Many men (and also some women), unfortunately, still believe that women are weak, should be protected, shouldn’t do contact sports, and so on. These people are wrong. And one of the best examples to prove them wrong is Roller Derby.
Roller Derby is a full-contact sport played in quad-roller skates that originated in the 1940s in the US. Since the beginning the sport took some breaks, and changed its form some times until it reached its current shape. This shape was consolidated in 2004 with the founding of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (short WFTDA), which organizes the World Championships in roller Derby since 2007.
4 years later, in 2011, the first Austrian roller derby team was founded, the Vienna Rollergirls. The Rollergirls became in 2014 the Vienna Roller Derby (VRD for short), and have been since then on the forefront of the Austrian roller derby scene, helping other cities like Linz, Graz, Innsbruck, and Salzburg with building their own teams; and also playing bouts all over Europe. In 2017 Team Austria, Austria’s first roller derby team, was founded; and it participated in the world cup (it’s first) back in February of this year.
But, now enough of the history, how does Roller Derby actually look like? Two teams compete against each other on an oval track, and try to score as many points as possible. Every game, which is called bout, lasts an 1 hour and is split into two periods. Each period is a succession of “jams”, each lasting no more than two minutes, with 30-second breaks between jams (players are substituted during these). So you have 12 jams in one period.
There are 10 players on the course during each jam, 5 players per team. As in other sports the roles a player can take can differ, that’s why you also have in roller derby two different kinds of players, that is to say blockers and jammers. Each team has 4 blockers and one jammer on the course, not more. Only the jammer is able to score points, which she does every time she passes a blocker from the opposing team. The blockers don’t score points, but they help their jammer doing it, while they keep the rivaling jammer from doing so at the same time. They block, hence the name, the opposing jammers, only using their shoulders, hips and booty; and using the same body parts they open the path for their own jammer. But there is actually a third special position. This position is called pivot, and only one of the blockers can have it. It allows her to take over as a jammer for the rest of the jam, which can be a tactical advantage, the jammer in turn becomes a blocker. They, however, can not change back during the whole jam.
A bout of roller derby follows strict rules discouraging any risky moves that could hurt anybody in a major way, while they still allow a certain degree of excitement. Every violation will send the player to the penalty box for one minute, causing her team a tactical disadvantage.
In the end, the team who scored the most points during the hour will win the bout. After a game sometimes the best player as well gets rewarded.
So, if you’re now intrigued with the sport, why don’t you watch the first bout of the VRD this year in Vienna on the 28th of April? And if it’s the sport for you, they have tryouts in September.
P.S.: special thanks goes to VRD and Callie Collision for talking to us about roller derby and letting us take some pictures!