What is a roller derby?

Modern roller derby experienced a revival in the early 2000s in Texas, USA. Since then it has undergone exponential growth all over the world as one of the fastest growing sports. The roller derby of days gone by that might have been played by your badasss grandmother has been updated to cater for a flat track, with a set of rules that foster sportsmanship and athleticism. It is also still an exciting, full contact spectator sport with record sellout crowds that you don’t see at netball games. Many leagues adhere to a set of rules, the most common being that of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association which is the ruleset DPR use. Whilst roller derby is often seen as an all-female extravaganza, male identifying skaters are welcomed into the ranks as referrees or volunteers, and there are more men’s derby leagues popping up including in Perth and co-ed scrimmages are becoming much more commonplace.

Many are familiar with roller derby these days thanks to the 2009 feature Whip It! Starring Ellen Page and Drew Barrymore. While the way the game itself has been portrayed in the Hollywood film is somewhat inaccurate, the spirit of the film in terms of what it can bring to someone’s life remains realistic! Roller derby in Australia is quickly catching up to the professionalism now seen in leagues in the USA, but the spirit of the sport remains to be one that has a DIY philosophy and punk aesthetic that is ‘by the skaters, for the skaters’. Training, fundraising and games are fuelled by 100s of volunteer hours behind the scenes. Members of the roller derby community put their heart and soul into facilitating what they love.

Roller derby attracts men and women from all walks of life. While the stereotype of the roller girl with the rockabilly look, tattoos and fishnets remains, all skaters are free to express themselves in any way they wish and the main thing they have in common is that the derby bug grabbed hold and it just won’t let go! In this way, roller derby seems to differ from many other sports in the community as a vibrant culture as well as an addictive sport. This makes it one of the best ways to get fit and not even notice – much easier than dragging yourself to the gym.

Some skaters who train with us wish to bout and bring a dedicated mindset towards professional athleticism. Others come for the recreational aspect of training and simply seek friendship and fitness on the track. Some skaters had never strapped on a pair of skates before their first training session, and others had competed nationally as artistic and speed skaters as kids. There is room for every type of skater at DPR!

But how is the game actually played? These short videos will help explain: