HISTORY OF ROLLER DERBY

Roller derby is a full 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 matchups (jams) in which both teams designate a scoring player (the Jammer) who scores points by lapping members of the opposing team. The teams attempt to assist their own jammer while hindering the opposing jammer — in effect, playing both offense and defense simultaneously. Roller derby is played by more than 1,200 amateur leagues on every inhabited continent.

While the sport has its origins in the banked-track roller skating marathons of the 1930s, Leo Seltzer and Damon Runyon are credited with the basic evolution of the sport to its initial competitive form. Professional Roller Derby quickly became popular; in 1940 more than 5 million spectators watched bouts in 50 US cities. In the ensuing decades, however, it predominantly became a form of sports entertainment where the theatrical elements overshadowed the athleticism. This gratuitous showmanship largely ended with the sport’s contemporary grassroots revival in the first decade of the 21st century. Although some sports’ entertainment qualities such as player pseudonyms and colourful uniforms were retained, scripted bouts with predetermined winners were abandoned.

Modern Roller Derby is an international sport dominated by all-female amateur teams, in addition to a growing number of male, mixed gender, and junior Roller Derby teams, and is as a roller sport under consideration for the 2020 Olympics. Most modern leagues share a strong ‘do it yourself’ ethic which uniquely combines athleticism and elements from punk, camp and third-wave feminist aesthetics.

For more information about the origins of this fast paced sport, check out the Wikipedia entry.