The term “roller derby” dates to the 1920s, originally used to describe roller skate races. In the late 1930s, Leo Seltzer’s touring competition, Transcontinental Roller Derby, began to evolve from a marathon skating race on a raised track to a more physical competition emphasizing skater collisions and falls. This evolved into the foundation of the team sport that still exists today: two teams of five skaters who score points by passing members of the opposing team. Both men and women competed in roller derby from its inception.
Seltzer’s roller derby events drew increasingly large audiences once the sport began to be televised in the late 1940s. In the early 1960s, after Leo Seltzer transferred his business to his son, Jerry, competing roller derby franchises emerged, some of which emphasized theatrics more than sport. As popularity dwindled, Jerry Seltzer shut down his Roller Derby organization in 1973.
There were several short-lived attempts to revive versions of the old sport in the 1980s and 1990s, including RollerGames, which featured a figure-8 shaped banked track and stunts like alligator pits. Some versions of roller derby, including RollerGames, included staged action and storylines, similar to professional wrestling leagues.
In the early 2000s, modern women’s roller derby got its start in Austin, Texas. Starting with the Texas Rollergirls, these new leagues formed as businesses run by the athletes themselves. The flat track version of the sport spread like wildfire in subsequent years, as the ability to mark track boundaries on a skating rink floor or other venues, rather than building and storing a large banked track, made it possible to play the game just about anywhere. By 2010, there were more than 450 flat track roller derby leagues worldwide
Roller derby is an intense, fast paced, full contact sport that is dedicated to the empowerment of women.
There are three positions on each team: Jammer, Pivot and Blocker:
A pack is composed of eight skaters (i.e. four skaters from each team). Specifically, a pack consists of a pivot and three blockers per team. Each team has one jammer on the rink. The jammers line up roughly 20 feet behind the pack.
The first whistle blows and the pack takes off. A second whistle blows and the jammers race to the back of the pack and begin fighting their way through. Once the jammer makes it through the pack she races around the rink and fights her way through again. During the second time through she will score a point for each opposing team member that she passes. The jammer will continue to lap the rink, fight through pack, and score points until the end of the jam.
A bout (i.e game) consists of 2 thirty-minute periods and a period consists of numerous "jams". A jam is a 2 minute session with the above activities occurring. After each jam, the 10 girls on the track are replaced by another line up of 10 girls. A jam can be called off in less than 2 minutes if the lead jammer makes that decision.