Modern (Girls) Roller Derby

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1 archived as (also RollerDerby_Modern.pdf) => doc pdf URL-doc URL-pdf other articles are on the /Sports.htm page at doc pdf URL note: because important websites are frequently "here today but gone tomorrow", the following was archived from various websites on 01/20/2017. This is NOT an attempt to divert readers from the aforementioned websites. Indeed, the reader should only read this back-up copy if the updated original cannot be found at the original author's site. Modern (Girls) Roller Derby StealthSkater note: Roller Derby in the s was a rough sport. But it was very popular and attracted large audiences both in person and televised. It was skated on a banked track which was assembled with a wood skating surface supported by steel beams. A railing kept the skaters from going off the surface unless, of course, they were purposely knocked over it by an opposing skater. To join a professional team, a skater was judged on their skating prowess as well as their ability to throw a multitude of blocks and absorb them as well with minimal injury. In other words, not only did one have to be an excellent skater but also able to trade hard blows and still be able to perform the next day. Yesterday's roller derby skaters used elbow, knee, forearm, hip, and leg blocks. An unwritten law existed that said don't use any block on an opponent that you don't want to receive in return. Some 1

2 blocks (e.g., leg block) required the ability to "stick" to the floor while driving the block home. The average skater was not athletic enough to do this. But a strong skater could deliver a devastating headhigh leg block and not lose his/her balance while toppling an opponent. The great ones could even do a jump block and come crashing down on the opponent's neck or collarbone. The most crowd-exciting block was when an opposing skater knocked up and over the railing. Sometimes they would fall 8-or-10 feet to the concrete floor below. But if they tried to catch the rail with their hands while going over, their momentum would cause their legs to continue in a downward arc and their calves would come into hard contact with the edge of the steel supporting beam. That hurt more than falling to the floor below. The most frequent block was the elbow block delivered to a shoulder and sometimes the stomach or ribs. Rarely was it used on the mouth or head because as mentioned before, "what goes around comes around". Still, some rough&tumble skaters seemed to almost welcome retaliation. And of course the audience loved it. I think that some of those competitors just basically loved to beat on each other. It didn't matter what the sport was. It could have been wrestling or football but just happened to be roller derby. Notorious villainess Ann Calvello admitted that she could not perform well unless she was cursed at and received death threats by the home team's fans. Some of the antics were "fake" to be sure. However, much of it was not. It was very hard to score more than a point on a single jam. The pivot skater blocking was just so vicious and the team blocking so adept and professional. This was not "flag football". And the skaters didn't wear shoulder or rib pads either. It only drew a 2-minute penalty if one purposely jumped down on a fallen opposing player. 2

3 In the s, Roller Derby was replaced by Roller Games. Many of those skaters used newer inline skates rather than the 4-wheelers ("quads"). In my opinion, Roller Games was a lot more "fake" than its predecessor. Jammers frequently scored 5-or-more points on a single jam. (That never happened in Roller Derby except in a fluke.) And the rules were much looser permitting even more mayhem (e.g., hair-pulling). Sometimes a Roller Derby team would be paired against a Roller Games team. It was almost like the established NFC versus the upstart AFC in the first football Super Bowls. The teams were representing their respective leagues and wanted to come out the victor. Usually the Roller Derby team would slam the Roller Games players all over the track. The former had superior athletes and they were all very rugged. No faking or "selling" in these contests. Injuries did occur, however. And more often than the public knew. Arguably the greatest male Derby skater of all time -- Charlie O'Connell -- broke his arm many times during his career delivering all those blocks. He sometimes skated with a metal rod cast. But the rugged 220-pounder finally had to retire because doctors told him they couldn't repair his arm if he broke it one more time. "Charlie-O" could also skate the quarter-mile on the banked track under 36 seconds which was the trademark of only the fastest lightweight jammers. (see => doc pdf URL-doc URL-pdf ) The most prolific scorer in Derby history was "Dynamite" Mike Gammon. A modern-day equivalent would be the Olympic speedskater Apolo Ohno. In his younger days, Mike could literally leap over an opponent who was crunched down to block him. But even his athleticism could not prevent the toll of hard hits, blows, and falls. Mike was frequently sidelined also. Ronnie Robinson was the son of the famous boxer "Sugar" Ray Robinson. Ronnie was an outstanding skater and jammer. Plus he could more than hold his own in any fight. 3

4 The female counterpart to Charlie O'Connell was the great "Blonde Bomber" Joannie Weston (she was a former collegiate All-American softball player). She lost all of her teeth in her career due to receiving elbow blocks and sometimes even fistfights. They didn't wear mouthguards back then or much other protection. She always protested that female roller derbiers should be paid as much as the male skaters. It could be argued that it was easier to view the action in the Old Roller Derby than in Modern times. Their televised matches had 4-or-5 cameras positioned around the track and could readily zoom in close. Few (if any) Modern matches are shown close-circuited on the arena's scoreboard. Sitting high up in the stands prevents you from seeing the closeup action. Forearm blocks to the back were legal back then and kept any opposing pack player from trying to go back to take out a pivot skater who was blocking that team's jammer. You had to work very hard to score a point. The strategy was simple in concept but challenging to execute. For example, say team 'A' was able to get their jammer out of the pack to start the jam. Team 'B' was not. Now team 'A's jammer would score a point for every team 'B' player he/she passed. It was advantageous for team 'A' to have a pack member or pivot skater to sneak to the rear of the pack so that they could run interference for their jammer (similar to a fullback blocking for a tailback). Of course, team 'B' knows this and their pack members do everything that they can (e.g., forearm blocks to the back) to prevent any team 'A' pack skater from getting to the rear. But if team 'A' succeeded, sometimes team 'B' would try a "breakaway" (or "pullaway") where all their members would suddenly skate at full speed away from team 'B', thus putting distance between them and the team 'A' jammer. Team 'A' might try "whipping"(boosting) the jammer to catch up to team 'A'. But if he/she did reach the team 'A' pack again, they faced a daunting task to pass any of their skaters without someone from their team leading them. Eliminating those forearm blocks to the back in Modern Roller Derby makes it easier for a pack member to sneak to the rear and run interference for his/her team. Thus much more scoring occurs nowadays. What put the final nail in the coffin for Roller Derby and Roller Games was the mounting transportation cost of disassembling and reassembling the banked track to go to another city. Think of the circus having the put up and take down their "Big Top" each week. Modern Roller Derby is almost exclusively skated on flat tracks and by females. To minimize injuries and the hard physical punishment of yesteryear, only hip and shoulder blocks are permitted. Fights are nonexistent. In the old days, one might be penalized for 2-4 minutes for fighting (like in pro hockey). But fighting now would get you thrown out of the game and maybe even off the team. Much more emphasis is placed on skating technique and skill that take the place of those old vicious blocks where it was almost impossible to pass a strong seasoned pivot skater who would use a multitude of blocks to keep the jammer from scoring. Predictably the Modern game allows for more scoring while insuring that the competitors won't be seriously hurt. It is more akin to a basketball game 4

5 than a football game. Blocking in the pack is more like a rugby scrum. Sure, one can still get bruises setting picks and drawing charges in basketball. But it's not as bad as what you get in football. Balance proficiency is demanded more in Modern flat-track derby because one does not have that railing on the banked track to keep them from falling down. More drills are taught and practiced that increase skating skills. Competitors are looked upon as peers rather than "enemies" as in the old days. Sportsmanship is emphasized as much as skating. It's not unusual to cross-train to improve one's skating abilities. For example, some teams play roller-hockey. Sometimes they will have public matches which feature a roller-hockey game before-orafter a roller derby contest. Like soccer, Modern Roller Derby is taught to girls as young as 7 years old although it is never too late for one to join a team. Of course, it's always easier to learn new athletic skills the younger you are. And it's not unusual for an active participant to take on the role of a referee and such. There are many opportunities in this new growing sport. But the basic requirement is they need a floor to practice and compete. Many facilities for their own reasons don't want to sponsor a Roller Derby team. And those that do often charge rental rates that can't be met. Frequently the girls have to search far outside their hometowns and carpool long distances. They do have different wheels that let them skate on wood, tile, or concrete surfaces. Sadly, too often enthusiasm and dreams die because of community indifference. We live in an age where lawyers have killed fun. Many facilities don't want to go through the hassle of a lawsuit even when signs are posted "Skate At Your Own Risk" or when participants sign an accident waiver. When is the last time you saw a diving board at a swimming pool? Again, lawyers. Even skating or bicycling in empty parking lots after business hours is forbidden. Some schools even put up fences around their schoolyards and lock the gates. Now you know why kids turn to video games and drugs. Society has given them no other outlet. There was once an incident when teenagers stole a driver's education car at school that had the keys left in the ignition. They crashed the car, got hurt, and sued the school system. They won a settlement! (I should do that if I ever get layed off from work and need money. Just find a company car with the keys in it.) I'm surprised that jaywalking pedestrians can't sue a city if they get hit by a car. Lawyers!!! PLEASE DON'T LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOUR LOCAL TEAM!!! Help Find Them Find And Keep A Practice Floor. 5

6 Yes, Junior Roller Derby is a Thing Piper Martin and Andy Malinoski / January 11, 2017 Piper Martin has been skating in circles for years and she loves every minute of it. Kanawoy.com sat down with Piper and asked some questions about Flat Track Junior Derby. The community-based sport has had a team in Charleston, West Virginia since Until that time, there was only an adult team in Charleston. Now the sport is available for a variety of skills, ages, and interest levels. Q. How did you get started in Derby? A. My stepmother, Erin Hart, has been skating in the adult league here for a long time. She met my father when I was in the 3rd grade. I became interested in learning to play after attending her practices. I skated before and after the adult team practices and visited the rink in my spare time. After 3 years, I could skate well enough to play competitively. But being 12, I couldn t play with the adult team for multiple reasons including my size and skill level. Luckily for me, they decided that was a good time to create a junior league, something that the team had been wanting to do for a while. I ve now been skating for 7 years. The Chemical Valley Junior Derby was the first junior derby team in West Virginia. We started the team in early 2013 and we have about 15 players today. 6

7 Q. Where do you compete? Do groups from other places come here? If so, where? A. We have bouts at various other rinks and venues out of town, often a civic center or a warehouse. In Charleston, we have bouts at the Charleston Civic Center. Groups do come here to play us. Most recently, the Huntington team in September and a mixed-team scrimmage including Lexington and Pittsburgh skaters was held at the Grand Prix at Corridor-G. [StealthSkater note: that facility is now closed as of January, 2017] Q. What are 3 basic things that I need to know to watch and understand a bout/scrimmage? A. 1. There are two types of players. Jammers, the point-scoring players. And blockers, the players who prevent them from scoring. 2. Each team provides 5 skaters to play in a jam. One jammer and four blockers. One blocker from each team is a "pivot" and the group of blockers is described as the "pack". Blockers gather together in walls and formations using each other as support. They use their wheels to grip the floor as the jammer pushes through the wall. Their ultimate goal is to slow that jammer down. 3. Jammers wear a star helmet cover and pivots (the leaders of the pack) wear a stripe. Jammers score points by passing opposing blockers. One point is scored per blocker passed. Jammers can only score points after their first pass through the pack. The first jammer to complete this initial pass and break though the pack is designated the "lead jammer". This means that she can call off the jam by repeatedly placing her hands on her hips. This ends the jam and stops any points from being scored, restricting the opposing team. The team with the most points scored in 2 half-hour periods is the winner. Q. How physical is this? A. This is an extremely physical sport. It is much more physical than soccer or basketball. A general rule for blockers in the pack is to touch 2 people at all times. Blockers create complex formations to prevent jammers from breaking through the pack and stealing their points. They block the jammer s path with their bodies. If the jammer can t find an easy way around (which is the usual case unless you are an extremely nimble jammer), she must make significant contact with the 7

8 blockers to remove them from her path. There are constant collisions whether it be the jammer pushing through or her blocker hitting an opposing blocker out to help her through. [StealthSkater note: But it's the type of hits that differentiate the Old Roller Derby from the Modern Derby. Piper was never on the receiving end of those punishing elbow blocks to the stomach or jaw.] Q. Are there injuries? A. In any full-contact sport (think football) there are injuries. Most commonly, skaters receive heavy bruising. But sprained ankles and knees are a close second. One specific rule prevents many injuries, though. That being the fact skaters cannot make contact with an opponent while skating in the opposing direction (i.e., backwards). All skaters must be moving in the direction of the game (counter-clockwise) to make contact. This prevents the car-crash collisions seen in football. [StealthSkater note: Certainly there can be bruises in the modern game. But eliminating most of the old-time blocks won't get you injured as much as in the old anything-goes days.] Q. Is Derby more popular in bigger cities? A. Derby is a grassroots sport. But it is growing. There are hundreds of teams across the Country. In large cities like New York, teams are often more powerful but play on the same plane as our team. Meaning that we could almost certainly arrange to play them. That s something I love about this sport. Q. Why is it fun? A. I am very competitive. This sport is not for people who aren t. It s fast, it s complicated, and it s intense. It is extremely strategic. I could spend hours explaining every rule and how teams utilize it. It can be played by any body type. It s hard to find a shape that isn t useful in Derby. The game can be played in an infinite number of ways by just about anyone willing to work at it. Q. What do spectators cheer the most about? A. Apex jumps. That s when a jammer avoids the pack by jumping over the corner of the infield in a turn. It s pretty spectacular. Also, big hits. When a blocker absolutely nails a jammer out of bounds with her hips, the audience can almost feel the poor jammer s butt hitting the floor. Q. What would the biggest misperception about Modern Roller Derby be? A. We don t punch each other. This isn t wrestling. We don t pull each other s hair or elbow each other in the face. That s how you get ejected from the game. There are strict rules when it comes to hitting including what parts of your body you can use and where on your opponent s body you can hit. Arms and legs are not weapons in this game. Hips and shoulders, are, however. 8

9 We love each other. This is a tiny sport. We can t afford to despise the team we re playing. We hug before the whistle and we high-five after. Q. Where can I learn more? A. The WFTDA (Womens Flat Track Derby Association) website ( has all the information you need. You can stream bouts live at wftda.tv or access past bouts on YouTube (which I highly recommend) or contact our team. Both the adult and junior leagues have Facebook pages and websites that will allow you to contact us at: chemicalvalleyjuniorderby.com chemicalvalleyrollergirls.com But the basic requirement is they need a floor to practice and compete. Many facilities for their own reasons don't want to sponsor a Roller Derby team. And those that do often charge rental rates that can't be met. Frequently the girls have to search far outside their hometowns and carpool long distances. They do have different wheels that let them skate on wood, tile, or concrete surfaces. Sadly, too often enthusiasm and dreams die because of community indifference. PLEASE DON'T LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOUR LOCAL TEAM!!! Help Find Them Find And Keep A Practice Floor. StealthSkater note: more of Old-time Roller Derby including video clips is at => doc pdf URL-doc URL-pdf 9

10 Competition Roller-Skating It may be surprising to some but there is much more to roller-skating than roller derby. What they have in common is that both sports need a good surface to practice on. Many roller rinks have gone the way of swimming pool diving boards and are out-of-business. (Now you know why the U.S. doesn't don't have any Olympic diving medals. How can one practice with no boards.) Roller-skating has the same competition tests as Ice-skating. The latter made it as an Olympic sport whereas the former has national championships in various countries as well as the Pan-American Games. Skate magazine reports roller-skating competition and test results. It used to be mailed to subscribers in the 1980s but now is only published electronically (which means you have to download it). Following are some excerpts: 10

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30 Some of the bigger rinks have equipment that minimizes falling and injury while attempting difficult stunts... 30

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32 The following are samples from the Official Manuals for skating tests... 32

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42 So you see, competitive Roller Skating encompasses much more than just Roller Derby. Many of the Derby participants also train in these other endeavors. But the basic requirement remains that all skaters need a floor to practice and compete. Many facilities for their own reasons don't want to sponsor a Roller Derby team. And those that do often charge rental rates that can't be met. Frequently the girls have to search far outside their hometowns and carpool long distances. They do have different wheels that let them skate on wood, tile, or concrete surfaces. Sadly, too often enthusiasm and dreams die because of community indifference. PLEASE DON'T LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOUR LOCAL TEAM!!! Help Find Them Find And Keep A Practice Floor. 42

43 if on the Internet, Press <BACK> on your browser to return to the previous page (or go to else if accessing these files from the CD in a MS-Word session, simply <CLOSE> this file's window-session; the previous window-session should still remain 'active' 43

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