Roller Derby is a popular American contact sport dating back to the 1930’s. It has recently become a popular female sport in the UK as the teams take to a flat track to play matches otherwise known as bouts.
Roller Derby hit its peak in America in the 1970’s and then faded into the background. With the release of ‘Whip It’ a movie directed by Drew Barrymore the sport was back in the spotlight and it inspired skating lovers all around the world to set up teams.
UK leagues began forming in 2006 starting with 4 teams, one of which was the London Rockin’ Rollers. By 2008 thirteen teams were set up and the United Kingdom Roller Derby Association was born.
The game is played by two teams of five skating counter clockwise on a circuit track.
One player from each team is designated the role of scorer otherwise known as the ‘Jammer’. Points are scored when the Jammer overtakes a member of the other team, which is where the contact in the sport starts. It’s the job of the opposing team to stop the Jammer from overtaking them.
Three members of each team become ‘Blockers’ and it’s their job to help their Jammer pass and score a point for the team and to block the opposing team’s Jammer from passing.
The final team member becomes a ‘Pivot,’ it’s the Pivot’s job to set the pace and call out plays on a moment’s notice.
The roles of the players are shown by certain helmets; The Jammer wears a helmet cover with 2 stars on, the Pivot wears a striped helmet cover and the remaining team mates wear blank helmets.
Roller derby is rough, energetic and many refer to it as ‘rugby on roller skates’. Fear not if you don’t fancy yourself as a roller derby girl, you can still be part of a team as a Non Skate Official (You won’t be on skates but your role will still be an important one – from keeping score all the way through to timing penalties) or you can be a referee (which of course is vital for a bout to be fair).
But I’m a guy, and I’m not sure I can pass off being female! Don’t worry that’s how merby came about. Merby is roller derby for me. It’s equally as awesome as roller derby for women too.
We spoke to some of the girls from the London Rockin’ Rollers to get their take on the hardcore sport…
Words by Alexandra Watt
Photography by Helen Parish
Video by Duncan Stevens