Athlete Intelligence Blog

7 Things You Never Knew About Roller Derby

1/3/18 9:37 AM / by Athlete Intelligence


Few sports have captured the American imagination quite like the Roller Derby. Across the country, roller derby has demolished the competition to become one of the most popular mix-gendered sports. Think you know everything about roller derby? Test your knowledge with these 7 Roller Derby Facts!


7. It Has Been Around Since The 1930s

The origin of the popular sport grew from its humble begginings as a skating marathon. Developed Leo Seltzer in the Thirties, participants rolled around and around the wooden track, with the goal being to rack up as many “miles” as possible. In 1938, Damon Runyon, a sportwriter whose work inspired the muscial Guys & Dolls, sat with Seltzer and helped create the rules that have, with some alternations, continued to govern the sport ever since. To this day, spectacular falls, slams and shoves have kept skaters and spectators alike salivating. 


6. Badass Nicknames

Just like your favorite superheroes, skaters adopt colorful nicknames or ‘derby names’ as an  alternative on-track persona. Many derby names are puns that reflect aggression, humor, or some revealing personal trait. Often wacky and pop-culture influenced, they run the gamut from such rockin'’ monikers as Punky Bruiser, Alexandra Slamaton, Soylent Mean, Lucille Brawl and Tara Armov. Although some skaters used derby names during the earlier iterations of the sport, their proliferation blew up during the sports revival in the early 2000s. While skaters are not required to use derby names, the use of these nicknames is considered an important part of the sports culture.


5.Jammers, Blockers, And Whips

If it is not already obvious, roller derby is a rough-and-tumble full contact sport which can include slamming, elbowing, and other moves. It has rules and penalties, requires its own set of safety equipment to wear, and includes the possibility of physical injury—including concussions. The sport has some specific terminology that would be helpful to know. A “whip” is a move where one player flings (“whips”) another member of her same team—the “jammer”—out front. The jammer is the only member of the team who can score points, and so is also protected by “blockers.”


4. Cary Grant Was A Roller Derby Fan 

… so was Jack Benny. Back in the early days of derby, many celebrities flocked to the sport. Other famous fans included George Burns, Gracie Allen, and W.C. Fields.


3. The Sport Was Extremely Popular In the 1970s

Roller Derby hit a peak of popularity in the early Seventies. For example, one 1972 roller derby tournament in Chicago’s Comiskey Park had a record attendance of 50,118 fans. The sport was also reflected in the pop-culture, including being featured in movies like “Kansas City Bomber” starring Raquel Welch.


2. It Has Its Own Official Associations

The Women's Flat Track Derby Association is the largest governing body for roller derby, with 397 Full Member Leagues, and 48 Apprentice Leagues. There is also the British Roller Sports Federation, Roller Sports Canada, and Federation Internationale de Roller Sports (which reports directly to the International Olympic Committee).


1. Everyone Can Play Roller Derby

Though modern roller derby is largely made up of all-female teams, there are a growing number of male and unisex teams. Also, junior roller derby is increasing in popularity, with over 140 programs in the United States.



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Topics: Roller Derby