Niagara Gazette

Features

September 11, 2012

ROLLER DERBY 101: A look at the fast-growing sport as playoffs hit Niagara Falls

Niagara Gazette — Roller derby teams from throughout the country will roll into Niagara Falls next Friday, Saturday and Sunday for the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association North Central Region playoffs, an event that will eventually crown a regional winner (and runners-up) to head off to the national championships in November.

But what is roller derby, really? Is it anything like the fairly ... theatrical ... derby from the 1960s and ‘70s? What’s up with the funny names? And what the heck is a jammer, anyway?

In honor of the regional playoff event, here’s a primer on all things derby, from Alley Kats to WFTDA.

What is roller derby?

According to the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, modern roller derby evolved in 2001, although the term “roller derby” dates to the 1920s. It was originally used to describe roller-skate races, but in the late 1930s began to refer to a more physical competition involving two teams of skaters, the basics of which

endure today. The sport began to be televised in the 1940s, but the version most often remembered dates from the early 1960s to the 1980s, with trademark theatrics and sometimes scripted storylines.

According to the WFTDA, modern flat-track derby got its start with one league in Austin, Texas. By 2012, there were 1,100 leagues worldwide ... and counting.

Queen City Roller Girls public relations chairperson Kathy Lisborg, otherwise known as skater “Vile Love It,” said derby is one of the few team contact sports that exist for women.

“It’s a seriously athletic sport,” she said. “It takes a tremendous amount of training, endurance, strength, as well as the strategy of the sport.

“It’s an incredibly mental game, very strategic ... and it’s a lot of fun.”

Western New York’s local derby league is the Queen City Roller Girls, which was started in 2006 by skaters Sissy Fit and Flotorious and became a full member of the WFTDA in 2010. The league has four home teams (Alley Kats, Devil Dollies, Nickel City Knockouts and the Suicidal Saucies), which skate against each other for the Queen City Cup during the regular season; a WFTDA-sanctioned all-star team, the Lake Effect Furies, which plays against other teams in the Eastern region; and the Queen’s Court, composed of players that have not yet been drafted to the other teams.

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