Roller Skates Are Rad...
Picture this: ten beautiful women, hair cascading down their backs, wearing short shorts, long stripy socks, fishnet stockings and roller skates on their feet. It feels like a 70’s roller disco, but it’s not. These women are also wearing helmets, knee and elbow pads; and they’re channelling fierce focus, strength and even violent competitiveness. Welcome to the world of roller derby.
While it might sound glamorous, roller derby is anything but a sport for the faint hearted. Played predominantly by women, it is an intense, exciting contact sport, whereby players skate around a track, some in a pack and others trying to pass the pack in order to score points. There are short periods of ‘play’ called jams and players referred to as blockers, pivots and jammers. Essentially, these are super fit girls skating around a track trying to avoid being heavily knocked to the floor, out of bounds or into their fellow teammates. This sport is rough, retro and really bloody cool.
It’s not exactly what these girls do, but how they do it that makes the roller derby culture so unique. Each player, along with their coaches and referees, go by (often ingenious) pseudo names such as Bloody Holly, Iron Maven and Rosa Sparks. Sydney's Inner West Roller Derby League spokeswoman, Jam Brady says that while the names vary in context and strength, they each say something about the individual and their approach to the sport. “Some [names] are quite funny, some violent. It says something about who they are…having this name can be a real goal, you want to be that person.”
While roller derby originally started in Chicago in 1935, it experienced a revival in Austin, Texas in 2001, when the flamboyant costumes and alter egos were brought to life with fervour. Part sport, part performance, derby is a spirited sport that has managed to stage a roller skating revival – something that was sadly whisked rapidly out of vogue a few years back.
The Inner West Roller Derby League, which was established in 2012 and is one of a growing number in Australia, now has over 60 members. Jam Brady isn’t at all surprised that roller derby is one of, if not the fastest growing women’s sport in the world. And why wouldn’t it be when these girls can do wicked tricks wearing old-school roller skates? They pull some serious stunts as adults that they never did manage to land as kids, and moves that even the most fearless kids at the skate park would be jealous of. So how do you do that? Push yourself and practice; don’t be precious, but also don’t go too hard.
“If you go out there and try to be aggressive you’ll hurt yourself. It’s all about team playing, you’ve really got to stick with your team, you’ve got a strategy, you’ve got to try and put it into practice. It’s very physical and you need to be prepared to take some hits, be physically strong and mentally prepared. It can be quite a shock”, says Jam Brady.
Roller derby is certainly unconventional, but it’s enticing. You’ll watch it, you won’t really get it, and then you’ll really want to try it for yourself. Jam Brady swears derby isn’t an aggressive sport, but it’s not without some drama, or costume drama at least.
“Fishnets aren’t practical at all, I don’t know why we wear them, they get stuck on the Velcro; and also it’s really easy to get rink rash, if you slide, land funny, you’ll get the imprint of the fishnets on your legs. Maybe that adds to the bad arse-ness as well”.
Rough, but also pretty rad.
Check out the game schedule and how you can become a derby girl
By Vicki Fletcher @VickiFletcher88