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Roller Derby: A Basic Breakdown

Roller Derby made a revival in the early 2000s and has since been growing across the nation and in other countries. The contact sport originated in the 1880s but aired on televisions across America in the 1940s. It then began to die down; however, in Austin, Texas the sport began to rise again.

Watching the sport brings “girl power” to an entirely new level. You do not want to mess with these women. Injuries are apparent by just seeing how many of them have their shoulders, knees, or arms wrapped up under their protective gear.
The fashion of roller derby is a thing of itself, along with their nicknames. Teams usually wear form fitting uniforms and tights. Fun knee socks and bright-colored wheels are also big. One player for the Black Ice Brawlers was called “Chrome Wrecker” and had a silver helmet, leggings, arm and knee pads.

In Essex County, Vermont, the first roller derby bout of the season happened between the Black Ice Brawlers and the Rock Coast Rollers as a part of the WFTDA (Women’s Flat Track Derby Association).
When going to your first roller derby, you may not know what to expect. You might picture a curved track and skaters jumping over each other. You may picture Ellen Page soaring through after the team did a “whip.” Some of these things happen, but it really depends on the bout itself. The bout in Vermont was a flat track where a circle was mapped out with tape.

This contact sport requires a lot of pushing, shoving and skating fast. The sound of players and coaches calling out plays and the loud supporters make it hard to take it all in at once.

If you are new to this sport, you may not know the rules. Here is a breakdown:
  • The bout has two 30-minute halves, and the goal is to pass as many players as possible while going around the circular track.
  • Each team has five players.
    • Pivot: These two players wear stripes on their helmets. Their role is to set the pace of the game.
    • Jammer: This person wears a star on their helmet. There is one per team, and they are the ones who score points by lapping opponents.
    • Blocker: These two players assist their team’s Jammer to make their way through the pack. They also try to prevent the opponent’s Jammer from passing.
  • The Jam, what each round is called, begins by having the two teams line up, waiting for the single whistle the ref blows. Everyone but the Jammers start. When the pack reaches the start line, the ref blows two whistles and the Jammers start to weave their way through the pack. The first Jammer to go through the pack is the “Lead Jammer.” No points are given for this. The Jammer has two minutes to pass opponents and gain as many points as they can.
Acquiring Points:
  • Points are given after the Lead Jammer is determined.
  • They then begin to do laps; every player that the Lead Jammer passes is a point.
  • Extra points are given if a Jammer laps opposing Jammer; this is called a Grand Slam.
  • The Lead Jammer can call off a “Jam” when they place their hands on their hips. The refs then tallies up the points. The Jammer calls off “Jam” after two minutes have passed or if the opponent Jammer is about to pass. This way they won’t lose points.

For a visual explanation, check out this scene from the movie “Whip It.”

There are roller derby leagues all over the country; to find out more, check out the WFTDA website to see when they are playing or when they are recruiting!

By: Brooke Stuart | Images: Polyvore, Weheartit, Brooke Stuart, Source

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