller Magic are always excited to assist in growing this exciting sport. With our synthetic mobile skate rinks, we can set up a space for a roller derby event anywhere in the country.

For more information on roller skating rinks for events and functions, please don’t hesitate to call the Roller magic team.

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