You may or may not have heard about roller derby, a sport that has been through a lot of incarnations, but it is becoming one of the fastest growing sports in the world for both players and spectators. Here, we are going to take a quick look at the history of the sport, and how it has evolved to where it is now – as a sport that is actually under consideration for inclusion in the summer Olympics!
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How Does Roller Derby Work?
Roller derby is a sport played on skating rinks using skates with four wheels, as opposed to the inline ‘roller blades’ that are popular for other forms of skating. Roller derby teams have five people in them, who circle the rink, all moving in the same direction (which is counter-clockwise around the track). For each round, one member of each team is designated as the ‘jammer’, and their goal is to lap as many members of the other team as possible. The rest of the team try and stop the jammer from doing this while their own team tries to help them, making roller derby a sport that combines speed skating with full contact.
The History of Roller Derby
Roller derby has a longer history than you might think, starting up in the 1930s and growing in popularity in the USA in the ‘40s. In the mid-20th century, it became more of an entertainment sport, much in the style of wrestling, where competitors put on a show with costumes, grudge stories, choreographed and scripted races where the winner was already determined, and players who were characters rather than athletes. However, during the resurgence of roller derby that began in the early 21st century, the parts of the sport that had been done purely for entertainment were removed and it became a genuine competitive sport once again, though some of the kitschy fun was retained with skaters still often going with wacky pseudonyms, costumes, and personalities.
Roller derby has also seen a movement away from being an exclusively women’s sport. While most of the top level players are women, known as derby girls, there are increasing numbers of male and mixed teams, as well as junior teams. Roller derby is also becoming more popular outside of the US, with almost half of the official leagues that currently exist based outside of North America.
The Future of Roller Derby
Now roller derby is played as a serious sport rather than to put on a show, it is attracting a new generation of athletes who like the fun mood of the sport and the aggressive play style, but who also enjoy the genuine athleticism and competition. It is also winning over a lot of new fans who are discovering it as a fast-paced team sport with plenty of action. It is likely roller derby will continue to grow, especially if it keeps gaining major support and sponsorship. If professional leagues became a thing, this could see the sport really taking off!
Have you ever watched or played roller derby? Let us know in the comments!