The rollerderby revolution is happening and is taking over suburbia! In fact, in Tarrytown alone there are several woman who play this dynamic sport. We commute to Yonkers multiple times a week for practice and games for a league called Suburbia Rollerderby. Suburbia Rollerderby is Westchester County's only woman's flat track rollerderby league.
But what the heck IS rollerderby, you ask?
Rollerderby is a full contact sport played in quad rollerskates on an oval shaped track. The objective of the game is to score the most points. There are two positions in rollerderby: blocker and jammer (aka the point scorer). Points are awarded to the jammer as she skates past the hips of each opposing player. The blockers purpose is to assist their jammer in scoring points, or to play defense and stop the opposing jammer from scoring. Jammers use speed and agility to pass opponents, blockers use brute force to hip check and shoulder block to essentially "kill" the opposing jammer.
For a fun graphic version of the rules watch this video:
Rollerderby can be played on a banked or flat track, and rules vary with different leagues. I started playing rollerderby on a banked track in Austin, Texas with TXRD Lonestar Rollergirls in 2007, and now live in Tarrytown and skate on a flat track league with Suburbia Rollerderby. I heart both leagues and love rollerderby in all its forms. Modern rollerderby is a lot different than the rollerderby your parents grew up with. While similar, the modern version is more DIY, and a heck of a lot more fun.
For information on rollerderby's history check out the wikipedia link:
But a brief history would go something like this... Rollerderby started in the 1930's in the form of rollerskating races. Often toward the end of the race skaters would get tired and inevitably bump into each other and fall. The crowd would go crazy and the game evolved into a full contact sport much like the current version. In the years that followed rollerderby became more sports entertainment complete with 'skater pseudonyms, scripted bouts and predetermined winners'. Rollerderby died out in the public eye about the 80's or 90's, and the modern rollerderby resurgence happened in 2000 in Austin, Texas. And its humble Texas beginnings goes something like this:
Legend has it, a man by the name of Devil Dan solicited his wacky half-circus, half-Evil Knievel, all-woman rollerderby idea by way of fliers around the local music scene on Red River Street . When the time came to organize, Devil Dan disappeared, and these woman decided to form their own sports entertainment business, which became TXRD Lonestar Rollergirls, an all-woman owned and operated company. This league still exists today and should be credited as the founder of modern rollerderby, along with the other league founded in Austin called Texas Rollergirls. Texas Rollergirls formed after a split within TXRD due to the SHE-E-Os disagreeing on how the business would run. Texas Rollergirls went to form WFTDA which is the national Women's Flat Track Derby Association, of which my league, Suburbia Rollerderby, is a part of. Both leagues I am thankful for. :)
In short, these 2 leagues have now spawned over a thousand other leagues worldwide. Which is pretty freaking amazing.
I was living in Austin till about 9 months ago and watched TXRD grow from its inception to its present state. The audience grew from about 100 people to 3000 people within the last decade. The league gained notoriety through their short lived TV series "Rollergirls" on A&E. ( “Rollergirls” and the movie “Whip It” have had quite an impact on the general public in terms of introducing them to the wacky world of rollerderby.)
I heard about rollerderby through some friends back in college. The first time I ever went to a bout, I couldn’t get over the sheer ridiculous-ness of it all. It was in a dingy warehouse on the outskirts of town, PBR and Lonestar tallboys double-fisted in everyone’s hand, girls named Miss Conduct and Cherry Chainsaw in fishnet stockings flying through the air and just wailing on each other! It was very underground, competitive and DIFFERENT. I’d never seen anything like it before and knew instantly I wanted to do it. Actually, most skaters I talk to have a similar experience the first time they witness rollerderby.
Before I joined the league, TXRD had the pleasure of meeting an old school rollergirl named Anne Calvello (aka "Banana-Nose", aka "Demon the the Derby") back around 2005, a year before she passed. Anne Calvello skated for seven decades! She was a wild woman on and off the track. She dyed her hair rainbow colors into her 70's and feared no opponent. A documentary exists about her called "Demon of the Derby". She was truly a character and I feel she embodies the true spirit of rollerderby. Fierce, fiery, athletic, competitive, dynamic, driven, colorful and fun.
Skating for TXRD Lonestar Rollergirls and Suburbia Rollerderby has been quite a whirlwind adventure. If you stay tuned to my blog I will try and fill you in on the idiosyncrasies of rollerderby; what makes rollerderby so unique and special in terms of sport, entertainment, and commmunity. Also, if you want to see some rollerderby live in the flesh, come to my bout on August 25th to see my team, Indian Point Sirens play the Botoxic Avengers at EJ Murray Skating Center in Yonkers! It'll be fun, I promise!
Aaaand if you're interested in being a part of history, join Suburbia this Saturday morning at 830am in Central Park to participate in the GREAT SKATE as a part of New York’s Summer Streets initiative. Our goal is to simply have a nice leisurely skate with a great group of people....and if we make it into the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest en masse group of street skaters in the process, then hey, that's a great day in the park.
For more information on the Great Skate and Suburbia Rollerderby, check out www.suburbiarollerderby.com