Roller Derby embodies a community spirit

| August 2, 2012
Roller derby in action

The sport of roller derby may have its origins in America’s banked-track roller skating marathons of the 1930s, but today’s participants are thoroughly modern. Lethal says the sport ticks all the boxes for her with it’s full-contact rules and community spirit.

Three years ago if you would have asked me about Roller Derby, I would have stared at you vacantly and shrugged my shoulders.

Two and a half years ago if you would have asked me the same question I’d have said it was an interesting game where women skate around a track hitting each other while someone with a star on their head tries to skate faster and score points.

Ask me the same question today and I’ll happily spend as long as you’ll let me telling you the story of one of the greatest, most all inclusive, community spirited sports on the planet.

One of the biggest tag lines amongst the derby community is the phrase "by the skaters for the skaters". In hindsight that phrase should probably be changed to "by the community for the community" because in essence, the strength and beauty of Roller Derby is that it checks so many boxes for so many people.

Irrespective of who you are or what you do, Roller Derby provides the forum to bring together people from all walks of life and provides an environment where you can belong.

The Roller Derby community is a universal family brought together by, and for the love of, the sport. It does not rely on big business or substantial sponsorships. It is, by and large, self funded and continues to grow because everyone involved volunteers large amounts of their time to do their part to grow a sport and its associated community.

For me, the initial appeal of Roller Derby was that it was a full contact sport. Having come from a martial arts background I immediately liked the physicality of the sport. Seriously, any sport that lets you use moves like a "can opener" has to be fun, right?  Roller derby is one of the most physically and mentally challenging sports I have ever played. It requires its athletes to be physically fit and mentally engaged as the focus of the game changes in a split second and you are required to move from defence to offence and back again, all the while performing offensive or defensive strategies in unison with your team mates  while the opposition is doing everything they can to stop you achieving your objective.

Playing the sport and coaching other skaters in my league and surrounding leagues, is my niche in Roller Derby. It’s what I like to do. The beauty of Roller Derby, and what attracts so many people to Derby and makes it sustainable, is that you can be an integral part of the community and the sport without actually playing it.

Every day, all over the world, millions of people all participate in Roller Derby in their chosen niche. There are coaches and bench managers who ensure the skaters are trained in all aspects of skill and strategy and ensure the smooth running of the team on game day and during the game itself. They are the people who stand trackside, watching the game unfold and yell/encourage the team from the sideline. In the 30 second period between jams they make sure the next pack gets out on the track while taking account of any skater that might have been sent to the penalty box and ensuring that the skaters you send out onto the track aren’t all on 3 minor’s (four minors will get you sent to the penalty box and you don’t want all your blockers getting sent to the box in the one jam).

There is a committed crew of Referees (Team Zebra) and Non Skating Officials who tirelessly turn up to training, scrimmage and bouts to enforce the rules, track penalties, time sin bin time and keep score. I love these guys cause I would not do their job for anything. Roller Derby is frenetic and these guys have to make sure they accurately call and record everything! They don’t play the sport itself, but without them, there wouldn’t be a sport. Equally, there is a solid crew of commentators who have the responsibility of translating the game of derby to the audience and fans. If derby is challenging to follow as a skater, imagine how difficult it would be for anyone who doesn’t know the rules, unless there was someone letting everyone know exactly what was happening as it was happening and not giving the game play away.

So I guess, if someone asked me today why I play derby, I’d answer, why not? How often do you get the opportunity to be involved in the establishment and development of one of the fastest growing womens full contact sports in the world?


Roller derby in action

Lethal skates for Team Unicorn and for the Sydney Roller Derby League representative team, The Assassins. She has been in the Sydney Roller Derby League since September 2010.