The Hardest Hitting Sport on Wheels Roller Derby
Have you ever been told you “hit like a girl”? Well, whoever said that has probably never heard of Roller Derby. This hard-hitting sport really packs a punch, as innocent as it may sound. A Derby refers to a sporting contest, generally a horse race, but don’t let yourself be fooled. If you go to a roller derby game, prepare for some action.
Started in 1930s, roller derby quickly gained popularity and within a decade had spread to nearly 50 American cities. Eventually, too much of an increase in showboating and pre-planned matches led to the sport experiencing a revolution in the early 21st century. Today, roller derby is an international sensation, with over 1200 amateur leagues playing. The majority of teams are comprised of women, but there is growing interest among men and juniors as well. So how does it work?
Roller Derby is a full-contact sport in which two teams circle a rink in the same direction. Games consist of two 30-minute halves, broken up into shorter periods called “Jams,” which last up to 2 minutes each. A full team consists of up to 14 members, but only five are on the floor at any time. Team members can rotate out between each Jam.
Each team chooses a “Jammer”, whose job is to earn points by skating past the rest of the pack. The other four players are called “Blockers” and their job, as implied, is to block the Jammers from passing them. Although roller derby is a contact sport, there are rules regarding how the Jammers can be blocked. Contact must be made from the front or side and only on the torso, between the shoulders and thighs. Blockers cannot use their hands, elbows, head or feet, so bodily smashing, similar to ice hockey, is the best way to block the Jammer.
Referees keep a close eye on the players and dole out penalties as required. Up to 8 referees watch every game, with one head referee and two referees just to watch the Jammers. Referees can even ride inside the pack, among the skaters, something not seen in most sports. Each game also makes use of a number of non-skating officials, including score keepers, penalty box attendants, and timers.
Though most of the dramatic flair has gone out of roller derby, one aspect remains: the names. Everything, including tournaments, teams, players, and even referee groups, make use of word play and parody for their naming. Some examples of “Derby Names” include Smackdown Sweethearts, Strawberry Jam, Miss United Skates, and Meanhatten. In Southern California’s Inland Empire, the home of Shop709, you may even see a match refereed by “The Inland Empire Strikes Back.”
So, if this sounds like your kind of sport, look it up! With so many amateur leagues worldwide, there might just be one near you. And if you do join up, be sure to let us know what Derby Name you pick!
Credit: Photo by Freepik
- Outdoors Staff