Is modern flat track roller derby like the stuff I saw on TV as a kid?

Somewhat. Roller Derby was invented by Leo Seltzer in Chicago in 1932, and went through various incarnations, starting out as a race and later adding more athleticism and physical contact. The evolution of the sport most famously resulted in the campy, wrestling-type version of the Roller Games of the 1970s and 80s where most of the outcomes were fixed and the track was sloped or “banked”.

The new wave of roller derby was born in Texas in 2000 and not only focuses on the sport before the spectacle, but maintaining a “for the skater, by the skater” do-it-yourself ethic where the girls run the show.

Is there elbowing/tripping/fighting/etc?

Absolutely NOT! Safety is a top priority and not only do new rollergirls learn how to avoid injury at their first practice, the rules were developed by WFTDA member leagues to encourage sportsmanship and athleticism over the showy pro-wrestling-style shenanigans of yesteryear.

But is it REAL?

As real as it gets! The game is extremely strategic and the athleticism, action and hard hits are 100% REAL. Most teams practice 6-8 hours per week. The flat track enables us to set up most anywhere, without having to build or transport a banked track. There is no predetermined outcome, and there are no staged antics and no fake hits.

What happens at a “bout”?

“Bout” is the term for a roller derby game, and they include more than your average sporting event. Live, local music is almost always included, and often there are performances from local entertainment groups of all varieties. There is no reason a serious sport can’t also be fun and cool!

How Does Roller Derby Work?

The Bout: A Play-by-Play (From HowStuffWorks.com)

The game itself is a series of races between two teams of five players. Each team’s jammer is the only player to score points. Three blockers try to stop the other team’s jammer while propelling their own jammer forward. Each team’s pivot acts like the pace car in a NASCAR race and controls the speed of the pack. She also keeps an eye on the jammers, calls her team’s plays and acts as a blocker.

Helmet designs differentiate the positions — jammers wear stars, pivots wear stripes and blockers wear blank helmets.

Each race is called a jam and lasts up to two minutes. At the start of the jam, the pivots and blockers gather in formation at the starting line. The referee blows a whistle, and they skate as a pack while the jammers wait at the starting line.. When the pack is 20 feet from
the starting line, the referee blows the whistle again, and the jammers start to skate. The jammers try to catch up to the pack, work their way through and come out the other side. No one scores any points during the first lap, but the first jammer to legally clear the pack becomes the lead jammer. A referee points out the lead jammer and follows her progress around the track. The lead jammer can “call the jam” before the end of the two-minute period by putting her hand on her hips.

When the lead jammer calls the jam or the two-minute period ends, play stops and the officials calculate the score. Teams get one point for each opposing player the jammer passes during each lap. In general, this is four points per lap — one for each opposing player.

Why Flat Track?

Audiences love to get in on the Flat track action! Because of the accessibility of the game, it can be enjoyed by the young, who will be the flat- track derby skaters of tomorrow.

Fans and players are on the same level so audiences actually become a part of the action, sitting that close to the track makes it easier to truly experience the game instead of just watching it.

“Why take out a rail, when you can take out the audience?”
– Eight Track, Texas Rollergirls.

Flat tracks are portable.Current leagues skate in airport hangars, traditional skating rinks and even old ballrooms and theaters.

Flat tracks require unparalleled athleticism, which translates into action, action, action on the track.

Anyone can learn to skate on a flat track (groups of kids can even have flat track derby pickup games) and those who do are
transformed into superior athletes.

Flat tracks are economical. You don’t need to own or lease a space to house flat tracks. Simply find an unencumbered surface to skate on and you can set up a flat track with rope lights, rope, duct tape or even just cones.