Thursday, May 20, 2010


About a month ago I had the opportunity to attend my first Roller Derby.  I wasn't really sure what I was getting myself into, but it turned out to be an entertaining afternoon.
I did a short read-up about the sport before I headed out to the bout.  I learned that Roller Derby has historical roots that date back to the 1940's when it became well-known in the United States.  Over the next thirty years its popularity continued to grow.  However, in the late 1970's and early 1980's the sport essentially died out.
With the new millennium, Roller Derby was reborn in Austin, Texas.  By 2006, the grass-roots movement--whose focus included athleticism, community, sisterhood, and sassiness--had gone global.  There are currently over 500 amateur all-female, co-ed, or male leagues across the world.  
Roller Derby didn't arrive in Adelaide until 2007 when the ADRD (Adelaide Roller Derby was formed).  In 2008 the ADRD launched its inaugural season of flat-track Roller Derby with just two teams.  Over the past two years, the league has continued to grow and currently there are four teams: the Wild Hearses, the Salty Dolls, the Road Train Rollers, and the Mile Die Club.
I attended the 2010 season opener between the Salty Dolls and the Wild Hearses.  There was a record crowd with nearly 2,000 spectators.  The track was set up in one of exhibition buildings at the Showgrounds. This meant that there was limited seating in a couple of portable bleachers. Fortunately, many people came prepared with their own seats--hey, there were even a few bean bags around.  Other people just sat on the concrete slab.  Some chose to sit extremely close to the track which, unfortunately, is not a proper banked track but rather an oval that has been delineated by a cord taped to the ground.  Spectators were warned of the danger of sitting too close, but some seemed to enjoy the added thrill of being in the line of fire.  So, needless to say, there were a couple of incidents where the skaters landed on the crowd--though the biggest casualty seemed to be the spilled beer.

As we sat in the bleachers--we were given early entrance and able to pick choice seats since we prepaid for our tickets--we were treated to a pre-game Rockabilly Band.  During that time several of the skaters were out on the floor warming up.  What amazed me the most was the interaction between the teams.  Even though the girls were about to compete against each other there was a sense of camaraderie between the woman on both teams.
The actual game got under way with a very theatrical entrance by each team.  Once the actual skating started I was worried that I would have problems following the rules.  Fortunately, there were announcers explained the rules and gave very detailed explanations of what was going on out on the field.  I'm not sure if that happens at all bouts or just in Adelaide since the sport is so new.  Whatever the case I was glad to have the added oral cues.  The following is a brief summary of Roller Derby for those of you who are newbies like me.
The bout consists of two 30 minute periods.  These periods are divided into several jams--which here in Adelaide are modified and last 90 seconds.  During the jam, 5 players from each team (1 pivot, 3 blockers, 1 jammer) skate the oval track.  The configuration of the team is: pivots out front (to set the pace), followed by the blockers, and finally the jammers.  At the beginning of the play, the pivots and blockers begin to skate the rink in a close pack.  The jammers, who start after the rest of the pack, must work her way through the pack passing all blockers.  The first jammer through the pack is declared the leader and thus is able to call off the jam anytime she wants.  Once a complete circuit is made jammers begin to score points by lapping opposing team members.  The goal of the rest of the team is to stop the opposing jammer from scoring  and to aide their jammer by knocking their opponents down.  However, blocking must be done strategically and penalties can be issued for blocking illegally, engaging in a fight, or unsporting behavior. 
Overall, the fast moving sport was easy to watch and, of course the theatrics of it all kept things entertaining.  I have to say thanks to Suzer and Sally for allowing me tag-a-long on their outing.



  1. Hi Maya, very cool post. I didn't realize that the Roller Derby made its way to Australia and that it was gaining popularity. Your photos and explanation is very good. The comment about the beer casualty was hilarious. Sounds like a fun event to enjoy. Great entertaining read for me this morning. Thanks so much for sharing.

  2. I love roller derby. It is really popular here. Unfortunately, I can't take photos at the events without a press pass. Ours have moved in to a full arena and are no longer on a gym floor. And a bit more expensive so we haven't gone much any more. But what fun when it is on the floor.