How Roller Derby Works


Players must frequently dodge fallen skaters during competitions.
Players must frequently dodge fallen skaters during competitions.

Most women's roller derby leagues have the same philosophy regarding new skaters -- physique is irrelevant, and it doesn't matter if someone hasn't worn skates in years. Leagues hold practice sessions to teach the rules and basic skating techniques, and no one actually competes until the team is confident that they can do so safely. Leagues also encourage players to skate whenever they can in addition to organized practices.

The Atlanta Rollergirls practice at least three days a week, and they always begin with stretching and warm-ups to help prevent injuries. Some practices focus on endurance and maneuvering. Big Red explains, "You need to learn to squat, you need to learn how to dodge, you need to learn how to jump over stuff. Jump over people."

Endurance and skating practices use traditional roller derby drills, modified hockey drills or exercises that the players have developed themselves. In addition to building endurance, these drills reinforce the players' abilities to:

  • Start and stop
  • Skate at high speeds
  • Dodge obstacles
  • Dodge other players
  • Fall without injury

In addition, drills encourage players to stay aware of their surroundings and react to the unexpected. "They used to throw stuff at us," says Big Red. "It was great."

Other sessions involve scrimmage bouts between the leagues' teams. Many leagues separate the new skaters from the experienced skaters during practice bouts in an effort to make sure that no one gets hurt. Next, we'll look at what happens during a typical bout.