Five Strides on the Banked Track, the classic now available on Kindle or ebook!


please clink on link above.

Roller Derby on the road.

Appeared as a short version in Sports Illustrated.

This classic sold out almost immediately and was never reprinted…..available at up to $600 from amazon.

this version will all the original photos and copy (and with a new forward by The Commissioner) is available at a very reasonable price. read the above information on how to get your copy.

Let’s talk about freshies a long time ago.

Our good friend Louisa Kalimeris was so concerned about Freshies in Derby that she created this marvelous site:

She was hoping if those getting into the game could exchange information and get help that their journey could be easier….and of course she was concerned about the bullying that had happened to her and almost drove her out of the sport.

Well in the old days of the Derby (OK, Commissioner, tell us all about it), getting into Roller Derby was much different. It was professional, the players were paid…not much by today’s standards, except for the “top” skaters. Remember, our ticket prices were $1, $2, and $3……playoffs up to $4, and when we played Madison Square Garden we had a $6 top. Of course the fact that rent and reimburseables at the Garden were $40,000 (in the 60′s) had a lot to do with that.

There was no outdoor roller skating to speak of at the time: no inlines, quads had wooden wheels originally (until 1959 when we started using urethane), and virtually no one who came into the game had any skating background. There were a few that had ice skated, but they all had to be taught how to skate on the banked track.

So training schools were established in several areas, including New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, and viewers on telecasts were told if they wanted to join the Roller Derby, come down to a training school with a pair of skates with no toe stops. And they did by the hundreds, from all walks of life. And they usually had a former skater training them; they paid $1 for a one and a half hour session until they (only a few) reached the point where they were assigned to a “minor league” team which would keep training (with all the others) and occasionally playing before the professional game.

And getting women to try out was so difficult, that in many situations men were told they couldn’t start training unless the brought a woman to learn also.

Obviously no bullying or harassing at the training school….you were trying to qualify for a job, a career, becoming a super hero, a television star

Training was rigorous, 5 days a week…longer sessions if you showed promise….you learned how to fall (on your butt), how to “take” a rail to not be injured, how not to hurt another skater (the trainer without warning would through a chair in the middle of the moving pack; you either reacted quickly and jumped or fell); and you learned the five stride, the most effective way to skate the track (like the diamond on the flat track), and mainly you learned endurance.

The pack would do a fast pace in training starting at 5 minutes (so many would drop it) eventually going up to an hour….you could not even be considered to go the professional game unless you could do an hour pace, regardless of your other skills.

So you got called up… each team had just 7 or 8 men and 7 or 8 women. The pack never stopped (no sissy starting line except at the start of the game), and the top skaters rarely left the track….usually only jammers were substituted….so you waited until someone was injured or sick….and here is how the game was played…notice the differences:

So if you got to play you had better show your skills fast; the new kids were not shown a lot of kindness, and there was some hazing.

But if you made it, you were in Roller Derby, not making a lot (average new skater $25 per game, plus uniforms, skates,medical for skating, per diem on the road, housing on the road, skating 5 or 6 games per week) unlike the top skaters (in 60′s dollars) making $40 K to $60 K but earning every cent of it.

But if you talk to any of the skaters today, they will tell you it was the best time of their life.

Louisa, I wish all of Derby could know you.

In her own words:

“So yeah, I still suck at skating, I don’t have all the time I wish I did to practice. It sucks. it does. So after a year I am still “Raw Meat” – that sucks, it does! But that is also okay! Okay? Because I have my enthusiasm of 12 cheer-leading teams for all things Derby. If you aren’t down with that and the fact that I am still almost a total beginner, you are on the wrong page! But I have asked ALL of you here for your expertise, experience and…and…and well, frankly, anything you are willing to share and give to others. We all started in the same place, we may not end up in the same place – but c’mon, give a hoot! Talk to each other and let’s make this a real community of sharing. Derby (heart) Love!”

That is what Louisa Kalimeris says on the wonderful site she created on facebook: Roller Derby Compendium for Freshies Worldwide…..and she has almost 2000 members following and contributing.

Louisa is no longer with us; she was in a hospital in West Toronto, having had such a severe asthma attack that she was in a coma and did not recover.

What a tragedy for all of us!

I never met her in a person, but what a kind, caring, self-effacing talented woman. From Australia, living in Toronto, a member of the Canadian Professional Writers’ Association. We had many discussions as friends; as a new wannabe skater she was trying so hard to be Derby and ran into the buzz saw of Derby drama of being put down for her ability by some teammates (are you ever going to face up to Derby drama!). So she started the website to have an exchange with others just starting in Derby.

And she blogged and asked my advice on coming down on those who tried to crush her but couldn’t do it in a mean or vengeful manner….that is Louisa.

And she was excited because she was starting a costume photo contest on her site on Easter (ironic, now a resurrection) and the winner would get a copy of my book.

So the site will continue as a living tribute to Louisa. Please share and post it all throughout your world. And Aaron and Ref are continuing as administrators and they want you to keep contributing. And her friends are creating stickers, ribbons and other ways to honor her and want to set up a campaign to end asthma. go to the site above or her page on facebook to get all the information.

And what can you do for her?

Keep Roller Derby the wonderful movement it is…..Show kindness and aid to Newbies and others…..that’s all Louisa wants.

what if your father had invented a game and you just watched the World championship

I will keep it short.

Yes there are 1628 Leagues in the world.

And yes the growth has been phenomenal over the past 10 years.

But the impact never really hit me until I saw players and fans from 15 nations during the phenomenal coverage of the Men’s World Cup from Birmingham,England. And my friend and cohort at Brown Paper Tickets Bob “Noxious” (Randy Hughes) announced the final game.

The other sports should enjoy such love and sportsmanship. Skaters patting opponents while on a jam. Amazing moments you will never forget:

Japan and Argentina being adopted as home teams by the entire crowd; Japan brand new to this type of game (My good friend Hiroshi Koizumi is the father of Roller Derby in Japan); Argentina with just 8 players and astonishing everyone with their play; maybe the loudest cheer of the tourney when Scotland got 10 points against the US powerhouse in the final jams.

And on and on: the Argentinian player proposes to his girl friend and the crowd cheering and tearing (I did).

And the winning US team, coached by my Derby wife, the incomparable Val Capone; tell her Roller Derby needs her anywhere in the world and she is there. And so many of my “friends” on the squad, from three members of Rollerjam (which could have been so good if not so phony) to Tony Muse who represents the Roller Derby Skate Company Elite skates, finally getting back to the game that meant so much to them; and my father started that company!

And my father, Leo Seltzer, who died in 1978 believing his beloved game which he fully intended to bring back as a legitimate contest was gone forever.

And me, the almost unwilling heir to the family business, whose videos from the 70s inspired April Ritzenhaler and others to bring it back to life in 2003.

I am so sorry I didn’t make it to Birmingham; but nobody will keep me from the women’s World Cup in Dallas this December. After all I write a column for Blood and Thunder magazine who is sponsoring this event, and I know Robin will put me on the credential list; and even if she wouldn’t, I will be at the Fair Park Arena where we used to skate.

My god, this is a worldwide sensation…..just how would you feel?